Oregonians for high school success: FAQs

Learn more about the campaign and the reason behind our initiative with these Frequently Asked Questions!

  1. Why the focus on high school? If we’re committing more money to schools, shouldn’t we use that money to help all kids in all grades?

    High school is our last chance to keep kids on track to successful careers. If they don’t make it through high school on time, they face great difficulty getting back on track and bleak prospects in the job market.Early childhood programs and third grade reading are important too, but these programs are getting more attention now from state policymakers. Our high schools need more help. We have abysmally low graduation rates, and even kids who graduate are often ill-prepared for college and careers. But high schools are expensive to run, and they haven’t been well-served by a school funding formula that provides the same funding for kids at all grade levels.If we don’t improve our high schools, we risk giving up on more than 10,000 kids a year who fail to graduate and thousands more who give up on college and lose their way as young adults.
  2. Why is this limited to just three programs?

    We identified the programs that have proven their effectiveness at the high school level in school districts in Oregon and throughout the U.S.* Oregon’s Career-Technical Education grants have had great success in keeping kids engaged in school and connected to good job opportunities; but these programs haven’t reached enough high schools.* Programs like Oregon’s Eastern Promise and “fifth year” high school programs have improved student success in the critical transition from high school to college, and they have reduced the cost of earning a college degree.* Finally, intervening early to keep kids on tract to graduation in 9th Grade with counseling, mentoring and extra class time has proven to be highly effective in boosting graduation rates.
  3. How do we know these investments will pay off?

    As noted above, we chose the programs with the best track records for keeping kids in school, boosting graduation rates and preparing students for success after high school, both in college and in the job market. To maximize the success of these investments, our initiative provides that every school district has to do its part in exchange for receiving these funds. Districts must file plans with the Department of Education that include:* Sufficient time for teachers and staff to plan and collaborate in 9th grade;* Evidence-based practices to reduce chronic absenteeism;* Use academic qualifications to ensure equitable access to college-level courses;* Systems to ensure that all students, including English Language Learners, are taking the courses they need to graduate.Districts will still be able to decide how much new funding to put into CTE versus dropout prevention or college-level courses, depending on where they are most deficient now, but they will not be allowed to back out funding from pre-existing programs in these areas. They have to add to what they are already doing.The Department of Education will monitor performance in all districts, intervene where necessary and help districts that fail to meet the qualifying criteria, so that every high school student in the state can benefit from these investments.Also, administrative costs will be limited and tightened over time.Finally, the Secretary of State will conduct financial and program audits every two years to ensure that the funds provided to districts are used effectively and accomplishing the purposes of the initiative.
  4. How much will this cost?

    Bringing these programs to scale in all school districts in Oregon will cost $800 per high school student per year on top of the approximately $10,000 per student per year that Oregon currently commits to K-12.
  5. Why do we need additional money to accomplish these things?

    State budget writers have been focused on one big “number” for K-12 funding, supplemented by small, one-time grants for programs like Career Technical Education and college-level courses in high school. But the K-12 formula doesn’t provide enough funding for higher-cost high school programs, and grant-funded programs, even those that prove their worth, invariably fall by the wayside and never get to scale. We need targeted investments in order to fix our high schools.
  6. How will this be paid for?

    Funding for these investments will come from state revenue growth. The total cost to the state to fully fund these programs in the next two-year budget period (2017-19) will amount to $277 million. In that next budget period, state economists predict that the state will collect $1.7 billion (that’s $1,700 million) in new General Fund revenue. Even with other demands on the state budget, this commitment is feasible.
  7. Is this an unfunded mandate?

    Not at all. Districts are not required to participate. For those that do participate – and we expect that most if not all will -- funding comes to establish or expand career-technical education courses, college-level classes, and dropout prevention strategies.  Districts are under no obligation to commit or divert other funds for those uses.

  8. What happens if the economy tanks?

    The initiative provides for phasing in these investments over four years if projected new revenues fail to meet a threshold of $1.5 billion in the next budget period. Even in the midst of the 2008 recession, the state budget did not sustain revenue declines for more than two years, so a four-year phase-in period should suffice even if the economy declines.
  9. Why do we need a ballot measure to accomplish this? Can’t this be done by the legislature when they craft the state budget?

    The Legislature has not demonstrated the will to support new programs like these beyond short-term pilot projects that reach only a few districts and never get to scale. In 2015, they approved only $35 million for CTE and STEM programs, despite much higher amounts requested by the Governor. That’s less than one-half of one percent of the $7.4 billion they approved for all of K-12.
  10. If this qualifies for the ballot, when will it go to the voters?

    It will appear on the ballot in the November 2016 general election.
  11. Let’s assume this passes. What happens next?

    The 2017 Legislature would implement the initiative by committing the required funding to these programs, beginning with the 2017-18 school year.The Department of Education would draft rules to guide the distribution of funds, which would flow to local school districts according to the state funding formula that provides extra weights for low-income students, English Language Learners, etc.School districts would receive funding that would have to be applied to the three programs specified in the initiative – CTE, college-level credit courses and strategies to keep kids in school and improve graduation rates. Ramp-up times would vary. For example, CTE programs will take time to get equipment, facilities and teachers in place, but, some, like the 9th grade support programs, could begin right away.High school students in every school district in the state will get more support and have new opportunities for career-technical programs and college-level courses. Graduation rates should start to improve with the class of 2019. At the same time, students going on to college should need less remediation and get a head start with credits that count toward their degrees. Those who enter the job market should be better-suited to employment opportunities in their communities. These are our standards for success.

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