SKCE Executive Director testimony at the Oregon Education Investment Board meeting

We are coming close to the Oregon 2015 Legislative Session. One issue being brought before the Legislature is a proposal to change the ELL funding formula and accountability measures. The Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality has advocated for these changes for 14 years. Since 1992, districts have received a weight of 0.5 in additional funding, currently about $3,725, per ELL student. But accountability measures were never built in to the policy.

Some districts spend 100% of the funds on ELL programs. Other districts spend less than 50%. The money goes into the general fund to be used as districts wish. There is no maximum number of years the district can receive the weighted funding for each ELL student so there is no incentive to “graduate” students out of ELL programs.

Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton has submitted a proposal to OEIB to reform the way Oregon allocates ELL funding. The key elements of this proposal are:

• Increase the ELL weight from 0.5 to 0.6
• Limit funding from 4 years up to 7 years according to student levels of proficiency
• Hold districts accountable to spend 90% of the ELL funds on ELL services
• Give districts an incentive: a bonus of $250 for every current or former ELL student who graduates from that district

Another issue being brought to the Legislature concerns the way ODE funds community organizations. Generally, community organizations have a difficult time raising enough education funding to do the critical work they do with disadvantaged children in order to raise their achievement. Research shows that it takes the combined efforts of the community, the school and the family to ensure a child succeeds, especially when that child is part of an underserved population.

In addition, underserved populations need organizations with special skills gained by being part of the culture of those they serve. These are called culturally specific organizations, and we are one of these. We are part of the community we serve and no one knows the community better than the community itself. We can bring solutions that don’t fit a generic methodology. Our solutions are culturally relevant and uniquely tailored to those we serve.

We strongly encourage the Oregon Department of Education to eliminate the disparities our children face in education and part of that work is to eliminate the disparities that our culturally specific organizations face in receiving funding from ODE.