Why Vote for Measure 85? (by Guest Blogger Caroline Perkins)

Note: This post kicks of a four-part series on Measure 85 written by PSU Capstone student bloggers.  Thank you, guest bloggers, for contributing this material and helping in our campaign to educate local voters on measures that impact kids and schools.

There is no doubt that Oregon schools are failing to give all students an equal and excellent education. Under current measures, many Oregon schools do not receive sufficient funds to give children an outstanding education. Poor and minority children are the largest populations of underachieving students due to the lack of education funding. The financial disparities in our system systematically leave these populations behind.

What Is the Kicker?

Under Oregon’s current system tax money that is collected in excess of the Governor’s projected budget each biennium is returned to taxpaying citizens and corporations in the form of “kicker checks.” Kicker checks do not reflect an overpayment of taxes owed. Overpayment of taxes by individuals and corporations are still returned. Measure 85 proposes that corporate kicker checks should be given to Oregon’s General Fund (which funds K-12 education) rather than returned to corporations. The purpose of Measure 85 is to funnel additional funds into our education system.

Why Vote for Measure 85?

I am voting for Measure 85 for two reasons: First, corporations must have a vested interest in our school system since they will eventually hire the products of public schools. A business is only as good as its employees. For corporations to continue to grow and be successful they need smart, skilled employees. Most of these employees are brought up through the public school system, which needs to give an excellent education in order to create excellent workers. I don’t quite understand how corporations and citizens do not see this connection.

Second, funds obtained from corporate kicker checks need to be spent on furthering teacher education and training. Poor and minority schools have teachers who are paid less, have less experience, and less training than teachers in more affluent areas. Teachers who educate in struggling school districts are punished with low pay and low support. We expect our teachers to have high levels of education, which often equates with large sums of student debt. Struggling schools can’t afford to pay highly-qualified teachers, just as these highly-qualified teachers can’t afford to work in struggling schools. Therefore funds from measure 85 should be spent on educating teachers in these low-income districts.

While Measure 85 has excellent intentions it is not a solution to the funding issues that contribute to the achievement gap in Oregon. Kicker checks are not a reliable source of income.

I do believe that this law should be passed and kicker checks need to be spent on schools, yet our schools should not depend on this money. In years where excess kicker check funds are available we need to spend these funds on teacher education and training. Corporations need to support our school system if they expect to have qualified workers in the future.


7 thoughts on “Why Vote for Measure 85? (by Guest Blogger Caroline Perkins)

  1. While the state is struggling with budget shortfalls and failing schools, the outdated policy of returning taxes that overshoot the state’s yearly projections has never made sense to me. I remember the kicker checks of the 1990’s and, while it was great to have extra cash in my pocket, it was always an unexpected windfall. Likewise, the corporations of Oregon are not dependent on these kickers, and in fact don’t even know whether they will get them or not until after the state has fully processed the taxes from the previous year. So it is not a loss of expected income for individuals or corporations, just a loss of a bonus that may or may not happen. I think that rather than trying to figure out ways to raise income or property taxes, why not just use the taxes that have already been paid to the state?

  2. Like Chris, I have also never understood kicker checks. As a child, I remember a big push from my elementary school to have kicker checks sent to schools; in our big bundle of papers, there would be a flier. I grew up believing that this was the right way to handle the checks. I also was in high school when PPS was considering cutting days from the school year due to lack of funds, so the idea of money being returned because it was more than the budget asked for is sort of boggling to me. I think the idea of spending the money on professional development is great. I would also like to see money being spent on supplies, such as updated books and desks for classrooms that have more students than they have chairs; I would also like part of the money to go into a rainy day fund, so future generations wouldn’t have to worry about their school year being cut short.

    • Savannah,

      I completely agree: the problem with most educational reforms (and other global issues for that matter) in today’s society is that we don’t think enough about our future generations and how they will be impacted. The longer a problem in this scope is left unfixed, the harder it will be to change it for the better later. I didn’t know much about kicker checks either, but so far for me it seems that they really aren’t enough…

  3. Caroline, while I agree that Oregon schools are in dire need when it comes to funding, I am not sure that measure 85 is a good move towards solving this problem. For one, since the kicker will go to the general fund, there is no guarantee that all of the money would go to the schools. Lawmakers get to decide where the money in the general fund goes, and though the measure stipulates that the money go to K-12, there is no guarantee that all of the money will actually go to the schools. Furthermore, because kickers are not guaranteed, there will be no way to budget or plan for this money. Such inconsistencies could lead to a fabulous teacher training program that must end abruptly when the kicker money is gone. One last thing that worries me about measure 85 is that if it passes it may harm serious education funding reforms in the years to come. Funding education is a touchy subject. I can already hear people complaining that “they already have the kicker, and now they want this?!”
    Measure 85 may have it’s heart in the right place, but putting a band-aid on a severed artery is not going to heal anything.

  4. I think that the schools can use the money but it still it not enough to reach the budget that we really need to Kids a good education. But it will be put to good use. So I am going to vote yes.

  5. Krista: You probably have more experience with the politics of education than I do, but as far as the “touchy subject” is concerned — are people actually concerned that public education is over-funded? or are these concerns part of a general distaste for public spending? It’s funny that the two biggest concerns I hear (not just from you) are completely contradictory: that it’s not a stable source of funding, and may not even exist from year to year — and that it’s excessive funding, and representative of too great a hand-out. I could understand the longing of a taxpayer (even a corporate one) for the refund to which one once was entitled — but why the entitlement? As Caroline points out, the “kickers” aren’t returns for overpayment, just for misestimations. As I see it, some of the unexpected tax income will be retained, instead of released, because there are some seriously underfunded programs on the state’s budget… namely, education.
    As you mention, the state can’t budget for unexpected money — but if it shows up, why not put it to use where it’s needed? Some of our schools’ needs are physical or otherwise one-time large investments; while on-going maintenance does require an on-going budget, that wouldn’t require a recurring “kicker.” A one-time or occasional “kicker” from unexpected tax revenue can be just as beneficial as an unexpected charitable donation. Furthermore, Caroline’s hypothetical use suggestion does not seem impossible to fund with a one-time sum. While on-going teacher training would be great, one-time seminars and training experiences can still be of great benefit to participating teachers– and to their students.

  6. I think its a great idea to give the schools more money but would be beneficial to give it to them is it would only last a short time what will the schools do when the kicker money is gone.

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