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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.

Outdoor School Initiative Qualifies For Oregon Ballot

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
Supporters of the outdoor school initiative gather on the capitol steps before submitting signatures to get their measure on the ballot last month.

Oregonians will vote this fall on whether to fully fund an outdoor education program for the state's fifth and sixth graders. An initiative that would do that qualified for the Oregon ballot Friday.

Outdoor school is kind of like summer camp during the school year. While they’re away, kids get hands-on experience in natural science and conservation. But over the years fewer districts have offered the program, or offer it for fewer days each year.

Supporters of the initiative say only about half of Oregon fifth and sixth graders have access to outdoor school. The measure would tap into existing state lottery revenues to create a grant fund that supporters say would be big enough for every district in the state to offer a weeklong outdoor school.

Oregon lawmakers last year set standards last year for what an outdoor education program should include. The measure called for instruction in the role of natural resources and the environment but didn’t include any funding. The initiative that's now qualified aims to fill that gap.

It will be one of at least three initiatives on the Oregon ballot. The others are a measure that raises taxes on some corporations and a measure that provides funding for high schools to develop dropout prevention programs.