SALEM — Petitioners for a measure to require one-sixth of new state funding to go toward targeted high school programs say they have enough signatures to secure a place on November’s general election ballot.

Supporters of Initiative Petition 65 said the measure will address a trio of problems: The state’s low graduation rate, cutbacks in career and technical education and the need for remedial education in postsecondary school.

“IP 65 prioritizes our high schools and gives Oregon high school students the access they need to career and technical education, college readiness and dropout prevention,” said Shelly Strom, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

The initiative would provide an average of $800 per high school student per year or about $140 million a year, about 1 percent of next year’s state budget, according to the campaign.

Schools would be required to submit a plan to the Oregon Department of Education for how they would use additional funding to build programs for dropout prevention and career and college-readiness programs.

Only about 74 percent of students in Oregon graduate from high school in four years, one of the lowest rates in the nation. And 75 percent of high school students who go straight to community college have to take remedial classes, according to the national Institute of Education Sciences.

The campaign was scheduled to turn in more than 125,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office in Salem Thursday afternoon. Just 88,184 signatures are needed for a spot on the ballot.

The Oregonians for High School Success political action committee has raised about $3.6 million to campaign for the measure.

Former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, LaToya Fick, executive director of Stand for Children and Carmen Rubio, executive director of the Latino Network, spearheaded the campaign.

The Coalition of Communities of Color and the Oregon School Boards Association have endorsed the measure.

The Oregon Education Association is not supporting the initiative but has not organized an opposition campaign against it. Instead, OEA is campaigning for passage of a controversial corporate sales tax measure that would yield about $3 billion in additional revenue each year for education and other state services.

Hanna Vaandering, president of the Oregon Education Association, said the association supports the high school programs IP 65 is trying to fund.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been disinvesting in our schools for such a long time that Oregon students have a whole host of needs,” Vaandering said. “The way IP 65 is written could prevent local communities from deciding what’s best for their students.”

“The beauty of the Better Oregon campaign is that we will be able to have the funding to ensure all children, in all of our schools, are benefitting,” she said, referring to the corporate sales tax measure. “ So, while we definitely support the programs IP65 will fund, we cannot support the measure because it applies a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to a much larger, systematic problem.”

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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