Media Room

Expanding Opportunities for Every Oregon Child to Succeed
December 14, 2015

As Prepared

Good morning, and thank you, Shayla, for the introduction.

Can you believe she’s only in 5th grade?

I can’t wait to see where your brains and creativity take you.

Let’s give Shayla another round of applause.

As you just saw in the video about Shayla’s interest in robotics and engineering, hands-on learning is a very effective way to awaken students to the power of their own potential.

All across Oregon, there are students like Shayla who are able to visualize their future when they connect what they’re learning in school to life beyond the classroom.

Just as it is important for the Governor to be able to connect state expenditures to our goals and aspirations for the future.

The Oregon Business Plan articulates three over-arching goals that I wholeheartedly support:

(1) To add 25,000 net new jobs per year;

(2) To raise the per-capita income above the national average; and

(3) To reduce poverty below 10 percent by the year 2020.

In pursuit of these three goals, investing in public education will yield the best return: a skilled workforce to meet the needs of growing businesses, and fewer Oregonians living and raising their children in poverty.

Education is the key to a better life.

It’s been said that, to have strong public education, we need strong businesses, which I agree is true.

I would add that the reverse is also true – that to have strong businesses, we need strong public education.

That’s why I am working to create a seamless system of education from cradle to career. 

In the 2015 session, we took action to increase the number of Oregon students who graduate from high school ready: ready for college, ready for post-secondary training, or ready for jobs.

Investments we made in K-12 education move us toward the goal of creating this seamless system.

Understanding the importance of those critical early years in a child’s education, our investments focused on the supports and services proven to help children succeed.

We want every child to meet important early benchmarks:

that they enter kindergarten ready to learn, and can read by third grade.

To achieve this, we greatly expanded funding for early childhood education, and for the first time ever, fully funded all-day kindergarten for every Oregon child.

We invested in important wrap-around services to help close the persistent opportunity gaps that interfere with student success. 

We’re focused on equity, with specific strategies to support English Language Learners, African American students and improve student attendance among Native American students.  

We can and must do more to ensure every student is ready to learn throughout their school experience. 

A student’s health, social and emotional wellbeing are critical to being fully engaged with their education. 

I want to commend leaders in Oregon health care and school district superintendents who recently came together to talk about ways to collaborate on a shared mission: to support student health by leveraging resources across both the health care and education systems.

We also took much-needed action last session to make a college education more affordable for Oregon students and families.

We have struggled to fund higher education over the past 25 years, shifting more and more of the cost burden to students and families.

As a result, Oregon tuition increased; so did the number of students graduating with higher debt.

In fact, over the past 15 years, Oregon has slashed higher education funding more than every other state but one.

In the 2015 session, we increased university funding by 27 percent, with emphasis on tuition relief and scholarships.

We expanded the Oregon Opportunity grant, our largest need-based scholarship program, to serve sixteen thousand additional students. 

I also signed into law the Oregon Promise, a bipartisan tuition assistance program that reduces tuition at Oregon’s community colleges to as little as $50 a semester.

Frankly, a lot of good work got done last session. I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank my legislative colleagues for these accomplishments on behalf of Oregon’s current and future students. Would all legislators here today please rise? Please join me in thanking our state leaders.

I will continue to advance our state toward creating a seamless education system so that every Oregon student completes high school with a plan and opportunities for his or her future – whether it’s college, post-secondary job training or the world of work.

High school graduation has traditionally been portrayed as the finish line. But I say, graduation isn’t the finish line; it’s a launch pad.

The best return on our Oregon education investment is a high school graduate who has been accepted to college, enrolled in job training, or embarked on a career. 

Oregon students deserve an education that empowers them to envision their future; that helps students make the connection between classroom and career. 

The President's signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act last week put leadership for our students and their future firmly in our hands. 

Our duty to ensure the success of every student is my first priority as your  Governor, and is a responsibility shared with communities across Oregon.

