Lawmakers should invest in what is working: Measure 98.

June 4, 2018 by

Voter passage of Measure 98 back in 2016 has been very good for Oregon students. As the Director of the Oregon Center for High School Success with Stand for Children, I have had an up-close opportunity to watch Oregon schools make significant improvements using Measure 98 funds which are making meaningful, life-changing differences for kids. I am confident that if we stay the course as a state and fully invest in these programs, Oregon’s low graduation rate will rise and significantly more students will be prepared for jobs in the community and for the challenging courses awaiting them in our colleges and universities.

Here is why. Measure 98, approved by a two-to-one margin with more than 1.2 million votes, provides funding for specific education programs and supports shown by research to be effective in helping more students graduate prepared for the workforce and college. This includes hands-on Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, more college experiences for students while still in high school and more dropout prevention programs that have proven effective including a focus on programs that help keep students on-track to succeed during that critical 9th grade year.

Since Measure 98 passed we have seen schools all over the state expand CTE programs, increase college exposure for high school students and implement powerful, research-based dropout prevention programs. I am personally working with over 50 high schools throughout the state as they use Measure 98 funds to implement effective 9th grade support systems developed out of the University of Chicago. These programs all have proven track records, but our schools need continued support over time to really make the differences we know are possible.

If it were up to Oregon voters, schools would have received $300 million under Measure 98 in additional funds to target these three important policy tracts. After Measure 98 was approved overwhelmingly, it still had to become law by passing in the state legislature before receiving Governor Brown’s signature. And while lawmakers supported the Measure unanimously, they also underfunded it by nearly half. So instead of $300 million, our schools received $157 million. And instead of assurance that this funding stream would be stable enough for schools to begin long-term planning, we have no assurance right now that lawmakers will follow through and fund it again at any level, let alone the $300 million mandated by their own voters.

These shortcomings aside, educators across Oregon are making the most of their Measure 98 funds. In my home region of Medford, not only did these funds help create exciting new pathways at North and South Medford High Schools, but local businesses were able to join a town hall in February to ensure that new CTE offerings taught the skills that local employers are hiring for. From improvements to existing automotive and metals programs; to brand new opportunities in electrical, heating ventilation and air (HVAC), plumbing and computer science; to a focus on 9th grade on-track systems and additional support for mental health and the district’s homeless population, Medford is setting a high bar for thoughtful investment and meaningful collaboration.

One thing I learned after spending more than 36 years as an educator here in Oregon, including six years as Superintendent of Southern Oregon Education Service District, is that we don’t do nearly enough to support the hard working teachers, administrators, counselors and other staff who help teach our kids. We charge these people with a very challenging task: help our children unlock their full potential, and do it without the full array of resources we know they need.

Lawmakers from Salem are visiting Central High School right here in Medford tonight. I’m urging my community to speak up. Our representatives are here seeking solutions to improve our overburdened school system, and they need to understand that Measure 98 investments like those made in Medford ARE solutions that need to be supported. We don’t need our lawmakers to devise new solutions to problems we already know how to fix – we need them to double down on what we know works. Measure 98 works, and Oregon voters were crystal clear in calling for it. So as our representatives from Salem come to Central High School tonight, please join me in urging them to fully fund Measure 98.

It’s truly inspiring to see what our educators are doing with the funds they’ve already received from Measure 98. Just imagine how much more they could achieve with full, sustained funding.