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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, top lawmakers push funding for summer school and programs

"If we do it, it’ll be one of the most remarkable moments in Oregon’s history dealing with the education of its children," Senate President Peter Courtney said.

SALEM, Ore. — With Oregon students getting back into classrooms this spring, lawmakers are looking to the summer to help them learn and have fun again.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Rep. Tina Kotek announced the Summer Learning and Child Care Package last week, a $250 million proposed plan to help students recover from the academic and social-emotional challenges they've faced during the pandemic.

The package focuses on equity for historically under-served and marginalized communities of color hit hardest the past year.

State leaders testified in support of the plan in front of the Joint Ways & Means Subcommittee on Education on Monday afternoon and urged other state legislators to get behind it.

"Our children are bearing larger burdens than lost learning time. From pre-K through high school, they're surviving a pandemic with all the pain, stress and isolation that entails," Gov. Brown told the committee. "As more children return to classrooms we expect more issues will come to light. Students need academic enrichment opportunities this summer, there's no question about that. But to help our children get back on track we also have to make sure we’re attending to their most basic needs."

Senate President Peter Courtney told the committee that the aim is a balance of fun, learning, and support.

“We’ve introduced these summer programs because it has never been more urgent to invest in our kids,"  Sen. Courtney told lawmakers. "This summer, we want them to go outside. We want them to have fun. We want them to learn. We need to support their mental and physical health. These programs will get our kids back out doing the things they love... If we do it, it’ll be one of the most remarkable moments in Oregon’s history dealing with the education of its children."

Money for this proposal would come from the state's general fund and is on top of up to $75 million in federal funds.

The plan would create grants to help students and children learn, thrive, socialize and have fun again this summer. 

The Summer Learning and Child Care package consists of five parts:

  • Summer Enrichment and Academic Program Grants (K-8) – $90 million: These grants can be used by school districts and their partner organizations for a wide range of enrichment activities for all K-8 students.
  • Summer Academic Support Grants (High School) – $72 million: These grants will be available to school districts to participate in a summer school program to help high school students who have fallen behind in distance learning classes re-do credits from the past school year. 
  • Summer Activity Grants – $40 million: Grants for community organizations will be used to provide enrichment activities, like day camps and park programs.
  • School Child Care Grants – $30 million: For Title I elementary schools and Tribes to partner with community-based providers to provide wraparound child care services for K-8 students, including health and wellness, mental and behavioral health, and nutrition services.
  • Early Learning Programs – $13 million: Money will be used to help Early Learning Division grantees continue providing services to Oregon kids through the summer months.

For the first three investments, school districts all over the state would get different amounts based on the school revenues formula and additional consideration for poverty and other factors.

"We will distribute funding equitably and inclusive of culturally-specific and relevant programming as we work to eliminate historic disparities exacerbated during the pandemic," Gov. Brown added.

Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the state's Early Learning Division would present the plan to the Education Subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

If approved, ODE is tasked with ironing out the specific details, application process, and distribution of funds.