In contrast to the controversial question above it on the November ballot, Measure 98 will take money already collected into the general fund and require that it be spent on education.
It is an attempt to solve a glaring problem in Oregon, comes with a reasonable price tag and should be supported.
Measure 98 would require the state legislature fund dropout prevention programs, in an attempt to improve the country’s worst high school dropout rates. It would also support career and college readiness programs — specifically vocational and career technical education — which are proven to keep students in school, improve their standardized test scores and get them started on fulfilling careers.
It would increase the 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.
Measure 98 doesn’t require districts offer CTE 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 some 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 to be flexible in the case of emergency. And lawmakers lose the power to hold programs accountable with their Sword of Damocles — loss of funding — dangling overhead.
But, like the measures above and below it, the need to promise financial support of necessary educational upgrades at the ballot box marks a failure of the legislature. We elect our representatives to spend tax dollars as a majority of voters see fit, on programs that have been proven effective and an efficient use of resources.
CTE programs hit those marks, but legislators time and again have been unable to find the money. This time, voters should take the decision into their own hands and approve Measure 98.