Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Governor Kate Brown
Joint Committee on Student Success Testimony
April 11, 2019

Co-Chairs Roblan and Smith Warner, Co-Vice Chairs Knopp and Smith, members of the committee. For the record, I am Governor Kate Brown. I am here today to talk about the opportunity before us to invest in a seamless system of education that supports our students from cradle to career.

I applaud the work of the Joint Committee on Student Success. You did an amazing job listening to communities across the state and developing a plan that addresses the challenges faced by students, their families, and educators.

I appreciate you making early childhood a priority in the Student Success Act. Funding programs for young children and their families provides a tremendous return on our investment. When children enter kindergarten ready to learn, they are more likely to succeed throughout school -- this is especially true for children from low-income families. But high-quality and affordable child care and preschool are out of reach for too many families. This not only impacts children, it impacts parents and their ability to work.

As this legislation moves forward, I believe we must remain committed to those investments that have the greatest impact on improving opportunity for our children and our families, and our young and adult learners alike.   

This begins with Oregon delivering on a fundamental commitment: opening access to high-quality preschool for ten thousand children and expanding supports for families with children younger than three. This includes assistance with paying for quality child care, parenting education, and home visiting. Together, these programs help level the playing field for our most vulnerable children and families.

This is important because our students -- and our communities -- will see the results of these investments in early learning for years to come.  They are essential to Oregon closing persistent gaps in opportunity. And enabling us to put more students on the path to graduating high school and a promising future.

Second, our economy provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance to invest in Oregon’s public schools and ensure this new investment expands opportunity for every student, particularly our rural students, low-income students, and students in communities of color. These investments will give school districts an opportunity to provide every student with a well-rounded education. Your approach in providing options to districts also means they can reduce class sizes and increase classroom time for struggling students; expand learning pathways that build career skills and lead to a postsecondary degree; and promote the social and emotional development of every student along the way. Your approach enables districts and communities to develop a vision and a plan that meets their local needs.

For these investments to really make a difference, we must elevate those programs and practices that ensure every Oregon student is regularly attending school, reading proficiently by the end of third grade, on track to graduate by the end of ninth grade, and graduating high school on time with a plan for their future.  And to achieve all of these goals, we must support and hold every school district to the highest standards of excellence, accountability, and transparency.  We have to deliver results.

Lastly, while I am pleased with this committee’s work to strengthen our early education system and K-12 public schools, I am concerned about leaving out our students once they graduate from high school. I am concerned about working adults who are trying to attain more education in order to get a better job, and are not able to afford it.

I understand this Committee limited its scope to early learning and K-12, but I am asking you to reconsider and include measurable investments that will help our most vulnerable students and adults beyond high school.

There are two areas that could make the biggest impact.

The first one addresses affordability. Oregon remains among the bottom ten states in making financial aid available to students. As a result, many Oregon students struggle to complete college degrees.

The Oregon Opportunity Grant is our largest needs-based financial aid program, but its current income requirement is lower than requirements for federal financial aid -- which means many students, particularly working students, are not eligible. Investing $100 million in the Oregon Opportunity Grant would allow us to raise the income limit and serve sixteen thousand more students.

The second area that is critical to students and the economy is Career Technical Education programs at community colleges. Many students start a CTE track in high school and need to finish classes in community colleges in order to get a degree or certificate. In addition, working adults turn to CTE programs at community colleges in order to find a higher family wage job. By investing $70 million dollars into these programs, we can double the number of CTE certificates and degrees awarded over the next three years.

We know these programs have strong statewide support.

Education is the key for Oregonians to achieve economic prosperity. When struggling Oregonians have access to higher education and career training, they can lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Thank you again for all of the thoughtful work you have done to craft this unprecedented investment in our students and our classrooms. I look forward to working with you as the legislation moves forward. Thank you.