2024 Oregon Legislative Session Delivers On Summer Learning and More

From K-12 funding transparency to student safety and belonging, we break down what happened and what comes next for Oregon public education policy.

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.
The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

Oregon’s 2024 short legislative session came to a close last night, ending almost as quickly as it began. While housing, behavioral health, and campaign finance topped the legislative agenda, state leaders took noteworthy steps to expand and improve opportunities for children across Oregon to learn, grow, and thrive.

"I’m always talking about the need for sewers and water and roads," said Sen. Suzanne Weber on the Senate floor earlier this week. "But you know what our biggest infrastructure need is? It’s to take care of our kids. It’s to take care of their learning. … It’s our future."

This session, Oregon restarted critical investment in summer learning and strengthened school district partnerships with local communities and tribal nations. State leaders also advanced measures to boost transparency and accountability in K-12 funding, and further reinforced safety, equity, and belonging as core values underpinning Oregon’s public education system.

Working side by side with community leaders, Foundations for a Better Oregon (FBO) was honored to collaborate with the office of Governor Tina Kotek, state legislators on both sides of the aisle, the Oregon Department of Education, and education system partners on a range of policies and investments. Now, as we reflect on the session’s final outcomes, we are breaking down what happened, cheering meaningful progress, and forecasting what to expect in 2025.

Children participate in Capaces Leadership Institute's summer learning program in 2021.
Children participate in Capaces Leadership Institute's summer learning program in 2021.

Oregon Recommits to Investing in Summer Learning

This summer, thousands of Oregon students will once again have access to high-quality learning and enrichment programs thanks to House Bill 4082, which now awaits the Governor’s signature after overwhelmingly passing the Oregon House and Senate. 

House Bill 4082 will invest $30 million in school districts this year to provide high-quality and culturally relevant summer learning programs in partnership with community-based organizations and tribal nations. These funds will immediately expand Oregon students’ access to school and community-based programs that boost youth engagement; accelerate academic success; nurture social and emotional learning; promote mental, physical, and behavioral health; and support college and career readiness. 

Gov. Kotek made summer learning one of her top three priorities for the 2024 legislative session, putting Oregon back in line with national priorities and evidence-based strategies to counteract the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on student learning and well-being. With nearly thirty bipartisan legislative sponsors, House Bill 4082 won passage after a powerful community-driven advocacy campaign and unified support from public education associations representing Oregon educators, school administrators, school boards, and school staff. 

"Our summer learning coalition partners, school districts, and the Oregon Department of Education are ready for summer 2024 with a strong plan," said Rep. Susan McLain, the chief sponsor of House Bill 4082 and a longtime public education champion, on the House floor. "We also know that districts cannot do this alone, and this legislation prioritizes partnerships that districts build with community organizations and local governments and tribal nations."

The $30 million investment will target funding toward school districts in both urban and rural communities where students would most benefit from summer learning. To ensure programs reach students with the greatest need, the legislation requires districts to partner with tribes and community-based organizations who hold deep trust with youth and families. Research and experience show such partnerships are essential to delivering culturally responsive summer programs that support students underserved by Oregon’s public education system, including students of color, tribal students, English language learners, LGBTQ2SIA+ students, students navigating poverty, students experiencing disability, and students from rural communities.

"Before students were ever exposed to public education, they were embraced and supported by their families and their communities," said Mark Jackson, Executive Director of REAP, Inc., in testimony to state legislators. "This value does not diminish over time, but increases in value in partnership with schools."

After a lapse in state funding forced summer programs to scale back last year, House Bill 4082 represents a recommitment to summer learning as a key part of Oregon’s K-12 education strategy. While advocates initially hoped for even greater investment, Oregon can build on this funding to make even bolder, more sustainable, and community-wide investments in summer and after-school learning for years to come.

"This bill contains the framework for a true summer learning program that will actually have metrics so that we’re sure that kids are getting the exact right services that they need to help them stay on track and meet their learning objectives," said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, a co-chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, on the Senate floor. "Is it enough? No. … But this is huge progress."

Looking ahead, House Bill 4082 will also launch an inclusive task force of state, community, and education leaders who will develop a strategy to sustainably expand, fund, and deliver summer learning and after-school programs across Oregon. Legislators will then have an opportunity to make a long-term commitment to summer learning in 2025, relieving Oregon families from the stress and uncertainty of year-to-year stopgap funding.

"As we advance conversations this year to examine how our schools are funded, I appreciate that this bill also creates a roadmap to explore sustainable funding for summer learning going forward," said Gov. Kotek in a statement praising the passage of House Bill 4082. "I envision an Oregon where all students have access to these essential learning and enrichment opportunities."

