Oregon Senate passes unprecedented Student Success Act
The Oregon Senate passed the Student Success Act (HB 3427) Monday, sending the historic $2 billion school funding package to Governor Kate Brown’s desk to be signed into law. The Student Success Act investments will go directly to expanding early education access, decreasing class sizes, funding culturally specific programming, adding mental health resources for students, and restoring art, music, PE, and career training.
The vote comes after Senate Republicans denied a quorum for nearly a week, holding up the Student Success Act and other legislation as they hid out. Advocacy groups across the state denounced the tactics as shameful, sending thousands of calls and emails into their offices and launching radio ads urging them do their job.
“For decades now, advocates across the state have fought to fully fund our schools,” said Becca Uherbelau, executive director of Our Oregon. “Just last week, more than 3,500 Oregonians emailed or called legislators to urge Senate Republicans to return to work and stop hiding from their duties. It’s clear that the movement to invest in Oregon students is stronger and more diverse than ever before, and today marks a huge and unprecedented victory that will change the lives of kids across the state.”
“Oregon students, parents, advocates, and educators have been working toward this moment for decades,” said Otto Schell, legislative director of the Oregon PTA. “The Student Success Act represents a historic turning point for Oregon schools, investing in programs that will help students in every district across the state to learn and grow. We are grateful to the legislature for taking bold and thoughtful action this session.”
Early education access is a key priority of the Student Success Act, with funding for early learning programs set to dramatically increase under the bill. Research shows that early learning is formative for children, but today more than 30,000 low-income children don’t have access to high-quality preschool due to lack of funding.
“The targeted investments in early childhood education in the Student Success Act will change lives,” said Dana Hepper of the Children’s Institute. “When kids who face systemic barriers to educational opportunities get the high-quality care and early education all children need and deserve, they are four times more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to experience lifelong health, and have fewer interactions with the criminal justice system.”
The Student Success Act will be funded by a modest change to Oregon’s business tax structure, requiring companies doing business in Oregon to pay a .57% tax on sales above $1 million. This change will still keep Oregon’s effective business taxes below the national average, and it will apply to less than 10 percent of the more than 460,000 businesses in the state. Groceries, gasoline, and health care are exempt from the Student Success Act. Additionally, most Oregon taxpayers will receive a personal income tax reduction.
“We are grateful that the legislature is moving in a direction that would shift our tax and budget structure away from the historically oppressive model that hurts Latinos and low-income families and families of color in our state,” said Martha Sonato, political director of PCUN. “The Student Success Act takes one major step forward towards a more equitable tax and budget structure that asks corporations to pay more of their fair share and helps our students.”
The Student Success Act will also fund culturally specific programming that helps black, brown, and indigenous students to succeed. For decades, black and brown students have borne the brunt of disinvestment in our schools.
“The Student Success Act is a huge step forward for black, brown, indigenous, immigrant, and refugee students in Oregon,” said Marcus Mundy, executive director of Coalition of Communities of Color. “Culturally specific programs are highly effective, and they are essential to closing the opportunity gap and beginning to address the systemic racism and oppression that students of color face daily. The Student Success Act makes these vital investments.”
Additionally, the Student Success Act will provide a statewide investment in increased access to free and healthy meals in schools.
“Healthy school meals are just as important to learning as textbooks or pencils,” said Annie Kirschner, Executive Director at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. “Children who participate in school meals attend more days of school, do better in school, are more likely to graduate, and even earn more as adults. These policies will also take away the stigma and stress some kids feel in school cafeterias.”
The Student Success Act now heads to the Governor’s desk, where she is expected to sign it into law.
Below are the dozens of organizations who have endorsed the Student Success Act:
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)
Basic Rights Oregon
Campaign for Oregon’s Seniors & People with Disabilities
Children First for Oregon
Coalition of Communities of Color
Community Alliance of Tenants
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)
Jobs with Justice
Main Street Alliance of Oregon
Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub, Inc.
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon
Oregon Alliance of Children’s Programs
Oregon Association of Relief Nurseries
Oregon Center for Public Policy
Oregon Education Association
Oregon Headstart Association
Oregon League of Conservation Voters
Oregon Nurses Association
Oregon Pediatric Society
Oregon School Employees Association
Oregon Student Association
Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon
Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN)
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon
Stand for Children
Tax Fairness Oregon
Urban League of Portland
YWCA of Greater Portland