Student Success Act could send billions to Oregon schools

Matt Brown, News Editor

The Student Success Act has, signed by Governor Brown in the Spring of 2019, will be referred to the Oregon ballot to be voted this coming November. If passed by voters, the bill would increase education funding by 2 billion dollars.

The Tigard-Tualatin school district, based on demonstrated need and student population, is predicted to receive upwards to $10 million in additional funding if the bill passed. According to the bill, schools must invest money given by the state into four pillars of student success, including mental and emotional health of students and equitable opportunities.

In order to decide what money will go where, TTSD has been carrying out a transparent process to make community input a major contributor. Since early December 2019, education administrators in the district office have facilitated various community forums inviting teachers, community leaders, parents, and other stakeholders to give input into possible investment areas.

Abdirahim Mohamoud, a sophomore at Tigard High School and vice president of the Tigard-Tualatin Student Union, stated at the first community forum, “I appreciate the opportunity to hear out what teachers believe would make their classrooms work better and others hearing what I believe from student perspective. It gives me hope that we’re going to do some good with this money.”

TTSD community members were given an array of options of what the money could be spent on based on the four pillars described by the state. Based on community, teacher, and student surveys and advocacy at the forums, a few options were hotly contested or brought about major consensus.


What will TTSD do with the new money?

Increased mental health support for elementary, middle, and high schools in the district was supported by district stakeholders across the board and if the proposed budget passes in November, TTSD should expect to see major increases in support systems in schools.

A rough draft of district proposals for increased support staff in K-12 schools states,” If TTSD embeds trauma informed and restorative practices across all classes and programs, then students and staff will experience less stress and build critical social/emotional skills. When students and staff increase their social/emotional capacity, students are able to access learning. This empowers youth to be part of their communities”

Following youth movements that led to increased legislation to support the social-emotional needs of students in Oregon, there is great support in the district leadership to meet the needs of students in classrooms and overall improve student teacher experiences at school.

In order to alleviate classroom stress for elementary teachers with large class rosters, elementary school teachers from Tualatin Elementary were big proponents of piloting co-teaching programs in elementary classrooms. A rather new proposal, the program entails integrating bilingual, special ed, and/or EL teachers into classrooms to alleviate workload of teachers and provide additional support to students without pulling them from classrooms.

Proponents of the program argue that by allowing the teachers to collaborate with other instructors they can create a classroom environment that is not only integrative and inclusive but also one that meets the diverse needs of a large class population.

One of the most diverse and contested proposals is the elimination of “pay-to-play” fees for high school athletics. Currently, high school athletes must pay $225 to tryout for individual sports and students leaders in the district have been making a push to get rid of them.

High school leaders in the district’s Student Union collaborated with school board members to put out a survey  evaluating student sentiment on extracurricular fees on January 21st, 2020. With over 2400 responses from both Tigard and Tualatin High School, students compressed, analyzed, and then presented data to community leaders at the following community forum.

Tigard-Tualatin Student Union Co-President, Kavi Shrestha stated, “It’s clear that these fees are a barrier for students to participate in extracurriculars, specifically sports. Our survey not only confirms that but also demonstrates that these fees disproportionately affect underrepresented groups in our schools.”

The student team, while having support from some school board members and teacher union leadership, have faced some pushback from athletic directors and other district leaders who believe that eradicating fees would not produce increased turnout.

While the proposal has not made it on draft of the budget proposal, it is pending discussion and debate at more community forums and school board meetings.