The Student Success Act being debated at the state Legislature could add another $1.4 million a year to the Astoria School District’s budget, Superintendent Craig Hoppes said Wednesday.
House Bill 2019, introduced last month by the Joint Committee on Student Success, calls for an additional $2 billion in K-12 funding per biennium starting in July to improve behavioral support, mental health and early learning opportunities. The money would likely come from a tax on businesses’ gross receipts above $150,000.
In laying out the school district’s approach to creating a budget for the 2019-20 school year, Hoppes called the Student Success Act the best opportunity for new funding in his 22 years with the district.
“It could have a really significant impact in our district,” he said.
School board members on Wednesday passed two resolutions supporting the push by state education leaders for more education funding. Much of that money depends on the success of the legislation, which is intended to improve the state’s dismal graduation rates, increase the percentage of third-graders reading proficiently and reduce absenteeism.
Oregon has consistently funded education well below state recommendations for what school districts need to be successful, known as the Quality Education Model. Teachers have planned a walkout May 8 to protest chronically lackluster education funding.
Legislators are still hashing out how the gross receipts tax would work. The tax would likely start at gross receipts above $150,000 and include modified versions that allow some deduction for labor or other costs.
At least 20 percent of the money would go toward early learning. About 30 percent would go toward statewide initiatives like universal free meals and bullying prevention.
Approximately $1 billion every two years would go into a Student Success Fund providing grants directly to school districts. The grants would target four broad areas: reducing class sizes; expanding learning time and reducing time lost to assessments; student health and safety, including more health professionals and improved facilities; and expanding learning experiences, including early literacy programs and class options.
“Some of these we already want to do,” Hoppes said. “We just don’t have the money to do it.”
Grant distributions would use the same formula as the State School Fund, which looks at average daily enrollment with weighted amounts for special circumstances such as special education, English learners and pregnant teens. Students in poverty would bring in double the weight in grant funding.
The state Department of Education would tie the grants to targets around on-time graduation, finishing ninth grade with six credits, third-grade reading proficiency, attendance and other local goals.
Teachers statewide have expressed concerns over increased class sizes leading to behavioral problems. The school district’s highest priority with any additional funding will be reducing class sizes that have reached as high as 29 on average at Astoria Middle School.
“If we have the money, I’m going to be looking to add some teachers,” Hoppes said.