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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Now That It's Qualified For Ballot, High School Graduation Initiative Kicks Off Campaign

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
A measure that will appear on Oregon's November ballot would require the state to fund dropout-prevention programs.

Now that an initiative that aims to increase Oregon's high school graduation rate has qualified for the ballot, backers are rolling out details of their campaign.

The measure would require Oregon to fund dropout-prevention programs, as well as career and college readiness programs in Oregon high schools. Backers say the funding formula in the initiative would steer about $10 million per year to the state's largest school districts, including Portland, Salem-Keizer and Beaverton. The amount each district gets would be based roughly on the number of high school students there.

Those figures come from an analysis by economic consultant ECONorthwest. But the firm's Andrew Dyke isn't making any predictions on how the initiative would affect graduation rates.

"It is quite difficult to come up with very precise estimates for the state as a whole, in part because of a lack of comprehensive information about what districts are doing now,” he said.

The initiative is supported by the education advocacy group Stand For Children. But the state's largest teachers union, the Oregon Education Association, calls it a "one-size-fits-all" solution to a much larger problem.

But OEA President Hanna Vaandering said the union supports the programs that IP 65 would fund. In a statement, Vaandering said “Oregon students deserve these types of important programs to help them prepare for college and career, and to help improve graduation rates.”

According to the most recent figures available, only three states have a lower graduation rate than Oregon.

The measure is currently known as Initiative Petition 65, but will be called Measure 98 once the Oregon Secretary of State's office finalizes the list of initiatives that have qualified for the November ballot.