New law passes, guaranteeing small high school funds for the Klamath County School District.
Klamath County School District’s four rural high schools will continue to receive $2.2 million for needed programs thanks, in part, to the lobbying efforts of 10 students from Lost River, Gilchrist, Chiloquin, and Bonanza.
The school district was at risk of losing the money because growing enrollment in its suburban schools put its overall weighted enrollment at the state’s cap for small high school funding. The students traveled to Salem to testify before lawmakers in February, pushing them to support a bill that increased the enrollment cap, guaranteeing funds for their schools. (Lobbying for their future … Feb. 22, 2019)
“It was the students’ efforts that changed minds,” said Steve Lowell, a KCSD school board member who also lobbied lawmakers. “It was amazing. They not only testified but walked and knocked and representatives’ doors up and down the halls.”
That bill, HB 2967, was signed into law Aug. 9. It raises the enrollment ceiling from 8,500 to 9,500 for the number of students who can be in any one school district in order for its small high schools to receive extra funding. The bill – passed in both the state Senate and House – included a provision declaring an emergency,
allowing it take effect July 1 for the 2019- 20 fiscal year.
Glen Szymoniak, superintendent of the Klamath County School District, was pleased with the outcome and the
efforts of local state lawmakers, school board members, and the students. “What this allows us to do is to keep growing and continue to provide extra needed money for our four small high schools,” he said.
State Rep. E. Werner Reschke, R-Klamath Falls, wrote the bill and sponsored it in the House. It was sponsored in
the Senate by state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls. Gov. Kate Brown signed it Aug. 9.
WHY SMALL SCHOOL FUNDING?
At small high schools – Lost River, Bonanza, Chiloquin, and Gilchrist all have fewer than 200 students in grades 7- 12 – it costs more per student to provide specialty classes such as agriculture science and career and technical education courses as well as programming and staff for FBLA, FFA, and other clubs and activities. The state’s small high school funding formula supplements the budget and makes these offerings possible. The new law only impacts the Klamath County School District because of its wide array of school sizes. The district’s 23 schools range in enrollment from less than at 10 Gearhart School near Bly to around 750 at Mazama High School in the Klamath Falls suburbs.
“This was only for us,” school board member Steve Lowell said. “(The bill) didn’t add other school districts so it was not an additional expense at the state level. It really protected us and our small schools.” He said the six-month process involved the students as well as teachers, school board members, the superintendent, and the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) and Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA).
Lowell represents Klamath, Harney, and Lake counties on the OSBA’s Legislative Policy Committee, which sets lobbying priorities for the Legislative session. “We have to thank OSBA and COSA for their behind-the-scenes work, keeping this bill at the forefront,” he said, specifically mentioning Lori Sattenspiel, OSBA’s director of legislative services, and Morgan Allen, COSA’s deputy director of policy and advocacy, for their efforts. “They continued to work while we came home.”
Student members of Klamath County School District’s Legislative Team who testified were Katie McDaniel, Madison Mefford and Daniel Barstad of Gilchrist; Gabe Millen and Bella Tenold of Bonanza; Colton Wright, Nolan Britton, Aurora Cerri and Irene Aguirre of Lost River; and Dan Jones of Chiloquin.
In addition to the students, other team members who lobbied in Salem included Superintendent Glen Szymoniak, and school board members Jill O’Donnell, Steve Lowell, John Rademacher, Robert Moore, and Denise Kandra.