Oregon school districts and major community organizations are planning a summer full of programs for children, thanks in part to a second year of public funds.
But hundreds of small, community-based organizations across the state will likely be excluded from state summer funds because they can’t meet an insurance requirement.
The Oregon Association of Education Service Districts is overseeing the grant process this summer. Last week, they shared an update from Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill.
“For this summer, large organizations that already have or can obtain the necessary insurance to protect young people and organizations will be able to access summer enrichment funds. However, many smaller organizations will not be eligible this summer,” according to a June 2 statement. update by Gil.
To Senate Education Committee Meeting on the same day as Gill’s update, OAESD officials said 320 applications have been submitted for funding so far, but “very, very few applicants” have the required insurance. They include hundreds of organizations planning to serve youth of color, youth with disabilities, children in rural communities, and children experiencing poverty, homelessness, or foster care – all student groups that the state pledged to serve, especially after years of disrupted learning.
Gill said state officials had worked to find a solution that would allow “hundreds of CBOs and tribes to access affordable insurance options,” but coverage for those types of programs was not available. not available or would take too long to process before the start of summer.
Last summer, the Oregon Community Foundation oversaw the distribution of $41 million in grants, but didn’t have the same problem. A Frequently Asked Questions For this summer’s grant application process, applicants were asked if they had insurance, but no verification was required. According to the document, this approach exposed the organizations, and possibly the Oregon Community Foundation, to “higher risk.”
Without the possibility of funding, some small organizations try to come up with other ideas or scale back the original plans.
The Eugene Program may seek outside funding
Last summer, trainer Nancy Willard was able to bring her donkeys to publicly funded summer programs. His Program “Path of the Donkey” is intended to teach students self-regulation and empowerment skills in interacting with animals. This summer, she intended to bring the donkeys to summer school, but also to run week-long half-day camps.
Willard says she’s been waiting, hoping there might be a solution to the insurance issue. Over the past month, the OAESD has shared a few updates, saying they are aware of the insurance issue and are working on solutions. Now Willard isn’t sure if her camp will be available for students.
“I’m now trying to figure out if there are any other options to get funding for the camp,” Willard said.
As a substitute teacher in the Eugene 4j school district, Willard said she saw a need for programs like hers. She worries about students who may not have access to robust programming.
“These kids need a whole bunch of summer activities, especially if you’re looking at programs that provide support for the more difficult kids,” Willard said. “Families who have money are going to be able to pay for their children to go to child care programs.”
Salem nonprofit says agencies are erecting ‘huge, obvious and unfair barriers’
In Salem, Oni Marchbanks runs the non-profit organization Equity Splash. Marchbanks and Salem-Keizer School Board member Satya Chandragiri have planned a five-week youth program this summer focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, or STEAM, with guest speakers and students learning expert skills, like coding
Without access to public funds, Marchbanks said he still plans to launch the program in July, but with “zero budget,” and no staff or laptops.
“It’s really disheartening when, no matter how many board meetings you attend, no matter how many tough conversations you have, no matter how many workshops you run, no matter how many tears you cry, that agencies are still putting up these barriers, these huge, obvious and inequitable barriers to access to funding and opportunities for certain groups,” Marchbanks said.
Chandragiri said they had a local space to use for the program, but could not accommodate that many children.
“We’ll just have to reorganize and do something else for the kids,” Marchbanks said.
In her update shared last week, Gill said the insurance requirements are put in place to protect “children, families and organizations”.
Willard, in Eugene, said that rather than requiring insurance, the state could protect students by requiring organizations to conduct background checks on their staff, have clear policies and practices in place to prevent children from be abused or assaulted and provide training to organizations.
“All of us who have been, in some way, sitting, planning, waiting, hoping…have just been wiped out,” Willard said.