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New measure could bring $147 million to Oregon Schools

By Olivia Olivia for El Hispanic News

A new study released this summer by a local economics firm, ECONorthwest, shows how money would be distributed to school districts in Oregon if a new ballot measure passes this election season.

While the bulk election has focused on the highly contested presidential race, local elections will have a huge impact here in Oregon, and will have a huge effect on local students should Measure 98, the legislation in question, come to pass.

Oregon has one of the worst graduate rates in the country, with rates of the districts in Lane County far below the national average. Funding for career and technical education programs has declined drastically over the past 15 years, and most Oregon students who on to community college must take remedial classes. At the same time, companies looking to hire skilled workers have seen a shortage of trained workers, especially in technical fields. Some of that could easily be addressed with the new measure coming to voters this season.

A key piece of legislation moving forward will be Initiative Petition 65 – which its proponents, including Carmen Rubio, Executive Director of the Latino Network – say will push for certain key changes to the Oregon education system and how certain programs are funded. The petition would allow every school district in Oregon to provide vocational and career technical education to students, increase access to make college-level classes available to high school students, and bring back counseling, classes, tutoring, and other support to reduce the dropout rate.

This dropout prevention work would especially impact Black and Latino students, who are more likely than white students to not graduate on time. General statistics show that 1 in 4 Oregon students are not able to graduate from high school in four years. Last year alone, over 2,500 students of color dropped out of high school in Oregon alone.

“I often see local high school grads who are unprepared for Portland Community College courses,” shared Jaime Rodriguez, a Career Specialist for the school. “As a Latino community member, I see that more can be done. And as a proponent of career technical education, I see the value that brings to students.”

Carmen Rubio, who is also the measure’s chief petition, discussed how Oregon shortchanges students by slashing budgets and eliminating the targeted programs that help Oregon’s most vulnerable – frequently minority and immigrant students – succeed. “We as the Latino Network have had to provide many strategies ourselves, so we have a bilingual program and parent engagement opportunities, and we see that this kind of education and outreach create positive communities,” she explained of the Latino Network’s decision to back the legislation. “I believe this will allow for better and closer work for high education in the Latino population,” she added.

ECONorthwest economist Andrew Dyke has also addressed the legislation, explaining how he computed the funding for high school students that will flow to districts, based on current state estimates for funds that Measure 98 would commit. “It’s difficult to predict statewide exactly how the graduation rate might change,” he said, “but we may be able to extrapolate based on general evidence. We have not finished that estimate, but we know that trends suggest it would help.”

First generation Oregon college graduate Pablo Saldana agreed that he was looking forward to the measure passing as well. “I moved from Mexico when I was 10 years old without knowing a single word of English. Then when I was 15, my father told me, Pablo, to the people who are smart there is a place called college. I was lucky enough to have access to college level courses in high school and this had a huge impact on me. It got me ready for the rigor, open-mindedness, and discipline required to succeed in college,” Saldana explained. “Every high school student in Oregon should have the same opportunities I had.”

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