Rows of school buses in Salem-Keizer School District.
Rows of school buses in Salem-Keizer School District.

Promoting Safety, Belonging, and Engagement in Schools

Many education bills introduced in the 2024 legislative session set out to help students and families feel seen, heard, safe, and supported in Oregon schools.

Senate Bill 1532, introduced by Sen. Kayse Jama, creates our state’s first Student Success Plan for Immigrant and Refugee Students. Guided by community expertise and designed to disrupt educational disparities, this statewide plan and grant program will improve and align how Oregon’s public education system supports immigrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking students from early childhood through higher education. "For our immigrant and refugee neighbors to live up to their full potential, we need to support them throughout their resettlement journey," said Sen. Jama. "This begins in our schools."

Senate Bill 1552, an omnibus education bill introduced by Sen. Michael Dembrow, directs the Oregon Department of Education to create a youth advisory group to inform how the state agency develops and implements public education policies and programs. Thanks to years of student-led advocacy supported by REAP, Inc., Oregon youth will now have a stronger voice in decisions about their learning and lives.

To further support local community engagement, Senate Bill 1502 will require Oregon’s school boards to publicly post video recordings of their meetings within seven days. "This bill will improve the transparency of our education boards, grant greater access to busy parents and community members, and promote equity by ensuring everyone can stay engaged," said Senate President Rob Wagner.

House Bill 4147 will keep Oregon students safe as they travel to school. Introduced by Rep. Courtney Neron after students raised concerns, the legislation allows school districts to install video cameras on school buses and record drivers who put students in danger. School districts can share recordings with law enforcement, who can issue up to $2,000 fines to drivers who illegally pass school buses transporting children.

Finally, as some Oregon schools face contentious efforts to ban books that honor underrepresented identities and reckon with difficult histories, Sen. Lew Frederick introduced Senate Bill 1583 in response. The bill, which passed the Senate but ran out of time in the House, sought to prevent schools from banning textbooks or library books simply because they involve the stories or perspectives of people of color, LGBTQ2SIA+ people, religious minorities, or any other protected class. Many expect the Legislature will soon revisit efforts to promote welcoming schools where all students feel free to learn and know they belong.

An aerial view of the Detroit Dam on the North Santiam River.
An aerial view of the Detroit Dam on the North Santiam River.

Addressing Challenges in K-12 and Child Care Funding

The 2024 legislative session also saw state leaders chip away at various challenges in Oregon's public education funding infrastructure.

Most urgently, state leaders stepped in to fill a funding shortfall blocking thousands of eligible low-income Oregon families from accessing affordable childcare. The Legislature will invest nearly $100 million more in Oregon’s Employment Related Day Care program over the next year, and set aside a little over $70 million to cover any potential additional costs.

The Legislature also rejected an effort to dilute the corporate activity tax at the heart of Oregon’s Student Success Act. The legislation would have cut hundreds of millions in tax revenue dedicated to Oregon’s Fund for Student Success, which is designed to promote greater equity and accountability in how K-12 public education dollars are spent.

To ensure our state’s education investments are guided by accurate data, Senate Bill 1552 includes funding for a study to review and modernize Oregon’s Quality Education Model. As it stands, the model “reflects Oregon’s broken approach to both calculating and spending public education dollars,” wrote Whitney Grubbs, executive director of Foundations for a Better Oregon, in an op-ed for The Oregonian.

Finally, the Legislature added $2 million to the state budget for the Oregon Department Education to create and maintain fiscal accountability and transparency dashboards. After conflicting information and public confusion snarled labor negotiations in Portland Public Schools last year, Gov. Kotek noted this investment will "make budget information that the state already collects from school districts more accessible and easier to understand."

The center aisle of the Oregon House Chamber.
The center aisle of the Oregon House Chamber.

What to Expect in 2025

The 2024 legislative session’s end results reflect not only progress made, but also forecast what to expect during the next long legislative session in 2025.

For instance, state lawmakers considered legislation to increase state investment in Oregon’s High Cost Disabilities Fund, remove the cap on how much state funding school districts can receive for special education students, and increase state funding for students experiencing homelessness. These bills spotlighted just a few of the many pain points that plague Oregon’s K-12 school funding formula. But while many acknowledge the formula needs work, key stakeholders have yet to come together around a comprehensive solution that equitably addresses both funding and spending.

In December, Gov. Kotek announced a promising plan to re-examine Oregon’s public education funding and spending. We applaud the Governor’s commitment: Honest conversation and courageous action will be critical before the Oregon Legislature reconvenes in 2025.