It has been quite the whirlwind since Measure 98 passed overwhelmingly with 1.2 million votes. I am so proud of the coalition that came together to support career technical education, college-level courses and dropout prevention in every high school in Oregon. We now have a real plan in place to fix our graduation rate, which last week's news makes even more timely.
But for all of the late nights and phone calls and passionate pleas about investing in our students’ futures that led to passing Measure 98, winning at the ballot box was just the beginning of our work.
In the Governor’s Requested Budget that came out in December, Measure 98 was funded at half of what the measure called for. And just a few days ago, the Ways and Means Co-Chairs included funding for Measure 98 in with a number of education initiatives without a firm commitment to any of them individually. What all of this means is that we will need to continue to advocate for our high school students and the opportunities they deserve. Measure 98 is now law, but we have significant work to do to make sure it changes the reality in our schools.
First, the rules that guide what school districts can do with Measure 98 funds are currently being written. The Measure 98 coalition is at all of the meetings, reading drafts of rules, and giving feedback to the State Board of Education.
Second, we’ll need to keep making the case that it is time to fix the graduation rate in Oregon. The news last week that Oregon’s graduation rate is 74.8%, only one point higher than last year, should make legislators hungry to invest in solutions. The news that the graduation rate for students taking career and technical education is 85.4% should clearly point legislators towards prioritizing Measure 98. But we know from experience that it will require all of us speaking up and speaking out every chance we get to make sure our student’s interests come first.
We are also committed to working with state lawmakers to use every option available –including finding new revenue – to address the state’s budget challenges. We support a bipartisan solution that addresses costs and provides revenue to balance the budget and make the investments needed in education.
With the legislative session starting this week, it’s time to roll up our sleeves. We have the voters on our side and we have our students and their futures in our heads and hearts. Let’s bring this home.