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State adjusts school poverty calculations

A new way to determine the number of students in poverty will be used in 2014-2015, with Newberg to receive $51,173 more than before, St. Paul $12, 865 less


The Oregon Department of Education announced last month that it will employ a new method for calculating the number of students in poverty and the resulting changes will affect funding for both the Newberg and St. Paul school districts.

Newberg is set to receive $51,173 more than it did under the old system, while St. Paul will receive $12,865 less.

“We have a funding formula that is structured around equity,” said State Board of Education Chair Samuel Henry. “However, the poverty data our system was using was out of date. This change will ensure that the districts with the highest numbers of students in poverty are receiving some additional resources to help meet those students’ educational needs.”

In the past, the state was required by statute to use Decennial Census data to calculate poverty figures for most districts, but the Decennial Census stopped calculating poverty information after 2000, meaning ODE has used the 2000 Census data to determine poverty funding for the past 13 years. ODE requested that the law be changed to provide more accurate calculations.

The new system is based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income Poverty Estimate (SAIPE), a statistical model that estimates poverty for small population sizes.

School districts in Oregon receive funding based on a system of weights designed to deliver equity, with extra funding provided for students in specific categories, like poverty, special education and English learners.

Basically, districts receive one funding weight for a student who is in their schools for the year and then additional weights or portions of weights if that student falls into one or more of the specific categories.

In the state formula, which hasn’t itself changed, poverty provides an additional quarter weight. Notably, since there are more students in poverty today than there were in 2000, the amount districts receive for each weight has reduced.

Using the old poverty calculation, Newberg’s poverty weight figure would be 115.39, but rose 61 percent to 186.27 using SAIPE. However, its weighted average daily membership figure rose 0.58 percent from 5,777.21 to 5,810.75.

Newberg was one of 80 districts in the state where poverty increased overall funding, as the increase in poverty weight was greater than the loss of any other weight and also greater than the loss of funding per weight due to the higher level of poverty in the state.

St. Paul’s poverty weight fell 32 percent from 9.4 to 6.36, but will use the same weighted ADM figure from the previous year, meaning it’s drop in funding was the result of the losing in funding per weight.

The three districts benefitting the most from the change are Salem-Keizer, which will see a funding increase of $2.3 million, Redmond ($1.9 million) and David Douglas ($1.7 million). Portland Public Schools will see a decrease of $351,000.

According to Newberg Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza, a previous ODE proposal for how to calculate poverty figures would have resulted in an increase of $127,000 for Newberg, but the formula was vetted and adjusted before the final proposal was adopted.

“Unfortunately, using out of date information to calculate that number can put us at a real disadvantage,” LeBlanc-Esparza said. “I appreciate the fact that they were willing to stand back and look at how to calculate this more equitably, so I do think it does help Newberg some.”




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