DALLAS — Proponents of Measure 98 believe it will help improve the state’s lowly graduation rate and better prepare students for work and college after high school.
The bill would set aside at least $800 per high school student for high schools to use to pay for new or expanded “career and technical education” programs, including hiring teachers, buying equipment and building facilities.
Schools would be able to determine what programs would best serve their students.
Measure 98 also includes support for expanding access to college opportunities for students still in high school and for dropout prevention.
“Helping students succeed in life and be ready when they leave high school for success,” said Joy Marshall, an outreach organizer for the measure’s campaign. “That’s really what Measure 98 is about.”
Marshall gave a presentation on Measure 98 at the Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce’s lunch forum on Monday.
She said there three reasons for voting for the measure.
The first being that Oregon ranks 47th in the country in graduation rate.
“Our high school students are not succeeding. They are not finishing high school and it is not through the lack of good work and effort,” she said. “It’s through lack of really smart, focused funding and support.”
Secondly, Marshall said those that do graduate aren’t ready for college-level work, and some are unsure what career path they would like to pursue.
She said offering CTE classes in high school could give students exposure to professions.
Finally, she said Oregon employers often have to turn to out-of-state workers to fill vacancies.
“Workforce is not ready and our employers are not finding people that they can hire with the skills that they need,” she said. “That’s the bad news. The good news is that we can turn it around.”
Funding for Measure 98 wouldn’t require new revenue, and it’s not dependent on the passage of Measure 97, a bill imposing a gross sales tax on certain businesses.
The “at least $800 per student” set aside relies on growth in the state’s budget in the next biennium.
The measure’s explanatory statement says if state tax collections to the general fund doesn’t grow by at least $1.5 billion in the 2017-19 biennium, the amount going to the “High School Graduation and College and Career Readiness Fund” would be prorated.
If funded at the full amount, the program would cost $147 million in the first year.
In the third year and thereafter, the funding level would be adjusted by the cost increased needed to maintain the current service levels.
Schools would have to submit a spending plan before receiving the money.
Marshall said she understands there will be a lot of demand on the $1.5 billion in estimated revenue growth in 2017-19 — including Oregon Public Employees Retirement System rate increases — but believes Measure 98’s objectives are worth the investment.
“High school is our last chance to reach students,” she said. “So let’s invest in focused, targeted, proven areas and turn their futures around.”
For more information about the measure, see the Nov. 8 General Election Voters’ Pamphlet.
There were no arguments against this measure in the Voters’ Pamphlet.