Schools need full funding from Measure 98
In 2016, Oregon voters passed ballot Measure 98, which called for an additional $800 per student for eligible schools that would be dedicated toward dropout prevention programs.
These programs are mainly centered on Career and Technical Education (CTE), 9th grade "on track," and dual-credit transferability from high school to college classes. However, only 57 percent of the intended funding for the ballot measure was awarded by the Oregon legislature.
My school has already seen the rewards of our Measure 98 funding. I spoke with my former English teacher, who was adapted to be a special counselor with the money West Linn High School received. She explained that she works with students with serious academic struggles that need more support than our overloaded counselors can realistically provide.
Her work has helped students to overcome cultural barriers, report abuse, and understand their learning style. She is a trusted adult for these students, someone who will encourage their progress and hold them accountable. One case at a time, she is keeping our students engaged and successful, a step to push our graduation rate higher.
We have also seen the addition of a second freshmen counselor to support the 9th graders entering our school. This has added another person to aid in the transition from middle to high school and set the freshmen on the right path to graduate within four years.
As far as our CTE programs, we have seen expansions in multiple fields. Our communications department has gained more career-level equipment to work with. An entire robotics lab with state-of-the-art equipment and tools has been developed and utilized by our robotics team. Our environmental science teacher also acquired a professional-grade bird tracker, something that gives students an application beyond the classroom.
In what I consider a fortunate and successful school, Measure 98 has already made an impact. Keep in mind, this is only partial funding. There are multiple schools in Oregon that did not even graduate a majority of its class of 2018; the aid that full funding could provide these schools would be significant.
The crucial piece of Measure 98 that makes it different from other education funding is that it explicitly requires that the money provided be spent on programs like the ones I discussed. The text of the measure explains that the funding must be used to "establish or expand" the programs listed, and it requires that the school districts describe how they will execute this before receiving funding. This ensures that Measure 98's sole purpose is to lower the dropout rate and increase career readiness for high schoolers.
The obvious issue that full funding brings up is the cost: how and from where is this measure going to be funded. As I spoke with multiple state legislators, they all seemed to come to one solution: a corporate tax.
No one enjoys hearing the word "tax." However, this funding is invaluable for our state's educational growth. Money that helps to keep teenagers in school and on the right path is money that doesn't need to be spent to support homeless youth. We are funding the education of the future workforce and ensuring that companies have enough educated workers to be successful in Oregon. If we take shortcuts on education now, we will have to literally pay for them later. If a larger corporate tax is the sacrifice that needs to be made, then I believe there is no worthier cause than the improvement of our struggling education system.
Calli Masters is a senior at West Linn High School.