Oregon officials rolled out guidelines Wednesday for the $150 million high school improvement initiative that voters approved this month. The three-page memo from the Oregon Department of Education clarified the state's official interpretation of Measure 98 and summarized the next steps.
Measure 98 aims to improve Oregon's high school graduation rate by putting state revenue toward dropout prevention, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and college preparation classes. Backers of the initiative said research suggests those investments would lead to improvements in Oregon's graduation rate over the next several years.
The ODE memo noted that the focus of the Measure 98 campaign sometimes emphasized certain aspects of the initiative over others.
"Even though some of the funded media spots identified solely CTE in messaging, the Measure 98 language is clear that districts are to address all three areas," the memo said.
Measure 98 is contingent on a $1.5 billion increase in state revenue over the current biennium. The ODE memo said the May 2017 revenue forecast will determine whether the revenue floor has been reached and Measure 98 will be funded.
If there is that rise in revenue, Measure 98 puts $800 per Oregon high schooler in a separate fund aimed for supporting the initiative's high school priorities. Schools would have to go through an approval process with state officials to be eligible for Measure 98 funds. Districts aren't required to participate. But if they don't take part, it means giving up a source of revenue at a time when school boards are bracing for potential budget cuts.
The new state guidelines emphasize that money must expand and establish programs, not just sustain existing efforts. If there are budget cuts, the ODE memo said that districts can’t use Measure 98 money to backfill.
Funding would be based on the district’s high school student population.
Measure 98 was several pages of sometimes dense legal language, including a special consideration for smaller districts - which would be eligible for limited money. ODE noted that Measure 98 allows school districts to pool resources as they tackle the high school efforts.
"Small schools may have barriers in access, resources, and capacity and therefore, they are encouraged to collaborate with other partners to assist in meeting their goals and objectives," the memo said.
Final rules will be drafted in the coming months.
If there is $1.5 billion, money would be available for the 2017-18 school year.