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Legislature opens, governor calls for education focus

Gov. Kate Brown, center, greets members of the Oregon Senate as she arrives for the State of the State address Feb. 5 at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

Molly J. Smith/Statesman-Journal via AP
Gov. Kate Brown, center, greets members of the Oregon Senate as she arrives for the State of the State address Feb. 5 at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

SALEM — Speaking on the opening day of the Legislature's short session, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown made a case Monday for increased education funding and a focus on technical education.

One out of every five jobs for advanced manufacturing are filled from out of state, while state economists project 27,000 openings for high-wage, high-demand jobs each year through 2024, Brown said. Last summer, private businesses in Oregon reported 66,000 job vacancies, she added.

To help close the gap between job skills that Oregonians have and what businesses need, Brown advocated for "Career and Technical Education programs" that prepare students for careers in agriculture, communications, industrial and engineering systems, health sciences and other fields.

The governor said she wants every school district to offer "hands-on learning opportunities for every single student," and is dedicating $300 million dollars toward that in her proposed budget for the next biennium.

Brown, addressing lawmakers in her state of the state address, described her own family story is an example of how people can escape poverty.

Her grandmother, a nurse, was left to raise four sons alone in Minnesota after her husband, a doctor who was addicted to drugs, left them.

"Living on nurses' wages, it was terribly difficult for her; a constant and exhausting struggle to make ends meet," Brown said. "But she never stopped thinking about her sons' future ... She taught them that the key to a better life was education, education, education."

The four sons finished high school and went on to college. Three, including Brown's father, became doctors and one became an engineer.

"I never worried about whether I had enough to eat, or if the heat would be turned off during the sub-zero Minnesota winters," Brown said. "I knew from an early age I was going to college, and that my parents would support me."

Some Democrats also want to create a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, but it's unclear if that can be accomplished in the 35-day legislative session. Republican lawmakers say bills should be limited to those that make small policy adjustments and budget fixes, pointing out that the session must end by March 11.

A thorny issue that could affect the Legislature: a likely budget shortfall of $200 million to $300 million described last week by Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, stemming from changes to federal tax laws.

Legislation with national implications include bills to put a referral to Oregon voters on the national popular vote and to require presidential and vice presidential candidates who want to be on the ballot in Oregon to fill out financial disclosure forms or release their tax returns.


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