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Measure 98 provides a path toward a better future for many students

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Measure would return valuable career and technical education classes to schools


Oregon boasts one of the nation’s worst graduation rates. Even among students who graduate, data show that too many are unprepared for the transition that comes after high school.

Too many lack skills, motivation and confidence. Those who aren’t planning on college feel their high school education is worthless.

At the same time, employers in many sectors are facing a shortage of skilled, competent workers.Aug. 3 guest opinion

Our state is struggling — but there is a way out.

Those of us who work in high schools with career and technical education (CTE) classes have seen how hands-on coursework can offer a lifeline to students who are foundering.

The benefits of career and technical education are many; however, far too few students have the opportunity to participate.

For this reason, I am 100 percent behind Measure 98. You’ll see the measure on the ballot in November. It dedicates new state revenues to fund CTE, dropout prevention and college prep.

I just finished my first year at North Marion High School, where I teach math and a CTE class in welding and metals. After a career in sheet metal, I became certified in my early 40s to teach advanced math.

In high school, I was the kid who struggled in academic classes, especially math. I didn’t want to raise my hand for fear of looking dumb in front of my peers.

Today, as a math teacher, I see myself in students every day. The ones who struggle the most have a hard time relating what they’re learning to the world outside the classroom.

But in my metals classes, when that math lesson is applied to something real, I see how all that falls away. They have a sense of accomplishment when they hold an object they have created.

Every one of my metals students knows how to make a hand-hammered copper bowl. And each is learning how to weld. Few adults can do these things. My students see their value increase with each new skill they master.

CTE is about teaching basic career skills. It’s also about making students aware of many good-paying careers, regardless of whether they go to a four-year college.

Welders make good wages, as do engineers, ship captains, medical professionals and a whole range of occupations that our students could be building skills toward during high school.

These aspects of CTE offset the self-defeating attitude that you need a college degree to succeed, and at the same time, motivates students to stay in school.

So why aren’t these options available for every student, regardless of where they live in Oregon? Money.

That’s why Measure 98 is so important. As Oregon schools had to make round after round of budget cuts, they had to prioritize.

Too often, CTE was seen as an “expensive elective” easily eliminated. College-prep courses also were cut. Most schools across Oregon do not have enough of either.

Measure 98 prioritizes our high schools by setting aside resources schools need for CTE, college prep and dropout prevention. It’s up to districts to work out the spending details.

We know that hands-on learning is a route to success, especially for students struggling with academics. We must make these opportunities available to students in every high school in the state. Please join me in voting “yes” on Measure 98!

J.R. Rogers is a Beaverton resident and North Marion High School teacher