• Author Deb Mayer

Why is Stand for Children spending millions to pass M 98?

The rollout of M 98 has been deceptive. Similar plans are being pushed onto an unsuspecting populace in many states around the country. The goal is to incrementally replace teachers with computers and privatize our public schools. We should pay attention.

Here are some observations and some questions we should be asking about ballot measure 98:

  • Oregon’s graduation rate is 78%, not 59% as proclaimed by Stand for Children.

  • Expanding career technical programs and college level courses are not the most effective way to increase high school graduation rates as Stand says. Credible research shows smaller class sizes, a longer school year, early intervention, family engagement, mentoring, tutoring, service learning, after school and out-of-school opportunities, and addressing the causes of poverty are all more successful interventions.

  • Career technical classes do have apositive effect on graduation rates, but not a major one. (A distinction should be made between vocational tech and ed tech programs. Ed tech promotes more computer learning and screen time, not hands-on vocational skills training.) The promise of VocEd is enticing, but wouldn’t it make more sense to plan a facility locally and fully fund it rather than to haphazardly bid for a “grant” from the state?

  • Funding may not be used for already existing programs or facilities, but only for expansion and for new programs.

  • Expanding AP class offerings does not contribute to higher graduation rates of struggling students as Stand claims research suggests.

  • College level AP classes will be paid for from K-12 funds by the school district where the student is enrolled.

  • “When establishing and expanding career-technical education programs and college opportunities, school districts may, and are encouraged to, give preference to programs and opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” STEM. This is a proposal to fund more STEM programs, not wood shop or auto shop.

  • M 98 supporters claim that the funding will come from "new" revenue above current levels, but that doesn't take into account the expected $1.25B shortfall needed to fund current levels of services in the next biennium. Any "new" revenue due to economic growth will only close the gap and not provide funding for these programs. Also, the "new" revenue requirement applies only to the next biennium, later M 98 programs use state school funds regardless of a boom or bust economy.

  • The state is required to do a Fiscal Impact Review. The committee includes the secretary of state, the state treasurer, the director of the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, the director of the Oregon Department of Revenue, and a local representative with expertise in local government finance, who is selected by the other members. The report should appear in the ballot pamphlet. We should probably look at it before it goes to print.

  • Not every school or district will benefit. The money doesn’t follow the child.There will be winners -- and losers when district plans are not approved.

  • Participating school districts submit plans following program rules. (It’s like a grant application, but we can’t call it that.) Districts cede approval and control to the state. A district that doesn’t qualify at first may apply again the next year. The district will get a portion of what the department did not use.(This is really unclear.)

  • “The recruitment, licensing, employment, and training of personnel to provide college level educational opportunities in all high schools.” Not sure what this means. Will schools be training and licensing teachers?

  • “Cooperate, coordinate, and act jointly with nonprofit programs.” Are the nonprofits training teachers? Does this mean more state funding for nonprofits? (This is also really unclear.)

  • M 98 creates more bureaucracy. One-and-a-half percent (two the first year) may be spent by the state to administer the program. Four to five percent more may be spent at the district level. Audits will abound.

  • M 98 seems to be a veiled attempt to purchase more computers and canned curriculum to facilitate EdTech programs as the prevalent way to deliver instruction. That may pose a health threat to students.

  • M 98, as written, has no sunset. It will be perpetually skimming resources from the general fund at the expense of other programs.

So, why is Stand for Children spending millions to pass ballot measure 98? And why are they promoting it as a thing it clearly is not? If we really want to raise high school graduation rates, M 98 won't do it.

If Stand's bad behavior in other states is any indication of what in store for Oregon, M 98 will not be the last of its sneaky attacks on public education. These are not the programs that lead to success in preventing kids from dropping out. What does M 98 do? It appears to promote more STEM classes in high school. Those classes will be delivered by people trained and licensed by the school district with the help of nonprofit organizations. M 98 seems to be a power play by Stand for Children to carve out a niche for itself in the ODE with access to billions of taxpayer dollars to distribute to vendors selling their education wares. This shouldn't surprise any of us. Stand is creating havoc all across the country by doing this very thing. We need only lift our heads out of the sand to see that Oregonians are fair game, too.

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