Teacher’s Union Objects to Drug Initiative’s Impact on School Funding

What’s in a name? Plenty, according to one of Oregon’s most powerful unions.

The Oregon Education Association filed comments with the Secretary of State claiming that a proposed ballot measure decriminalizing personal possession of illegal drugs, including heroin and methamphetamine, “provides virtually no explanation of how the initiative is funded and the impact on school funding.” The OEA believes the name of the measure should convey that information.

The union, which has not taken a position on the measure itself yet, says the measure could reduce school funding by about $37 million a year. Much of the tax on legal marijuana sales currently going to schools, would be redirected to drug treatment programs if the measure succeeds.

In its comments to the Secretary of State, the union says, “Who would not want to fund more addiction recovery programs in the abstract? But if money for those services is coming from education and other programs, the choice is less clear.”

Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman for the measure, noted in a statement that a lack of drug treatment has had a “devastating impact on the state,” including its schools, students, and families.

Backers for the initiative include the Drug Policy Alliance, a group based in New York, with much of its funding coming from George Soros.  The group hasn’t yet decided about a signature gathering drive to put the measure on next year’s November ballot. They are waiting to see what kind of language is assigned for the ballot title. These titles significantly impact voter reactions to a measure.

Union vice-president Reed Scott-Schwalbach, said in a statement, “educators believe that treatment is a critical component of overcoming addiction.” It remains to be seen what position the OEA would take, if any, should the measure make the November 2020 ballot.

“We filed comments to clarify that the funds this measure affects are currently partially dedicated to Oregon school funding,” Scott-Schwalbach said, “and we believe that information should be reflected in the materials about this measure.”

Currently, the title is Initiative Petition 44.

By Andy Thompson