Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Opportunity Initiative" (Measure 86) Will Harm Oregon's Children

At first glance, the "Oregon Opportunity Initiative" (measure 86) sounds like a great idea, providing college scholarships for deserving children.   Who could argue with that?   Well, I can, for one.  In fact, if you look at the details, this Initiative is a horrible idea that will ultimately harm the children of Oregon in the long term.   Why do I say this?
  • The Opportunity Fund funded will consist of borrowed money, and paying it back will likely come out of other education spending.   Every year we will have a new item on the state budget, paying interest on the opportunity fund loan.   When legislators look to fund this, purely an education-related cost, won't it be natural to take the money out of other education spending?   After all, nearly every legislator claims to have already prioritized education, which means that the state is spending as many of our current tax dollars on education as it believes appropriate. 
  • The Initiative will pump the engine of tuition inflation, ultimately hurting every student who attends college without a full scholarship.   As a society, we seem to have forgotten the laws of supply and demand.   There are numerous scholarship opportunities available for talented, deserving, and needy children to attend college.   But the overabundance of funding and easy loans has freed college tuition from any form of market discipline.  Programs like this enable many marginal students who would not benefit from a college degree, or will end up dropping out anyway, to avoid a realistic cost/benefit analysis.   As a result they will funnel lots of other peoples' money to colleges, as well as mortgaging their own futures through massive loans, and the colleges will happily raise their tuition in response.
  • The Initiative contains a loophole authorizing permanent deficit spending that will bankrupt our state.   A little-discussed clause in the initiative contains the following:  "...when the Governor declares an emergency pursuant to this subsection, the Legislative Assembly, with the approval of four-fifths of the members present in each house, may pass a bill to...  (a) Use the moneys for any lawful purpose if the Legislative Assembly has approved a plan to replenish the fund on appropriate terms."   So in other words, as long as the Governor and the Legislature generate nice-sounding (but unenforcable) pieces of paper, they can loot this scholarship fund for "any lawful purpose" they want.   Do we really expect our politicians to resist the temptation to route even more public funds for favored constituents and special interests?
    So please, don't fall for the pretty language by its advocates of the Oregon Opportunity Initiative being necessary "for the children".  The right decision for Oregon's children is to vote No on Measure 86.

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