The Board of Directors of the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) voted this week to support Initiative Petition (IP) 65, a proposed measure on the November ballot that would establish the High School Graduation and Career Readiness Fund as part of the state General Fund.
The proposal by the non-profit advocacy group Stand for Children Oregon would dedicate an estimated $280 million -- about $800 annually per high school student -- every two years to prevent dropouts and reduce chronic absenteeism. It does not raise taxes or otherwise create a new revenue stream.
Under the proposal, school districts would use funds to establish or expand career and technical education (CTE) programs, create "college-level educational opportunities" for high school students such as Advanced Placement classes, and implement dropout prevention strategies in all high schools.
OSBA Board members said their support is based on the proposal's goal of reducing dropout rates. They also said it is important that funding for the proposal, as IP 65 explicitly states, be in addition to funds that would normally be allocated to schools.
In other action, the OSBA Board voted to remain neutral on two other education measures planned for the November ballot.
IP 67 would create a new Outdoor School Education Fund to ensure that all Oregon fifth- and sixth-graders have the opportunity to attend a weeklong outdoor school education program. The OSBA Board expressed its support for outdoor school, but had concerns that as much as $22 million in state lottery funds would be used to fund the program.
The Board also voted to remain neutral on IP 28, which is expected to raise a little over $3 billion each year by increasing taxes on those "C" corporations with sales in Oregon of greater than $25 million annually. Current estimates are that it would affect about 1,000 companies.
Under the proposal, such companies would pay a 2.5 percent tax on all sales in excess of $25 million. Revenue from increased taxes would go toward "additional funding for: public early childhood and kindergarten through 12th grade education; healthcare; and services for senior citizens." The proposal does not specify how the proceeds would be divided among those areas.
Among other issues, OSBA's Board expressed concerns about how much of the new tax would be dedicated to public schools.
"Our Board and our members support the concept of revenue reform," said OSBA Executive Director Betsy Miller-Jones, "but we believe any new revenue should be dedicated to our public schools. OSBA is working on the revenue reform issue and we expect to have a proposal ready by this fall to show our members and the public."
OSBA is a member services agency for more than 200 locally elected boards serving school districts, education service districts and community colleges. It also provides services to charter schools and their boards.