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Measure 98 grants available, and state keeps the process simple
Matt Ross, Tillamook School District’s new agriculture teacher, says he left a manufacturing job for the classroom this year because of Measure 98 and the way it fit industry needs. The agriculture class incorporates many skills students might need. (Photo by Auria McCarty)
Measure 98 funding has begun flowing, even as schools and the Oregon Department of Education are still working out how the money can be spent.
For this school year, the rules are simple: Fill out a grant agreement with ODE and then request reimbursement for money spent related to career and technical education, college readiness or dropout prevention.
As of last week, a little over half the agreements have been executed and are ready for payment, according to Jan McCoy, ODE research and planning specialist. Funds became available in ODE’s grant system Oct. 2, but schools can submit expenditures going back to July 1.
Figuring out how to use that money is a challenge for schools. The Legislature approved funding after schools had already made their budgets.
“Hiring staff at this point is proving extremely difficult,” said Matt Yoshioka, Pendleton School District director of curriculum instruction and assessment. “Everybody has a job already.”
Pendleton, which will get about $400,000 a year, is looking for a dropout prevention specialist and is expanding online course offerings and helping students pay for dual-credit courses this year.
The Legislature allocated $170 million for the biennium, and ODE released grant amounts based on student populations in August.
ODE has identified 255 potential recipients for the High School Success Fund: 176 districts serving high schoolers, 58 charter schools, 20 youth corrections schools and the Oregon School for the Deaf. About half have been allocated less than $100,000 per year, giving them the option of using funds in just one of the three Measure 98 focus areas. Seventeen districts could receive more than $1 million per year.
North Lake School District Superintendent David Kerr is meeting with the school’s agriculture science teacher and its business teacher to figure out how to spend North Lake’s roughly $50,000 per year. Kerr said new classes that enhance the school’s Future Business Leaders of America program are essential to students in the small district south of Bend.
“A lot of kids in the community go into the business area and we offer them nothing,” he said.
Measure 98 has been seen as the career and technical education bill, but McCoy says that misses the measure’s intention.
“It says in the law, we will evaluate high school success based on improvement in freshman on-track status, graduation rate and college and career readiness,” McCoy said. He added that dropout prevention is a broad header that can cover a lot of school initiatives.
Schools getting more than $100,000 per year must have some CTE component to their plan, though.
Tillamook School District, which will get about $280,000 per year, is using the CTE portion of its money to hire a second agriculture teacher.
“It makes sense in this community,” said Superintendent Randy Schild. The district is also expanding its natural resources program and health occupations offerings.
South Lane School District, south of Eugene, built a new CTE building in 2003, so it already has a robust program.
“We’ve been able to hang onto our vocational programs even through the tough times,” said Krista Parent, South Lane superintendent. “With Measure 98 dollars, we’ll be able to expand those programs.”
South Lane started brainstorming ideas in the spring, with possibilities including adding a sustainable farming career pathway and courses in green technology. Now that the district knows it will be getting about $400,000 a year, a committee will go back to work on exactly how to spend those dollars.
ODE encourages schools and districts to put their grant spending this year into ensuring that their plans are eligible for future distributions. For grants available starting July 1, 2018, more stringent rules kick in.
From Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, 2018, charter schools and districts seeking funds must submit plans. Measure 98 draft rules include moving the deadline for the four-year plans from July 1 to Jan. 31 so ODE has time to review the proposals and help recipients become eligible. McCoy stressed that recipients must meet eligibility requirements:
- Perform a needs assessment and explain how funds will be used to meet those needs.
- Describe how the school will establish or expand programs in the focus areas.
- Establish a plan to review data on students in ninth grade to ensure they are on track to graduate.
- Make efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism.
- Offer advanced and dual-credit courses based on qualifications to avoid bias in course assignments.
- Implement systems to ensure on-time graduation.
ODE will work with schools that don’t meet the requirements and hold allocations for schools and districts until they are eligible or the biennium ends.
ODE is working to update its web page to reflect the latest on the High School Success Fund, including eligibility requirements, rules, grant amounts and frequently asked questions.
- Jake Arnold, OSBA