Sustainability at Sauvie Island School

We'd like to explain the structural challenges we face as a charter school in Oregon by walking through how our budget works.  From there, we hope you'll see how, as a community, we can come together to ensure the continued success and long term sustainability of SIS. 

How does our funding work, and why is it challenging?

Almost all (95%) of SIS general fund revenue comes from the state. Most of that is awarded based on enrollment and attendance. SIS is close to its enrollment cap every year, therefore our funding is directly linked to legislative decisions in Salem on a two year cycle (“biennium”).  This can be unpredictable, and significantly impact long term planning. 

Only 1-2% of general fund revenue (around $30,000/year) comes from sustainable giving – an average amount of donations we have relied on each year.  

The SIS Parent Teacher Club (PTC), a non-profit, does targeted fundraising to support the school, with a special focus on enhancing hands-on learning. The PTC is part of the school’s sustainable giving, with an average yearly donation of $15,000. In addition, it funds programs outside of the general fund, including art, music, field trips, student activities, staff supplies, staff professional development and much more.


Meanwhile, 73% of our expenses are wages, benefits, and employee costs – typical of most Oregon public schools. The other 27% is “everything else” – things like the school lunch program, transportation, insurance and technology.  There is very little flexibility in the system.

For further reading: SIS Budget Information


What are the added challenges facing public charter schools?

As with most public charter schools in Oregon, SIS only receives 80% of the State School Fund (SSF) dollars of a comparable neighborhood public school (As shown in the first pie chart, SSF money is 88% of our revenue, so this deficit is significant!).  The 80% derives from charter law that was established in the late 1990s.  

Well-managed charter schools apply their flexibility and autonomy to close some of this gap.  Sponsoring districts such as our supportive district share programs and costs with the charter, including special education and after-school activities. However, in the end 80% is too much to overcome when three-quarters of your budget is used to compensate the dedicated staff necessary to make a school thrive.

charter rate

What does this mean for our staff?

Due to the 80% funding mechanism, SIS does our best to stay competitive in salary and benefits, however, the fact remains that our salary scale is based on 95% of our sponsoring district.  Adding to that challenge, more than half of our staff live in Washington and Multnomah counties, where typical wages can be over 20% higher than ours, as is the case in Portland Public Schools. This difference matters! We also wish to invest more heavily in curriculum development through trainings and other supports.

In fall 2023, the SIS Board and Executive Director approved the creation of a staff retention fund, leveraging higher interest rates and other unstable income sources.  This pilot program rewards time of service at SIS with an annual bonus, attempting to bridge some of the pay gap for longer tenured staff. The instability of this income means that the program will need to be reviewed and (hopefully) renewed every two years.

In addition to comparable wages, we expect the cost of facilities maintenance to increase dramatically. Our dear facilities manager is retiring at the end of this year. Finding a suitable replacement will be challenging, and no matter what, it will take time for a replacement to operate our site as efficiently. 

For further reading: SSD ‘23-25 CBA, PPS ‘23-24 proposed budget

Sustainable Giving

SIS seeks an additional source of sustainable revenue through the generosity of our amazing community.  In order to be sustainable, the giving needs to be distributed. Dozens or even hundreds of small monthly donations would allow us to address recurring needs in a predictable and long term way.

The cost of matching our sponsor district's pay scale would be roughly $90,000 per year, a sizable amount but very possible with numbers! If every household with an SIS student or alumni were to donate one cup of coffee a week (about $14/month), we would be well on the way to our goal!

Will you consider becoming a monthly sponsor of our school? It takes less than 5 minutes to set this up online and no amount is too small (just click the "Monthly Donation" box).