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Yes on 13

Schools need even short-term help

There’s an eerie sort of connection to the proposed Ballot Measure 13 in the photo on the cover of the Oregon Voter’s Pamphlet.

A mountain goat stands guard over her kid on a precipice in the Wallowa Mountains.

The Secretary of State’s office probably did not select the Oregon Fish and Wildlife photo for anything other than its scenic quality, but the photo suggests something ominous:

Oregon schools, and other public services, stand at a precipice in the current budget crisis. Some kind of protection is needed to keep programs (and with them, kids’ opportunities to learn) from falling off the edge.

Measure 13 amounts to a protective rope, by transferring $220 million to the school found, out of the state education endowment fund. The line is not the most secure one, but it must work for now. Measure 13 deserves a “yes” vote.

That said, the Oregon Education Association, which opposes the measure, is right in pointing out that Measure 13 could set up a larger shortfall in the future. It’s a short-term response, not a true solution.

However, the situation in Oregon is such that something has to be done to avoid what would surely be long-term damage to Oregon’s quality of education. Some sort of stability fund is needed now, and Measure 13 is the last best chance.

As House Speaker Lane Shetterly (R-Dallas) has stated, “This measure will help our schools weather the current downturn, until our economy recovers.”

Measure 13 isn’t perfect, but without it schools might be at the end of their rope.

Oregon legislators, and whoever the next governor is, must commit themselves to the long-term funding stability solution that, unfortunately, did not come about in this year’s Legislative session. The new governor’s first act in 2003 should be to convene a two-day summit of legislative and school leaders, to hammer out a practical, long-range remedy the state can work on in the next Legislative session.

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Ballot Measures 10 and 11, on the other hand, would help serve the long-term interests of education in Oregon. “Yes” votes are in order in both cases.

Measure 10 would allow public universities to receive stock in exchange for use of the schools’ scientific discoveries for commercial purposes. It won’t allow use of taxpayer money to invest in stocks, but it will strengthen the universities and help build Oregon companies including high tech and forestry and agricultural industries so vital to Oregon’s economy.

Measure 11 would allow general obligation funding — with lower interest rates than revenue bonds — for Oregon Health & Science University’s capital needs and some research and development programs. A simple change in the constitution under Measure 11 would allow OHSU to save $35 million in interest payments, for the same rate of investment. This will provide more money for medical research, which will help Oregonians overall.

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