Could Measure 85 Help Close the Achievement Gap? (by Guest Blogger Francesca Wrobel)

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.

Sloppy Legislation?  

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. 

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4 thoughts on “Could Measure 85 Help Close the Achievement Gap? (by Guest Blogger Francesca Wrobel)

  1. I am definitely going for the measure 85, because like what it said in the above, a gift to student, why not just give it to the students? we are in such education crisis where public school budget is shrinking every year; this means many teaching staff are either laid off, or underpaid; hence class sizes are increasing dramatically; and resulting in bigger and wider achievement gap, because teachers simply don’t have enough time to spend with each student. Therefore, the ones that are already behind stay behind. There are also other factors too, that make the gap stays wide, such as the disappearance of various school resources due to lack of funding, which includes counselors, after school programs, one-on-one tutors, etc. Even though the argument is that the Money from Measure 85 is not predictable, and that there’s no plan developed on how to use this money; my opinion is that no matter how much we can get for public education, having a bit more is better than nothing, and this fund will be available and can be used when schools need it! How are we going to close the gap when we don’t even have the basic needs met? Do you agree? Thanks!

  2. Frencesca

    I think you make you a good point here that it can be seen as a gift for students. Even if it isn’t promised, at least it’s there if we do have it. More money towards schools is never a bad thing. The only thing I am skeptical about, like you mentioned above, is that it seems so up and down; that we have no guarantee of funds.

    I would never take away funding or money from schools but I do want to make sure they are always funded. If this measure gives “gifts” than that is OK, but supporters should not tout this bill as something that will save our schools or shorten the education gap. If all it is is a few million over a couple years, while that seems like a lot, is a drop in the bucket for the whole state school budget. But something is better than nothing right?

    Eli

  3. I’ll be voting “Yes” on this measure because while it isn’t very much, nor is it anything they should count on to make their budget ends meet, it is something that can be used in the years where there is a kicker. A few million over a couple years could save some poorer districts from having to lay off this or that teacher, or it could mean that they are able to hire an assistant for an overcrowded classroom. It may not be able to do that for every district, but in the ones that it does, then it at least is able to help those students out. Some money is certainly better than no money.
    However, my one big concern with these stop-gap measures like the one’s we’ve seen pop up over this voting session is the fact that it draws attention away from the lack of certain funding. Funding that the schools can rely on year in and year out is not what it needs to be, and measures like this makes it seem like all schools need is a little discretionary funding from time to time, rather than a full upheaval of the way schools are funded.

    In Washington, the state constitution says the word ‘paramount’ one time. Paramount, in this case, meaning above all else, before anything else. The exact words are “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all students….”( http://www.waschoolexcellence.org/about_school_funding). That means before prisons, roads, or anything else is funded, schools must be funded ‘amply’. While there have been lawsuits about the lack of funding, I feel that at least they recognize the importance of schools needing ample funding in order to succeed, and that their constitution states that importance in no uncertain terms. That statement in the constitution also means that they can be sued for not giving education the funding it needs.

    I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think Oregon has even been sued for not giving schools enough money.

  4. I wish this measure would give us an actual plan of where the money would be going if they received it rather than just saying it would go to the public school system. I think that would get people to vote more at these measures.

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