Three statewide ballot measures set out to accomplish good things for Oregon, but only one gets our nod.
Measure 98 is a well-researched, carefully crafted plan to take direct aim at Oregon's abysmal graduation rate by funding career and technical education (CTE), college-credit classes for high school students and dropout prevention programs. It would do this by directing the Legislature to increase the state school budget by about $150 million — $800 per high school student. The extra money would come from expected growth in state revenues, so no tax increase would be necessary. Districts would design their own programs and apply for funding from the state.
Studies clearly show that students with access to CTE are more likely to graduate. Dropout-prevention programs also are proven to prevent at-risk students from leaving school early. And college-level coursework for those students headed for post-secondary education will better prepare them for college.
If Measure 98 has a weak spot, it's the reliance on projected growth in revenue in a state that is facing huge bills for public employees' pensions. If Measure 97 — the controversial gross receipts tax on large businesses — fails, all bets could be off. We'll have more to say about Measure 97 in Sunday's paper. But Measure 98 is a solid investment in our students' futures, and deserves a yes vote.
Measure 96 and Measure 99 would do good things as well, but both would raid state lottery proceeds in the process — not a wise use of those funds.
Measure 96 would direct counties to help veterans connect with federal benefits they qualify for — something counties already do. It would pay for that effort with 1.5 percent of lottery funds, reducing the share that now goes to economic development. Carving up lottery dollars into smaller and smaller shares is no way to run a state. What's worse, Measure 96 would lock this funding into the state constitution, so lawmakers couldn't alter it without a vote of the people.
Everyone is in favor of helping veterans. But they are already being helped, and this is not a cost-effective way to increase that assistance.
Measure 99 would allow every school district to provide outdoor school so fifth- or sixth-graders can spend a week camping with their classmates and learning about the natural world. It's something many districts have done for years but some have dropped or reduced in favor of other budget priorities. No one questions the value of outdoor school, an Oregon tradition for more than half a century. But this measure would also tap the lottery, taking up to $22 million of money that now goes to economic development.
If outdoor school is more important than other programs, the Legislature should find funding for it outside the lottery.
We recommend no votes on measures 96 and 99.