With our innovative spirit as Oregonians, we must all rise to the moment and once again be a model for the nation.

There is no question that our education system must be accountable for better student outcomes, including increasing our high school graduation rate. 

We have made good progress in establishing high standards and systems to support effective teachers – because every student deserves a qualified, caring and competent teacher.

But accountability also means ensuring that, as a state, we are empowering the best and most effective practices in our classrooms that support student success.

That is why I am announcing today the creation of a new Education Innovation Officer to serve in my administration.

The Innovation Officer will focus their work on improving Oregon’s high school graduation rate.

The position will assist me, my education team, and the Legislature in dedicating resources to increase the number of students who graduate from high school.

This must be our focus. This will require commitment and dedication. But, it must be done and we must do this together.

To be successful, we must continue the work to make sure Oregon’s graduates have access to a variety of education and career opportunities beyond high school.

Keeping college affordable is one way to accomplish this, but college isn’t always the right path for everyone.

We can create other pathways to student success, such as continuing to invest in Career and Technical Education and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math programs.

This session, we doubled our investment, expanding these applied learning opportunities to students throughout the state, in both urban and rural communities.

We made great progress, but I’d like to find permanent, dedicated funding for CTE/STEM and, ideally, at a level that gives every student the opportunity for hands-on learning experiences.

I also think arts education plays a formative role in students’ self-knowledge, and want to explore opportunities for fine arts and performing arts experiences within the CTE/STEM model.

As you heard from Senator Merkley, arts education recently had a breakthrough moment in Congress.

U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon offered an amendment to integrate arts into the nation’s STEM programs to promote a well-rounded education.

I’m happy to report that amendment was unanimously approved.

Earlier this year I visited Philomath High School where I met students in its manufacturing program.

This amazing program is the result of a thoughtful and committed collaboration among many partners.

A $250,000 state CTE Revitalization Grant bolstered the program with new technology and equipment so students are learning relevant skills.

Industry partners have stepped up their involvement by donating products and materials and offer mentoring and job shadow opportunities for students.

The hub of the program’s success is a skilled and committed teacher.

Scott Ballard works continually to increase students’ access to high-wage career opportunities in fields such as drafting, metals, and technology.

He says, “One of our tasks is breaking the barriers that exist, such as the stigma that ‘girls don’t take shop classes’ and create a culture and climate where our girls can and do excel in the manufacturing classes.”

Sure wish I’d had him as a teacher.

His students use computer-aided design to make amazing chessboards, furniture, and metal signs. During my tour, they showed off their design of the outline of Oregon with a heart in the middle.

They hit a button and seconds later, the image came to life on a 3D printer.

Shayla – and this is a different Shayla than our Coos Bay robotics student – is a recent graduate of Philomath High School.

She enrolled in Scott’s classes and quickly became adept at drafting, welding, and computer-aided machining.

Once she learned more skills, she began working at her family’s machine shop.

Last year, the city approached Mr. Ballard with a downtown beautification proposal.

Shayla led the students’ efforts to create steel silhouettes of a bucking bronco, a cowgirl on a horse, and a bull rider, that now line Main Street.

Just last month, the city installed these pieces along Highway 20 – a visible reminder of the benefits of the community’s investment in students.

The manufacturing program has also partnered with the school’s business program to develop a website that allows manufacturing students to sell what they make.

As you can see, the possibilities here are endless.

We know that students who participate in CTE and STEM programs develop critical thinking skills, are more likely to stay engaged in school, graduate high school in higher numbers, and move on with a plan once they receive their diploma.

This is the power educators, school leaders, and industry partners can harness by coming together to create meaningful, career-connected opportunities for our students.

As Governor, I want to see more Oregonians in higher-wage jobs in high-demand fields that today are too often going unfilled.

CTE and STEM education is a critical foundation to ensuring sustained economic growth and prosperity in every Oregon community.