Oregon Schools Plundered For Drug War

Jails and prisons are the complement of schools;
so many less as you have of the latter,
so many more you must have of the former.
-- Horace Mann

The news articles linked to this page were originally posted here through July 1996 in order to document the school-funding crisis in Portland and Oregon. The intent was to illustrate the need to pass the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 1997, which would have raised an estimated $500 million annually for public education.

Because insufficient signatures were gathered by the July 5, 1996 deadline, however, a new OCTA campaign has been started. The new initiative, which organizers hope to put on the ballot in November 1998, would dedicate proceeds from sales of cannabis to adults in state package stores to the state's general fund rather than just education. Other reform initiatives may also face voters in the November 1998 election. Thus this page is mostly archival. Most of it is duplicated at the new Oregon Services Plundered for Drug War page, which focuses not just on education but also on other state services such as parks and aid to families, traditional priorities that have been defunded in order to build ever more prisons for ever more marijuana smokers.

The articles posted here are copyrighted by the source publications. They are reproduced here under the "Fair Use" Doctrine (17 U.S.C., section 107) for educational purposes. (You can say that again.) NORML is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit educational organization. The views of the authors and/or source publications may not necessarily be those of NORML. These transcriptions are not for sale or resale.

"According to the [Oregon] Legislative Fiscal Office, in the 1991 biennium, $733 million went to higher education and $593 million to public safety, which includes both the Corrections and Judicial Departments. In the current biennium, $627 million goes to higher education and $752 million to public safety." - Willamette Week, "Megalo Mannix," Jan. 31, 1996, p. 19

California: The Land Of Prisons, by Anthony Lewis of The New York Times, March 26, 1996. Will Oregon follow the route taken by California, which has impoverished what was once the finest state system of education in the country in order to build dozens of new prisons, primarily for pot offenders?

Teachers get word on layoffs, The Oregonian, April 2, 1996. Portland Public Schools lay off 513 full-time employees, including 278 classroom teachers, to balance next year's budget. Since Measure 5 went into effect in 1991, Portland Public Schools have reduced full-time equivalent positions by 1,133.

Challenge of local option school funding may keep it off the ballot Cascadia NewsNet, May 1, 1996. Oregon voters probably won't see a local option for school funding measure on their November ballot. The Oregon Supreme Court stopped signature gathering for the initiative filed by Southwest Portland Rep. Anitra Rasmussen Monday because of a challenge filed by a retired lawyer.

Making prisons top state industry is not in our interest by Russell Sadler of Cascadia NewsNet, April 8, 1996. Oregon's new growth industry is not tourism. It is not high technology. It is not service industry. It is prisons. Conservative legislators force up tuition and refuse to appropriate more money to colleges and universities because a $25,000 a year subsidy to students is too much. The same conservatives are willing to house more inmates who cost Oregon taxpayers $38,000 a year to guard.

Back to the Blackboard. Willamette Week, March 27, 1996. He got his three wishes, but Superintendant Jack Bierwirth still needs a miracle. Mayor Katz's so-called $9 million "bailout" was really no bailout at all.

Teach Your Children Well - Lunch Money Leading Indicator, Willamette Week, March 27, 1996. Portland's school woes could send affluent residents to the suburbs, exacerbating public schools' downward spiral.

Oregon dropout rate increases, from The Oregonian, Tuesday, March 19, 1996. For the first time, the Oregon Department of Education tracked an entire class statewide through four years of high school. Cumulatively, the figures show that one in four students, or 24.5 percent of the class of 1995 dropped out before finishing. School administrators lay much of the problem to tight budgets. The school leaders said they had been forced to curtail alternative education programs, lay off counselors and dump some elective courses that were attractive to at-risk students.

Storm clouds gather over school budget, The Oregonian, Thursday, March 14, 1996. Portland board members prepare to cut next year's spending $15 million below current budget levels.

Leadership 101, Willamette Week, Wednesday, March 13, 1996. Sixteen-year-old Jason Franklin is doing more to save Portland's schools than city leaders, politicians and corporate CEOs. The article notes that "...the [Portland] district has had to cut spending per pupil by more than 14 percent, from $6,183 in 1991-92 to $5,407 last school year, while enrollment has increased from about 55,000 students to almost 58,000."

