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Governor presents plan for funding education
Photos and Story by James Hill
PORTLAND, Ore. – Gov. Ted Kulongoski made it clear – education is critical to the state. On Wednesday, July 20, the governor visited the Sylvania Campus at Portland Community College as part of his effort to present his Education Enterprise Plan to residents around the state. He met with about 70 people from the college and community in the campus’ CC Building before hosting a press conference with various media outlets.This was an opportunity for people to hear, up close and personal, from the governor about his vision for education in the state. PCC has an interest in the funding plan. Since 2001, funding for the college, along with the state’s 17 community colleges, has dwindled to the point that budget cuts, tuition increases and staff layoffs have become the norm."The greatest investment the state can make is in education and workforce skills," Kulongoski said. "It is what separates America from the rest of the world. We are late-comers to this situation and we need to correct it."The governor said that he developed a think tank to come up with this answer. During the last 30 years, 20 measures to reform K-12 funding have failed. He noted the measures were defeated by an average of 75-25 or 80-20 margins by Oregon voters. "If I was a doctor and 20 patients come in and are treated the same and they all died, somebody should stand up and say we need to do something different," he said.Asked if his plan, based on Rep. Karen Minnis’ initiative, is too little, too late, the governor brushed the concern aside. "It is never too late," he said. "It’s not about the time of when the idea comes, but the political will. Good ideas can come at any time of the year not just in January, February and March. If we don’t invest in our post-secondary schools, the top kids won’t stay here. They are the future of this state and once they leave we’ll never get them back."The governor’s Education Enterprise plan would be funded by 61 percent of the state’s general fund. The funding would grow at 10 percent each biennium, create an Opportunity and Innovation Fund and increase investment in the Education Stability Fund. The plan covers levels of education that usually are rivals in the quest to win state dollars. It would join pre-kindergarten and Head Start, K-12, Department of Education, Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, Oregon University System, OHSU and the Oregon Student Assistance Commission under one funding umbrella."I look at education in a seamless fashion," he said. "I want each organization to work together and care what happens to each other." The governor also covered issues that included: high school students in Oregon need to be challenged more; schools need to be relevant to the real world; workforce development issues are important to the state; and funding should be stable and predictable for the entire educational system so it can focus on more important issues."It is critically important for all of us to invest in this," he said.