Oregon Celebrates Historic Funding Victories for Young Children

Education supporters across Oregon are celebrating passage of the Student Success Act (HB 3427). This historic investment of $1 billion per year promises to reinvigorate Oregon’s education system by funding a range of programs to boost student achievement and increase graduation rates. Notably, 20 percent of the budget, or $200 million per year, is new investments in high-quality preschool, Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE), Relief Nurseries, Early Head Start, parenting education, home visiting, early childhood workforce development, and an Early Learning Equity Fund. The legislature protected previous funding, so these investments represent an additional commitment to improving the lives of kids and families in Oregon. 

HB 3427 will be funded via a 0.57 percent tax on businesses with more than a million dollars in Oregon sales. Businesses can also subtract 35 percent of either their capital or labor costs. There is also a corresponding .25 percent cut to personal income tax rates to offset potential increased costs to consumers. An estimated 40,000 businesses in Oregon will be impacted by the new tax.

Here are five funding victories from the proposed budget for early childhood. Allocation figures represent the first year of the two-year budget cycle.

  • $28.1 million of the early learning budget is directed to programs for infants and toddlers, an approach that may not seem directly tied to education but has been highly effective in improving longer-term outcomes. Every experience is a learning experience for young children, so programs like voluntary home visiting, Relief Nurseries, Early Head Start, and parenting education programs will help strengthen these important parent-child bonds.
  • $77.5 million per year — the largest portion of the early childhood portion of the budget — will add full-day slots in Preschool Promise (the state preschool program) and boost half-day to full-day slots, increase teacher pay, and provide transportation for Oregon Pre-kindergarten (the state investment in Head Start).
  • $37.5 million per year is allocated to Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education programming. Full funding was one of the key recommendations by the Early Childhood Coalition. Oregon Department of Education data from 2018 showed that only three percent of children diagnosed with high needs and 14 percent of those with moderate needs received Special Education services at the recommended service levels. Only 34 percent of children enrolled in Early Intervention received services at the recommended service levels.
  • $12.5 million will go towards professional and workforce development for early childhood workers. Advocates were clear that plans to increase the number of programs and slots available must also be paired with strategies to support highly-trained staff to deliver them, a lesson learned from preschool expansion efforts in other states.
  • $10 million will create a new Early Learning Equity Fund to support culturally specific early learning, early childhood, and parent support programs. Children of color and dual language learners are the fastest growing population of children in the state.

We’re very pleased that other priorities listed on the Early Childhood Coalition legislative agenda, including bills to fund universally available voluntary home visiting and address the child care crisis, also passed in the final two days of the session.

Reflecting a growing awareness of Oregon’s child care crisis, a bill that will create additional infant-toddler care under the program “Baby Promise” and a bill to establish a child care task force championed by Rep. Karin Power both unanimously passed the Senate. Continued funding for child care subsidies were also included in the Department of Human Services budget, which passed the Senate by a vote of 23–4.

The legislature also passed an Oregon Health Authority budget that includes funding to implement universally available voluntary home visiting. The funding will go to expand the successful, evidence-based Family Connects program. This means that all parents of a newborn who want to participate in the program will have the option to receive home visits from a nurse. Families with infants can also celebrate the passage of paid family and medical leave in Oregon. Starting in 2023, House Bill 2005 will allow workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave following a birth, adoption, or illness. The legislature also passed a bill that included an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for families with at least one child under the age of 3.

Rafael Otto, Children’s Institute

August 5, 2019