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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 4.28.11




High-stakes Election

Dont believe the disinformation campaign

By Anne Bridgman

Eugene schools have cut $50 million in the last three years as state funds have shrunk. Theyre set to cut a whopping $30 million more next fall, unless our community steps up to do something. Without more funding, kids will lose one to two weeks of school and class sizes will skyrocket. Some kindergartens are slated to have more than 30 students. Some high school classes are expected to have more than 50.

Hard to believe, but true. The good news is, we can stop this in May.

Eugene voters can vote yes on Measure 20-182 and stop the worst of these cuts from hitting kids and damaging our ability to attract great folks to Eugene because of our schools.

Kids need everyone to vote yes. The stakes are high. We also need to stop the disinformation being spread about Measure 20-182. Here are the facts:

We dont need to wait for the state to fix the problem.

As Oregon has cut school funding, the state hasnt done its share for kids.Because of the current $3.5 billion shortfall in the state budget, Salem isnt going to step up anytime soon. Theres no reason the local community cant take care of our own 23,000 school kids.

The measures revenue will go only to classrooms. Strict accountability is written into the measure.

The funding can be used for only two things: restoring cut instructional days and limiting increases in class sizes.The measure legally requires that the money be used only for that, and the city and school districts will enter into legally binding agreements to that effect.Moreover, the districts have to report to an independent citizens committee yearly to make sure they use the funds properly.

The cost to implement the tax is small.

Collection costs are estimated at 5 percent of the total, based on a similar tax in Multnomah County.

The measure is temporary.

Theres no renewal in the measure. Opponents claim the City Council could suddenly change that and make it permanent.Of course its within the councils power to pass any ordinance they want at any time ã they could tax bananas next week. But it took hundreds of citizens lobbying the council to get this on the ballot. Any renewal would require a similar huge grassroots effort.

Measures 66 and 67 helped solve this problem, but they were temporary.

They helped as they were intended, and bought back many days of school, but Measures 66 and 67 were temporary. What will happen next year? The enormous state cuts for next year require action now.

This measure is fair to working families, and it protects the poor.

The funding is moderate and progressive, and it exempts the lowest incomes.A working family with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 (after deductions) would pay only $120 a year ã thats about 33 cents a day, a worthwhile investment in our communitys future.

Kids who live outside Eugene city limits need education, too.

No policy is perfect. For example, many large corporations in Oregon get huge tax breaks, paying almost nothing for schools. But are we going to let a philosophical argument about Oregon tax law stop us from helping our kids?We need all of Eugenes schools and children to succeed.

If this measure doesnt pass, our kids and our city will feel a big impact.

If Measure 20-182 doesnt pass, the districts will lay off more than 100 teachers, cut programs, and shorten an already-short school year. If we do nothing, our youngest kids will have an average of more than 30 children per class; middle-school kids will have an average of 35 children per class; and high-school classes will average in the upper 30s to 40s. This is not the way to educate children. Furthermore, kids will lose one to two weeks of school ã and our school year is already the second shortest in the nation. This is not a maybe ã this is certain. This is our chance to help our schools and our kids for the coming school years.

Anne Bridgman is a freelance writer/editor in Eugene and a peace activist. She and her husband have a daughter in the 4J school system.