A campaign spokesperson with ballot Measure 98 spoke to Hermiston Chamber of Commerce members at Tuesday’s chamber luncheon.
Oriana Magnera gave a short presentation about the measure, which seeks to give Oregon high schools an additional $800 per student to support career technical education, advanced placement and dual credit courses and provide assistance to students at risk of not graduating.
The measure would be funded by surplus general fund surplus dollars that have not been earmarked for another use. Supporters of the measure want to make sure new revenue is allocated to high schools. The measure would not take money away from already existing allocations, nor is it a new tax.
Some have expressed concern that the way the measure is written would not allow the new money to go to existing school programs.
Magnera said that the money could be used for existing programs, and bolster temporary and short-term grant-funded programs.
“Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping the grant comes through each year,” Magnera said the measure would provide a more sustainable funding source.
Schools could also use the money to expand current programs by purchasing new equipment, repairing equipment, building new facilities or hiring teachers. The purpose of the language in the measure explaining how this additional money could be used was to ensure schools used the additional funding to expand services, not merely put more money in other areas like athletics or administrative costs.
The additional funding could also be used to support dual credit programs in high schools, such as the Eastern Promise program. It would also allow for the hiring of additional tutors or counselors to help students at risk of dropping out find ways to succeed.
According to 2014-2015 enrollment numbers, Hermiston High School would receive $1.1 million in additional funding, Pendleton High School would get $687,200 and Umatilla High School would receive $327,200.
Supporters of the measure include Stand for Children Oregon, the Latino Network, the Coalition of Communities of Color and former Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
The Oregon Education Association, which is the state’s teacher’s union, does not support ballot measure 98. The organization says it supports technical education at the secondary level, but does not believe the measure creates the funding needed to support it and will instead earmark too much of the general fund money to high schools. The association also said the measure takes away local control from the district by telling districts to spend money in a certain way.
Oregon voters will decide on the measure in November.