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School Advocates Plan Next Steps in Aftermath of Measure 97

Springfield School District board member Erik Bishoff says he was “not surprised, but disappointed” that Measure 97 didn’t pass. 

“We might have to make some cuts this year, and it’s likely going to mean class sizes are going to get larger,” Bishoff says.

Now that the measure has failed, members of the education community and supporters of the Measure 97 campaign are working on next steps to push for a fully funded school system, which includes plans to lobby the Oregon Legislature.

Ballot Measure 97 proposed a tax increase on corporations making more than $25 million in Oregon sales; the funds would have supported education, health care and senior services. The measure failed to pass this November, with 59 percent of Oregon voters giving it a “no” vote.

Multnomah and Benton counties weighed in favor of Measure 97, but all other counties tipped against it, including Lane County, with “no” votes totaling 52 percent.

Oregon underfunds its schools by $1 billion a year, according to the state’s Quality Education Model, and education advocates hoped Measure 97, which would have brought around $3 billion a year to the state, could have helped Oregon to fully fund its schools.

“The failure of Measure 97 doesn’t change the fact that we must find a way to adequately fund our schools in this state,” says state Rep. Phil Barnhart in an email to EW. He supported the measure and says he continues to advocate for better school funding. 

The state of Oregon faces a budget shortfall of $1.35 billion for the 2017-19 biennium, according to Oregon’s Legislative Fiscal Office. 

It’s still uncertain how this budget gap will play out, but local school districts could see cuts.

“I hope we can find a way to cut as few frontline, feet-on-the-ground teaching positions as we can, because we need our classes to be manageable,” Bishoff says. 

The Springfield School District recently added some mental health and counseling services, and Bishoff says he would hate to see cuts happen right after recent gains by the district.

“For me, personally, it’s going to be about remaining vigilant and looking for opportunities to lobby up in Salem,” Bishoff adds.

“A Better Oregon,” the coalition that campaigned to pass Measure 97, plans to continue its work by taking its cause to the Oregon Legislature in 2017. According to the campaign, it will keep advocating for “large and out-of-state corporations, not families or small businesses,” to pay their “fair share in taxes.”

Barnhart points out that the campaign drew attention to Oregon’s school funding system and its problematic tax code. The cause itself isn’t going away, he says.

“All state senators and state representatives need to hear from their constituents that having good schools is important enough to have taxes that can pay for them,” Barnhart says. “So I would ask everyone who cares about good schools for our kids to stay actively engaged with their state representative and state senator … Make sure they know what you believe Oregon needs.”