polo club clothing Brown’s modest agenda
The governor mentioned reform of Oregon’s public pension system only in passing, critics said. She said nothing at all about the state’s foster care system, which was the recent subject of an alarming audit by the secretary of state’s office. She didn’t even talk about the most ambitious item on the Legislature’s agenda, a cap and trade plan to reduce carbon emissions linked to climate change. Instead, the centerpiece of her speech was the issue of career and technical education in high school.
Brown’s choice of subjects is defensible. Career and technical education, or CTE, is one issue most Oregonians, and legislators of both parties, can agree on. A robust effort to broaden CTE programs is one way the state can markedly improve its abysmal high school graduation rate. Such programs dovetail neatly with the state’s economic development goals. Brown’s speech described an objective that is both achievable and desirable, but reaching it will require leadership and providing it is a governor’s job.
Oregonians have already shown their support for CTE. In 2016, they voted 2 to 1 in favor of Ballot Measure 98, an initiative requiring that the state spend $800 per year per high school student on what used to be called vocational training, dropout prevention efforts and college readiness programs. The 2017 Legislature appropriated only about half the amount called for by the measure, partly because school districts can’t bring such programs into being by flipping a switch they need to hire or train teachers, find appropriate classroom space, and in some cases purchase equipment.
A sustained commitment to the goals of Measure 98 by the governor will be helpful. In her speech Brown called for a $300 million appropriation for CTE to “ensure that every single school district offers hands on learning opportunities for every single student.” She asked that the funding be approved in next year’s full length legislative session, not in the short session that opened Monday. The timing is another nod to practical realities: The Legislature would be unable to find $300 million in the next five weeks, and many school districts would be unprepared to spend it for the approved purposes.
Stronger CTE programs would enhance thousands of Oregon students’ quality of life. They would also address a weakness in the Oregon economy a shortage of qualified workers. Many of the jobs in Oregon’s fastest growing industries are open to people with only high school diplomas, provided they have the right skills. Last summer, Brown said, private employers in Oregon posted 66,000 job vacancies, and one in four jobs in the technology sector was filled by an out of state applicant. CTE can close the mismatch between graduates’ skills and employers’ needs.