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OR Communities Part of Next Phase of Student Success Act

The Student Success Act will make $1 billion a year available to education in Oregon starting in 2020. (Syda Productions/Adobe Stock)
The Student Success Act will make $1 billion a year available to education in Oregon starting in 2020. (Syda Productions/Adobe Stock)
September 25, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – As Oregon teachers and communities celebrate the Student Success Act, the first phase in how funding will be doled out is beginning.

The bill's passage marked a major milestone for education, which has seen disinvestment since a 1990 ballot measure limited the dollars available. For school districts to receive funding, they'll have to engage with local communities on what they need.

Lisa Fragala is a second-grade teacher and Eugene Education Association member. She says that's fitting because community members helped push this law over the top with Red for Ed rallies in May – teacher walkouts that happened less than a week before legislators passed the Student Success Act.

"If you went to any of those places where teachers were taking action for investment in public education, you would have found many parents, many children, people from the community who stood up with us," says Fragala.

The act will make $200 million available to the State School Fund this year and will make $1 billion a year available to the state's education budget starting in July 2020.

Fragala notes Oregon schools have been plagued by overcrowded classrooms, a lack of mental-health services and low high-school graduation rates.

State Department of Education Director Colt Gill says districts are holding engagement meetings to kick off the school year.

He says officials are looking for input in a few areas, including ways to reduce disparities between student groups, how to provide behavioral and mental-health services, and what kinds of courses students want, such as arts, music and career-technical education classes.

Gill says there are some common needs across the state.

"But how those are implemented needs pretty significant degree of flexibility between communities,” says Gill. “So what works in Pendleton versus what works in Klamath Falls or Coos Bay or Portland can look very different."

Fragala says involving educators, students and community members is a powerful part of this act and notes that Oregon is taking this element seriously.

"There have already been some school districts that have had their plans rejected because they didn't have authentic community engagement," says Fragala.

The Oregon Department of Education notes that no Student Investment Account applications, which require engagement, have been submitted yet. They will be submitted in spring 2020.

Disclosure: Oregon Education Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children's Issues, Education, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR