It’s spring break, and over the din of students’ cries of delight, a gubernatorial candidate’s thoughts turn to education. We all know that our schools aren’t working in Oregon, despite the best efforts of many parents and teachers. You know the facts—can’t argue with the facts. Oregon’s graduation rate is miserable and has been for some time. At just 74 percent, it’s the fourth lowest in the nation and would be lower still if state officials didn’t monkey with the figure. Some 75 percent of Oregon kids who go on to community college need remedial help.
Real Solutions for Education
What can we do to ensure that more Oregon students are prepared for the workforce and/or college? A number of things:
- Fix our PERS system and tighten state agency budgets so we have more money to reduce class sizes and increase the number of school days across Oregon.
- We can raise proficiency standards and promote individualized instruction.
- Along that line, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of greater options for kids in their high school years—options that will engage students in their own education and prepare them for the workplace or the college classroom.
The solution is not appointing more bureaucrats (See Oregonian article: Kate Brown's interim chief education officer is now permanent).
Let Local Communities Be Innovative with Education
I have recently been out to visit the high school Career Technical Education Center or CTEC in Marion County. This innovative program is a public/private partnership designed to make sure students are joining the workforce with the skills and training employers want. Citizens and the school district are working together to develop the curriculum, recruit and register students, hire faculty and staff, provide transportation, and fund operating costs. CTEC programs are consistent with industry certifications and standards. Along with an advisory committee and a team made up of industry-specific leaders, programs have been established in Commercial Manufacturing, Residential Construction, Cosmetology, and 3D Design for Game & Television Production. Students are learning math, reading, and writing as it pertains to their career focus. What an innovative program for those students. Some students are college bound, some aren’t, but they will be ready to work in a field that excites them. I loved seeing them welding, building, and learning the technical skills so desperately needed in Oregon.
Support the Better Schools Now Initiative
Programs that help increase graduation rates and prepare our students for career and/or college are fundamental for the future of our state. This brings me the “Better Schools Now” initiative, which I recently endorsed. Initiative Petition 65 would dedicate a certain percentage of state funds (at least $800 per student) to career-tech programs, access to college-level courses, and proven dropout prevention programs.
This bipartisan initiative builds on what we know is working in spots here and across the nation—career-technical education classes, classes that provide college credit during high school, and strategies to combat absenteeism. Salem has failed us on education and in countless other arenas. It’s time to use Oregon’s initiative process to fix what our career politicians and special interests won’t: a broken educational system that’s failing Oregon’s students and taxpayers. I urge you to go to the IP65 Better Schools website now and sign up as a supporter. I also promise you, if the initiative fails to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, I will remain a champion of this approach to education reform in the governor’s office.
You can learn more about Bud's stance on education here.