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Governor uses Rock Creek setting to sign important education legislation

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The Aviation Maintenance hangar at the Rock Creek Campus became much more than a venue to study airplane repair on Wednesday, July 20. It became the launching pad for numerous new education bills that were signed into law by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

PCC District President Preston Pulliams, State Sen. Mark Hass (Washington County/Southwest Portland), Reps. Michael Dembrow (North Portland), Tobias Read (Beaverton) and Mark Johnson (Hood River), Oregon State University President Edward Ray, and Portland State President Wim Wiewel joined the Governor in the hangar.

Gov. John Kitzhaber signs the education bills into law. He is flanked by, left to right, Sen. Mark Hass, Rep. Tobias Read, Rep. Michael Dembrow, Rep. Mark Johnson, PCC District President Preston Pulliams and Oregon University System Chancellor George Pernsteiner.

Bracketed by planes that students work on every day in Aviation Maintenance Technology, Gov. Kitzhaber signed the bills and handed pens to the gathered representatives marking the significant day.

“As a community college president and member of the Board of Higher Education, I want to really congratulate the Governor for his leadership and the Legislature for their leadership on this legislation,” said PCC District President Preston Pulliams. “This is transformational legislation and I personally feel it will strengthen our education system across the state for the next 20 years.”

The bills Kitzhaber will sign into law are:

• Senate Bill 242, which establishes a higher education commission, designed to improve planning for Oregon’s 17 independent community colleges, the seven schools in the Oregon University System, and Oregon Health & Science University.

• S.B. 253, which is designed to increase the percentage of Oregonians obtaining their high school diplomas, associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees.

• S.B. 254, which is designed to increase the number of students who obtain college credits while still enrolled in high school.

“This package of education reform bills that we put together this session are very significant, but they in no way mitigate the need for adequate, long-term, stable funding for the entire enterprise of education for early childhood to post secondary education,” Kitzhaber said. “That is work that still has to be done. I am completely committed to helping lead the effort to recapitalize our system of public education, but as we do so it’s important that we invest in an education system that is designed for the challenges of the 21st century rather than the last century.”

Kitzhaber said, 'I am completely committed to helping lead the effort to recapitalize our system of public education, but as we do so it’s important that we invest in an education system that is designed for the challenges of the 21st century rather than the last century.'

Rep. Dembrow said that this legislation would help Oregon achieve the 40-40-20 goal of educating 40 percent Oregonians with high-value certificates and degrees, and 40 percent or more with bachelor degrees by 2020. Rep. Dembrow is particularly interested in the bill in that he works as an English instructor at PCC’s Cascade Campus.

“It sends a signal I think that this is a new day for higher education,” said Dembrow. “We are talking about giving access to higher education to all of the students from all over the state wherever they live, whatever their family background, whatever challenges they had they are going to be moving forward. That is our vision for the future.”

Sen. Hass said that S.B. 242 will free the Oregon University System with more autonomy and greater flexibility. But he added that schools would have a new challenge to get people into college and to make sure they earn a degree.

“Now in exchange the bar will be higher,” he said. “So this is the foundation; this is where it begins. My hope in 10, 20 or 30 years from now people will look back at this day, at this session, and say this is where it started, this what started pushing Oregon’s universities and community colleges toward greatness.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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