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.