Students and schools around the state of Oregon stand to prosper thanks to the Student Success Act, and the Seaside School District is no exception.
With an additional $1.3 million to $1.5 million anticipated next school year, the district is determining how to best use the funds while meeting the state’s expectations and requirements.
“It’s been a disinvestment in public education in Oregon for too long a time,” Sheila Roley said during a school board meeting Sept. 17.
During her tenure as Seaside High School principal from 2007 to 2016, the school went from 31 teachers to 23, while maintaining roughly the same student body size. That is one example of how the district has struggled since the 1990 adoption of the Oregon Property Tax for Schools and State Operations Amendment, also known as Measure 5, which set a constitutional limitation on the allocation of property taxes for schools and other government operations. Meanwhile, in the past 30 years, statewide graduation rates have declined and significant gaps in outcomes and opportunities for historically disadvantaged groups have emerged.
“For most of us who are currently working in Oregon, that’s been our reality for all of our career in this state,” Roley said, adding it has led to the cultivation of a “scarcity mindset.”
The passage of House Bill 3427, better known as the Student Success Act, by the Oregon legislature in May, however, is likely to turn the tides for public K-12 education in the future. With this “historic investment” of $1 billion, Roley said, schools can once again explore, “What are really the possibilities for our students and do we serve them in the best ways?”
Work to be done
Funds collected through the measures of the Student Success Act are designated toward three distinct areas. About 50% will go toward the Student Investment Account, from which state school districts will receive non-competitive grants for programs targeted toward goals such as increasing graduation rates, attendance, and reading levels. Another 30% will go toward statewide initiatives, such as free meals and career-technical education programs. The remaining 20% will fund early childhood learning programs and services.
School districts do not have free rein to use the money however they want.
“There’s quite a bit of work for us to do to be able to receive those funds,” Roley said. “There is a lot of process involved and a lot of expectations we need to meet.”
One requirement for receiving funds from the Student Investment Account — estimated to be about $1.3 million to $1.5 million annually for Seaside based on student population — is engaging the community, which means reaching out to multiple stakeholders through a variety of strategies and in locally prevalent languages. The district also must complete a needs assessment — addressing such issues as academic disparities, mental and behavioral health needs, and equitable access to academic courses — and develop a continuous improvement plan, or strategic plan.
Having recently completed a five-year strategic plan and started implementing it this school year, Roley said, the Seaside School District is in an advantageous position, especially since many of their goals and indicators align with the state’s expectations.
The district intends to have those three components — community engagement, the needs assessment, and the continuous improvement plan — completed by Dec. 3. The next phase includes developing a plan for use of the funds throughout March and April and then implementing it in the 2020-21 school year upon receiving the additional funding.
Roley told the school board she will provide them with monthly updates throughout the process.
Gift cards, donation
The school board accepted a donation from Bob McEwan Construction in the form of gift cards totaling $2,884 for Gearhart Elementary School teachers to purchase classroom supplies and a donation of $1,500 from Mo’s Restaurant for purchasing indoor and outdoor playground equipment and school supplies for both elementary schools.