Schools and summer education programs need an additional $100 million to help students recover from pandemic-related school closures, according to the state Department of Education, education groups education and several state senators.
Testifying at a Senate Education Committee meeting on Tuesday, they said Oregon needs more programs to help students recover credits, spend time with peers and counselors, and problem solve. behaviors that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Dave McDonald, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at Western Oregon University, said he needed more money to support summer school going forward. The university runs summer programs for high school seniors and freshmen.
“The challenges that Covid has created for us are ongoing, not just for the 22-year-old class coming in,” McDonald said. “College kids will have a deficit that they will have to overcome, and we will have many years of needing these types of summer programs.”
Officials from the Department of Education, the Coalition of School Administrators and others have also spoken out in favor of increased spending on summer programs.
Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, and Senate Speaker Peter Courtney, D-Salem, have requested an additional $100 million for summer programs, adding to the $100 million from last year that was not spent because funding was not available until June, which did not leave much time for educators to plan.
During the 2021 legislative session, a bill spending $205 million on summer programs was passed in response to Covid learning losses.
The money went to 161 school districts, 69 charter schools and thousands of community programs.
Yet the grants enabled the programs to serve more than eight times as many students last summer as the year before.
More than 101,000 students participated in summer programs last year, up from nearly 13,000 in 2020.
Dembrow and Courtney called for using the remaining $100 million for programs this summer and adding another $100 million to cover more programs. The majority of summer educational programs in Oregon are paid for through attendance fees, according to the Oregon Afterschool & Summer for Kids Network.
Dembrow said he would like to expand access to low-income households by not charging families as much.
“The more resources we can provide to children from the poorest families, with good nurturing programs, the rewards will be great in the future,” Dembrow said.
Dembrow said the additional $100 million will be considered a line item, not tied to a bill, and will be considered by the capital construction subcommittee under the joint ways and means committee. The subcommittee works on the state budget.
Both Dembrow and Courtney view increasing funding for summer schools and programs as a critical step in bringing the state closer to year-round schooling.
According to Courtney, “At the end of the day, it’s the start of really talking about a full year of school.”
Dembrow said universal kindergarten was initially optional for schools, but became so popular that it was made mandatory statewide.
“It didn’t start that way when I was a freshman in the Legislative Assembly,” Dembrow said. “School all year reminds me of that.”
At the very least, Courtney said Oregon needs to maintain strong funding for summer school in the coming years.
“It’s as much about helping students who are falling behind as it is about helping the students of tomorrow,” he said.