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Citizen's View: Measure 98 will help students succeed

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This November, Oregonians have the opportunity to make a significant improvement in our state’s public education system without paying higher taxes. How? We can pass Measure 98.

Since Measure 5 was approved in 1990, education funding has eroded and we have seen the results — crowded classrooms and reduced elective offerings. Oregon’s graduation rate hovers around 74 percent and is among the lowest in the nation.

What if there was a way to provide classes that have proven track records for keeping students in school and preparing them for college and careers? The good news is that there is a way — voting yes on Measure 98.

What does Measure 98 do? Measure 98 captures a portion of unallocated state revenue and prioritizes it for high schools to spend in three areas: career and technical education (CTE) courses to train the skilled workforce our state needs, college-prep and dual-credit courses to enable our students to graduate from high school with some college credit, and dropout-prevention programs to keep kids in school.

School districts that choose to accept these resources will receive roughly $800 per high school student to create or expand programs in these three areas. If every district applies for this funding, the total will amount to approximately $290 million, a fraction of the $1.7 billion increase in projected revenue for 2017-19.

Measure 98 is not a mandate, but an opportunity for districts to receive additional funding to implement programs which have a proven track record of student success. CTE classes provide hands-on environments where young people can apply their core lessons in math, writing and science to real-world situations. Portland Public Schools reported that 91 percent of its CTE students graduated on time in 2013-14, compared to the overall graduation rate of 67 percent.

AP and dual-credit courses give students a chance to do college-level work and earn credit. Districts in Eastern Oregon report that students who enroll in college-level courses graduate at a higher rate (96.6 percent in 2014 compared to 68.5 percent statewide) and enroll in college at a higher rate (67.5 percent in 2014 compared to 53.4 percent statewide).

Why should Lake Oswegans support this measure? After all, we already have a high graduation rate and most of our graduates go on to college and successful careers. The same is true for many of our neighboring districts, but it is not true around our state. Each year in Oregon, 10,000 young people fail to graduate.

High school dropouts cost all of us money — without the necessary degrees and job training, unemployed citizens seek public assistance and strain health care, human services and corrections budgets. Measure 98 will help keep students in school. It will help them learn employable skills, graduate on time and become contributing members of our society and economy.

Please join me in voting yes on Measure 98.

Courtney Clements is a resident of Lake Oswego and a member of Stand for Children, the organizational co-sponsor of Measure 98.