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School funding remains undetermined

Recent articles in the Mail Tribune discussed the uncertain state of funding for the Student Investment Account, the part of the Student Success Act that was supposed to increase school districts’ ability to provide mental health counselors, reduce class sizes and other things. Is there any update on whether any funding will be available, or is everything hanging on the Legislature still?

— Pam

Whether the Student Investment Account will be funded does depend on decisions made by the Oregon Legislature when it eventually convenes later this summer in another special session.

The Oregon Department of Education’s most recent update, sent to school districts July 2, said that no funding commitment will be made until Aug. 1 at the earliest. So just as school districts have already been holding off on hiring any new positions outlined in their SIA applications, the state will likewise not approve any grant money before then.

“ODE anticipates this delay will provide time for the Legislature to convene to make funding decisions on how and if the SIA moves forward,” the update said.

Based on the May economic forecast released by the Office of Economic Analysis, ODE said, one potential funding scenario would result in a 37% reduction from the anticipated levels before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Oregon economy.

“We share this to help with your budget planning while needing to be clear that a full-range of directions might come forward via the governor and the Legislature meeting in a future session focused on the budget,” the update said.

So, while a range of possibilities remains, the Legislature will have to decide what funding is available for the SIA. Local school leaders have based their budgets for the next school year on assumptions that general funds will be stabilized through a variety of savings or other revenue sources, including from the Student Success Act, which could lead to the reduction in SIA funds.

The Student Investment Account was created as part of the Student Success Act, to direct money specifically for certain allowable uses. Those include expanding instructional time, reducing class sizes and addressing student health and safety.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com.