In contrast to other controversial questions on the November ballot, Measure 98 will take money already collected into the general fund and earmark that it be spent on education.
It is an attempt to solve a glaring problem in Oregon — the state’s dismal 74 percent graduation rate — and it comes with a reasonable price tag. The measure doesn’t have any organized opposition and Oregon voters should support it by saying “Yes.”
Measure 98 would require state legislators to fund dropout-prevention programs to improve the country’s 47th worst high school dropout rate. It would also support career and college readiness programs — specifically vocational and career technical education — which are proven programs to keep students in school, improve their test scores and get them started on fulfilling careers. And it would give educators better tools to identify students earlier as being at risk of dropping out.
Passage of the measure would be extremely helpful to students on the North Coast with new opportunities for vocational training, potentially in conjunction with programs at Clatsop Community College, to better prepare them for the future.
While legislators have mostly paid lip service to the dropout problem and technical education programs in the past, Measure 98 helps solve that problem. Doing nothing shouldn’t be an option. A study by EcoNorthwest, a consulting firm, predicts continuing on the current path would mean that at least 1 in 5 children who started kindergarten in Oregon this year will not receive a high school diploma in 2029. That should be unacceptable to Oregon residents.
To correct that, the measure would increase money spent on each Oregon high school student by $800 a year, pushing the annual total to roughly $11,800. Those dollars will come from additional revenue into the state general fund. The EcoNorthwest study predicts the measure would improve graduation rates by 6 percentage points over a five-year period, which would move Oregon’s graduation rate into the middle of the pack among all states rather than keep us at the bottom.
Additionally, Measure 98 doesn’t require districts to offer career technical education programs, but helps pay for those who do — which means it isn’t a mandate but instead a carrot to help Oregon districts appeal to a wider variety of students, including those who are in danger of dropping out.
In principle, we’re against handcuffing the Legislature with specific funding requirements like this. They don’t allow legislators flexibility in the case of emergency. However, the need to provide financial support of necessary educational upgrades through the ballot box illustrates the failure of legislators to do just that. We elect our representatives to spend tax dollars as a majority of voters see fit, on programs that have been proven effective and efficient. Career technical education programs hit those marks, but legislators haven’t been able to find the money.
This time, voters should take the decision into their own hands and approve Measure 98.