Editorial: Vote for Measure 98

Oregon’s high school graduation rate is among the worst in the nation, hovering somewhere between 47th and 49th lowest of the 50 states. That’s despite eighth-grade test scores that show the state’s youngsters are learning apace with children nationwide. It’s a serious problem, and proponents of November’s Ballot Measure 98 have a response that should get your support.

The measure would set aside about $800 per high school student in the state, money that could be spent only on early college education, career-technical programs and direct help for ninth graders who are already headed toward failure.

The measure is not to be confused with Measure 97, the hidden sales tax. Measure 98 imposes no new taxes nor increased taxes on anyone. Instead, supporters believe, lawmakers could capture a part of the predicted growth in state revenues to create the special fund needed to support 98’s vision.

That vision is based in reality, supporters say. They note the state has conducted a number of pilot programs in just the areas included in the measure, and its officials know what works and what doesn’t. Measure 98 would allow school districts to implement proven programs that would boost their graduation rates. Moreover, those districts would have to have two-year plans approved by the Oregon Department of Education and be held accountable for improving performance.

It’s worth noting Measure 98 funds could not be siphoned off for other purposes. They would not fund sports, driver education or increased salaries within a school district.

It will take commitment from teachers, administrators and school boards around the state to make Measure 98 a success. If they want the best for the children who struggle, this proposal gives them a chance to offer just that.

About one in five Oregon children starting kindergarten in these past weeks will not finish high school. This measure offers a targeted response, with reasonable funding and accountability. It has widespread support, including from Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, and her Republican opponent, Bud Pierce. It deserves your support, too. Vote for Measure 98.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. In the original version, the affected grades were misidentified. The Bulletin regrets the error.

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