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Vote yes on M98 to support vocational education

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As a school board member, I know firsthand that our high schools need help. As a parent I know that we have to act now. Measure 98 is our chance.

Oregon’s graduation rate is nearly the worst in the country. In Hillsboro at 81 percent, we’re a little bit better than the Oregon average, but we’re still trailing average in the United States and falling further behind. New data released recently puts us third from the bottom for graduation rates. We can do better. We owe it to our kids.

How did we get here? Through eighth-grade, our students are doing pretty well. Their test scores have historically been on par with national averages. High school is where our students fall through the cracks, largely due to years of budget cuts. Every year our school board has to make tough decisions about where to allocate our meager dollars. When the budget is done we never have enough money to support our high schools fully.

In Hillsboro we have one of the highest student-to-counselor ratios in the state, students need remediation in community college, and we don’t have nearly enough vocational and career technical education classes. The programs we do have are under-budgeted and are constantly under threat of further cuts.

Career technical classes aren’t just electives. They are often the reason kids want to come to school every day. And they learn real-world skills that help them get good-paying jobs. Employers struggle to find skilled workers in growing fields like electrical work, construction.

Particularly in Hillsboro, in manufacturing, computer programming and engineering. Strong career technical programs help connect young people with careers and at the same time assist employers seeking skilled workers. If we vote YES on Measure 98, we can support the economy in Hillsboro and raise our graduation rate.

Measure 98 would do three things:

n Establish and expand vocational and career technical education so that every high school students has access to relevant classes that relate to good-paying jobs.

n Make sure Oregon’s high school students are well prepared for college by offering them advanced and other college prep classes.

n Give students more support from guidance counselors, tutors, mentors or other staff who keep them on track.

If Measure 98 passes, according to the economics firm ECONorthwest, the Hillsboro School District would get approximately $5.2 million for the 2017-18 school year. This money could only be used for career technical education classes, college preparation and dropout prevention.

This money comes from year-over-year increases in state revenue and does not take away from existing programs. Measure 98 requires the legislature to commit about 1.25 percent of state revenue to approaches known to improve graduation rates.

I care about Hillsboro’s future and want to see our young people prepared for college and career.

Measure 98 is real opportunity that works: Career technical education in all Oregon high schools, and college preparation as well. Please join me in voting yes!

Lisa Allen is a member of the Hillsboro School Board.