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School district rolls out plan just months after signaling uncertainty about new state fund

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Anna and Anice Hann of Beaverton hold up signs during a Red for Ed rally on the Portland waterfrontin May 2019. The rally took place as school teachers and students across Oregon were demanding better state education funding. Just a few months ago, Beaverton School District officials weren't counting on the Student Success Act as a means to help fill in budget gaps. In an abundance of caution, finance staff said they weren't confident the new schools funding act was here to stay.

Now, as efforts to refer the new state funding measure to voters seem officially dead, Beaverton is rolling out a plan for how to apply for and spend an influx of up to $34 million in Student Success money, estimated to flow to the district starting in the 2020-21 school year.

In the first of many planning phases to come, Beaverton school officials this month outlined their three-step process for applying to the Oregon Department of Education for the funds, once available.

So far, a Student Success Act Implementation team has been formed, a needs assessment is underway, and the second phase will see a grant application plan before board approval and final submission to the state.

Why all the hoops? The money isn't automatically doled out to school districts. They have to apply for it like they would a grant.

House Bill 3427, dubbed the Student Success Act, was approved by the Oregon Legislature in May and then signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown. It creates a pot of money — an estimated $2 billion over the course of two years — by imposing a gross-receipts tax on businesses in the state. The tax revenue is then put aside, with roughly half of the money going directly to school districts that apply for them. The other half is divvied up among various state initiatives and early childhood education programs.

Districts must identify how they will spend their Student Success money — it needs to be spent on expanding learning time, student health and safety, reducing class sizes, and/or providing "well-rounded learning experiences" — and report back to the Oregon Department of Education on its efficacy.

According to the Beaverton School District's current timeline, an internal needs assessment would wrap up by this October, for submission to the state by Nov. 1.

From November to February, the school district will develop grant applications and solicit public feedback before seeking school board approval of the request for Student Success money from the state. A new page called "Student Success Act" has already been added to the district's website.

Beaverton schools finance staff estimate the district could gain access to roughly $34 million each year in additional revenue using the Student Success application process.

David Williams, executive administrator for strategic initiatives, said much like the current strategy for allocating state school funding, the new Student Success dollars will be tied to enrollment.

Unlike that mechanism though, schools must apply for the funds and submit updated plans to the state on how best to use them.

"The Legislature wanted to make sure districts are really applying the best thinking about how these funds will be used to increase student achievement," Williams explained.

Regardless of strings attached to the process, the new revenue stream will surely make a dent in what some say is a flawed schools funding mechanism in Oregon.

"The reality is that education funding is tied to the state budget," Williams said. "We've never had an opportunity like this. It's pretty incredible. That said, the vast majority of education funding basically comes from personal income taxes; then you have a segment that comes from property taxes; and now we have a component that comes from corporate revenue."

Want to give your input?

Beaverton School District is inviting the community to take part in a needs assessment survey


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