The Oregon Constitution requires the state to provide “adequate and equitable” funding for the education of the state’s children. Article VIII, Section 8, was added to the document in 2000, after voters approved an initiative petition.
There’s a catch that the Oregon School Boards Association hopes to neutralize. Thanks to a 2009 ruling by the state Supreme Court, the state cannot be required to supply all the money it would take to provide that education. Instead, the Quality Education Model Commission issues a biennial report saying what that “adequate and equitable” funding would cost, and lawmakers just as routinely issue a letter saying why the standard will not be met.
OSBA would end that practice by amending the constitution to require the Legislature to come up with money to meet the QEM’s figure.
If OSBA were successful, it almost certainly would create a financial crisis within the state. Today, K-12 education eats up about 40 percent of Oregon’s general fund, or about $7 billion for 2015-2017. The QEM would cost Oregonians nearly $2 billion more.
Oregon cannot just tax businesses more to make up the difference, at least not without doing real harm to the very folks who provide the jobs that generate income taxes in Oregon. The 2016 Quality Education Commission report itself said: “The Quality Education Model cannot simply be the mechanism used to quantify Oregon’s funding shortfall.”
Oregon schools don’t perform well on a number of education metrics. High school graduation rates, for instance, have been among the lowest in the country. But the solution proposed by Measure 98 is much better than the OSBA’s unhinging of the state budget.
OSBA and its members have usually been more sensible than their current proposal to amend the state constitution would suggest. They should rethink their idea, recognize the danger it presents across state and local government, and let it die.