Skilled jobs, ‘building things is respectable’

IP 65 would fund vocational and career tech ed in Oregon schools

Former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski at a rally in support of Initiative Petition 65, which would fund vocational and career tech education in Oregon high schools, June 23, 2016 (KOIN)
Former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski at a rally in support of Initiative Petition 65, which would fund vocational and career tech education in Oregon high schools, June 23, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s possible Oregon voters will have a chance in November to restore funding for vocational and career tech education.

Supporters of Inititative Petition 65 — including former Governor Ted Kulongoski — will turn in 125,000 signatures on Thursday to place the measure on the ballot, well more than the number needed to qualify.

Initiative Petition 65

There are 3 things IP 65 would do, supporters say:

> Let every Oregon school district provide vocational and career tech ed
> Make college-level classes available to high school students
> Bring back counseling, classes and tutoring to boost graduation rates

Oregon is among the worst states in the country in graduating high school students.

Former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski at a rally in support of Initiative Petition 65, which would fund vocational and career tech education in Oregon high schools, June 23, 2016 (KOIN)
Former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski at a rally in support of Initiative Petition 65, which would fund vocational and career tech education in Oregon high schools, June 23, 2016 (KOIN)

Kulongoski, one of the chief petitioners of IP 65, said Oregon’s graduation rate of 73.8% is “an embarrassment to our school system and it’s an embarrassment to Oregonians.”

The proposed measure will address the drop out rate, he said, with increased counseling and “the opportunity for more AP classes for those students who do want to obtain a 4-year baccalaureate degree.”

“We refer to this as vocational education,” Kulongoski said, “but it’s now career and technical education.”

The money for IP 65 is slated to come from new, unallocated revenue the state gets. “IP 65 does not take money away from existing programs, raise taxes or create a new tax,” supporters said in a statement.

The money will come from the general fund. Over 2 years, IP 65 will commit $282 million (about $800 per student) toward vocational and career tech ed. If state revenue doesn’t increase by at least $1.5 billion, schools will get less than the $800 per student, prorated, supporters said.

Toya Fick speaks in support of Initiative Petition 65, which would fund vocational and career tech education in Oregon high schools, June 23, 2016 (KOIN)
Toya Fick speaks in support of Initiative Petition 65, which would fund vocational and career tech education in Oregon high schools, June 23, 2016 (KOIN)

Toya Fick, the executive director of Stand For Children, said students “will get practical skills and hands-on learning. They will learn about their career options like apprenticeship programs and trade schools so they can get good paying jobs in their own communities.”

Butch Stetson, who teaches Mechanical Technology at Silverton High School, is a big supporter of this plan.

“I had one kid a couple of years ago that didn’t see much need to go to school and they were going to throw him out, and I went to bat for him,” Stetson said. “He finished high school, he has his diploma, he’s working for an auto dealer now and will become a Ford certified technician making in excess of $80,000 a year.”

Getting this measure on the November ballot, Fick said, “is our chance to ensure our high schools are giving our kids the tools they need to be successful and will change the lives of thousands of Oregonians.”

More than 125,000 signatures were collected to put Initiative 65 on the ballot, which will fund vocational education in Oregon schools, June 23, 2016 (KOIN)
More than 125,000 signatures were collected to put Initiative 65 on the ballot, which will fund vocational education in Oregon schools, June 23, 2016 (KOIN)

Kulongoski, 75, also took the long view.

“This idea that everything is about college education, I just don’t think that is good for us as a people and it isn’t good for our economy because when the Baby Boom generation retires — which they’re all going to be retiring in 10 years — we’re not going to have the skilled work force that we need.”

There’s more to life than a college degree, he said.

“We have to start telling these kids, picking up the tools and building things, is respectable and it’s honored and we as adults have to let them see that we respect them for it.”

The signatures were submitted to the Secretary of State Thursday afternoon. If more than 88,184 of the signatures are certified, IP 65 will be on the November ballot. At this time there does not appear to be any organized opposition.

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