Portland schools face budget cuts, The Oregonian, Friday, Dec. 15, 1995. The system, in tough contract talks with teachers, may lay off more than 400 employees. [Includes link at bottom to Portland Public Schools' web pages, where the 1996-1997 budget is included.]

Layoffs may hit Portland schools, The Oregonian, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1995. The district faces a reduced budget and less state aid next year, and officials are looking for ways to trim outlays

Oregon Option... or Conspiracy? PDXS, mid-March 1996, Volume 5, Number 24. Imagine this: A cabal of powerful business owners is after America's children.

How's your cutting and pasting? Any teacher, concerned parent or other volunteer who could scan or type up and e-mail us relevant news articles would be much appreciated.

The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 1997 is not about condoning recreational marijuana use, but about regulating and taxing it. Drug education and prevention programs would not only continue, they would expand with funding from OCTA. (Maybe they would even become more accurate, and hence more effective.) Removing the legal prohibitions from marijuana does not entail making it socially acceptable anywhere it is not accepted now. Nobody is suggesting that OCTA would allow people to smoke pot in cars, restaurants or public places where it would infringe on others' rights or sensibilities.

OCTA is about funding schools for our children by regulating cannabis for adults. By taxing what is already Oregon's largest industry, OCTA would not only provide an estimated $500 million a year for public education, it would also halt the transfer of limited public resources away from public schools and into prisons, which has continued for more than a decade. Remember how hopeful many were when Neil Goldschmidt was elected Governor of Oregon? Remember how disappointed everyone was when his term ended and all we had to show for it were new prisons? Tax revenue increased all the while, it just got diverted into more prisons and jails, primarily for marijuana offenders.

The news articles linked to this page document the steady loss of our kids' futures to the utopian daydreams of drug warriors.

The media and government whip up public fears that regulating adults' use of cannabis would "send the wrong message" to kids and actually make it easier for kids to use and abuse marijuana. Yet what is the result of sharply escalating nationwide marijuana arrests during the Clinton administration, which reached a record 481,000 in 1994? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's 1994 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, "The percent of youths reporting that marijuana was easy for them to get increased from 51 percent in 1992 and 53 percent in 1993 to 59 percent in 1994. The percent of youths reporting having been approached in the past month by someone selling drugs has increased from 13.4 percent in 1992 and 14.4 percent in 1993 to 18.9 percent in 1994."

What kind of "message" do we send our kids by cutting back on their education while borrowing money against their future to lock up nonviolent, victimless drug offenders who will be back on the streets before most kids are even out of school?

The concern that regulating adults' use of cannabis would enable kids to obtain marijuana more easily is understandable and legitimate. However, it is contradicted by all the credible evidence. For starters, your own experience. When was the last time you heard about kids buying hard alcohol in school? Since marijuana would not be sold in vending machines like tobacco or in retail stores like beer, it would be no more accessible to kids in Oregon than hard liquor. So ask the next teenager you encounter which would be easier for him or her to obtain, hard liquor or marijuana, and you'll see our point. Prohibition makes all illegal drugs more available to kids, since black marketers usually have fewer qualms about selling stuff to kids than retail-store clerks, let alone liquor-store owners.

The drug warriors and American media have so far failed to acknowledge widely the experience of the Dutch, whose policies have largely inspired OCTA. The British Medical Journal, among other authorities, recently weighed in with not only its verdict on Dutch cannabis policy but also an insightful explanation for its success that the fear-mongers never mention: "... the 1976 changes in the Netherlands seem to have been followed by a fall in use of cannabis: from 13% of those aged 17-18 in 1976 to 6% in 1985. Monthly prevalence of cannabis use among Dutch high school students is around 5.4% compared with 29% in the United States. Forbidden fruit may, indeed, be sweetest."

"He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it - namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain." - "Tom Sawyer," by Mark Twain, Chapter 2, "The Glorious Whitewasher" Top

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