Oregon’s 2021 legislature provided funding for and directed the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to “study the impacts of State School Fund (SSF) spending and to determine if this spending pattern results in disparities between students who are black, indigenous or people of color (BIPOC) and those who are not BIPOC students.” ECONorthwest conducted this study in collaboration with an SSF Advisory Committee of representatives from various educational advocacy and community groups. The study included quantitative analysis using school- and student-level data as well as state- and district-level stakeholder engagement. It focused on equity, specifically, on how funding policies and procedures affect equity in resource allocation and in student outcomes, rather than the overall adequacy of funding.
We found that school districts in Oregon do not track SSF expenditures separately from expenditures of other general fund revenue at the school, staff, or student level. State and local laws and policies such as formula weights, class size ratios, and required programming drive state and local resource distribution to schools, leading to a slightly progressive—but close to average among states—resource allocation with respect to race and ethnicity. In light of persistent, long-standing outcome inequities between Oregon’s BIPOC and non-BIPOC students, some school districts have district-level equity plans and equity directors. Representatives of many school districts—especially smaller districts—report insufficient levels of funding for additional initiatives. Research referenced and applied to Oregon in this report indicates that additional resources, and the ways in which resources are allocated, can play a role in addressing long-standing outcome inequities.