School district planning how to use Student Success Act funds
In May, the Student Success Act passed in Oregon, allocating $1 billion per year toward education reform. Now, Molalla River School District leaders are looking at how to use the district's portion of the funds.
"It's the time to get excited," said Kathleen French, MRSD's director of teaching and learning, at the Sept. 26 school board work session. "They've talked about how it's really a historical moment. Oregon hasn't done anything like this. It's a substantial amount of money and it will make a difference, and I'm pretty excited about that."
One community member, Michael Giard, spoke up at the Sept. 26 meeting out of concern that the district is not planning appropriately and will miss out on its portion of the funding.
But French assured board members and those present at the meeting that the district is on pace to receive funding. She said she meets regularly with other directors of teaching and learning to compare notes and recently received affirmation from the Oregon Department of Education that Molalla's timeline is on track.
ODE has in fact extended the deadline to submit one portion of the application, districts' continuous improvement plans, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 6. French said Molalla is planning to submit the plan by Nov. 22. The complete application is due in the spring.
The funding from the Success Act is three-fold.
At least 20 percent is for early learning, according to ODE, which may include parenting engagement, early Head Start and more.
At least 50 percent is for a student investment account, which focuses on students' mental and behavioral health needs and increasing academic achievement for students of color; students with disabilities; emerging bilingual students; students navigating poverty, homelessness and foster care; and other student groups that have historically experienced academic disparities, per ODE.
Finally, up to 30 percent of the funding is for a statewide education initiatives account, which may be used toward nutrition programs, school safety, professional development, summer school for Title I schools and more.
Giard, who gave public comment at the meeting, already had some ideas for how the new funds could be used.
He brought up the fact that a student was hit and injured while walking to school at the Hezzie Lane/Highway 211 crossing last week. Giard suggested some of the funds should go toward hiring a teacher to attend to that crosswalk Monday through Friday, before and after school. He also suggested the district hire P.E. teachers at all of the elementary schools in order to meet state physical education standards.
"I may not be as smart as all of you," Giard said to the board members, "but it seems with a $2 million bucket from the Student Success Act, an easy proposition would be to hire four new teachers and actually meet the state standards when it comes to physical education."
Giard was ahead of schedule when it comes to offering suggestions, but the district will soon seek input from the community before making any decisions about the district's use of the funds, French said.
"We want to hear from as many stakeholders as we can," French said. "We want to hear from the parents of our students with disabilities. We want to hear from our parents of students of color or English language learners. We want to hear from all parents, and not just parents; we want to hear from our staff and other community members."
To do that, throughout the school year, a number of events are planned. Each school will host a family engagement event. The district is scheduling meetings for migrant families and the Special Education Advisory committee. The district will also reach out using a Google survey and Thought Exchange.
For more detailed information on the Student Success Act, visit oregon.gov/ode/studentsuccess.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.