Note: This post is Part 3 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.
Measure 85 on Oregon’s November 2012 ballot seeks to reclaim a portion of typically refunded tax monies, funneling them to the state’s General Fund with an earmark for public education. Regardless of exact amount, this measure’s passage would be a significant boon to our schools. Our school system’s greatest weakness, however, may be the achievement gap – and this is not something that the given measure can hope to address. The achievement gap between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds in our public schools is a product of school funding inequalities in part, but also of a great number of other factors. Even to the extent that funding is a necessary tool for improving schools, addressing problems, and closing the achievement gap – income resulting from the passage of this measure will never be stable or even predictable, and so can aid no plan.
Some opponents to Measure 85 have said that this disconnect is reason enough not to pass it: that the mere earmark for our school system is representative of sloppy legislation, suggesting a definite effect that cannot be promised. But even if having such an effect were its claim, are we really at risk of a public misled to believe that public schools are receiving too much money?
A Gift for Students
The measure ensures nothing, but that is not to its fault. The tax refund in question – the one that would be re-directed if the measure were to pass – is not, itself, ever certain. But if every few years there is a potential for budget surplus, why not put it into the fund used by our schools, rather than returning it to corporate taxpayers with no dire need? An unpredictable amount of extra cash in the General Fund is not something that can be planned for, and so cannot be said to do anything in particular. But to have a little extra when our economy affords it could be a great gift to our students’ needs, including those which might be just as unpredictable: physical repairs to flood damaged facilities, a counselor in the wake of social disturbance. Even without emergency, our schools’ budgets being limited as they are, certainly they could make productive use of a surprise bonus.