Legislators cross party lines to promote vocational education in public schools

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: SENATE REPUBLICANS - Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, appeals to lawmakers to fund Measure 98 endeavors. Sen. Chuck Thomsen is urging other state lawmakers to honor the wishes of voters by adequately funding initiatives aimed a reducing the state's high school dropout rate, and increasing the on-time graduation rate.

Voters passed Measure 98 in the November 2016 election, which authorized the creation of new options for vocational and career technical education and college preparation.

Thomsen, a Republican from Hood River, is a veteran lawmaker who represents District 26, which includes Sandy and the mountain communities.

Thomsen hosted a conference of bipartisan lawmakers on Monday, March 13, at the Capitol, where students from Roseburg High School made a presentation on career technical education, demonstrating their knowledge of computer design and 3D printing.

"The law is designed on choice, at the local level," said Thomsen in a press release. "We can bring about a new age of brighter education outcomes for our future leaders. Many students struggle in traditional learning environments and we can unlock their true potential by listening to what voters told us to do."

Pro-Measure 98 lawmakers hope the legislation will address the decreasing graduation rate in parts of the state, citing in the release that "the graduation rate for 2014 was 22.6 percent higher for students taking (career and technical education courses) than it was for students who did not," and stating that (those) students are also more likely to pursue higher education.

As it was voted in, the measure is not an unfunded mandate, according to the website.

Participation is not mandatory for school districts, but, a major concern for the Legislature is "funding and implementing the measure as it was voted on by the people," says Thomsen's communication director, Jonathan Lockwood.

The friction in funding comes from dissent in the Legislature as lawmakers attempt to create the new budget while staring at a $1.6 billion funding shortfall. Some lawmakers are pushing back on fully funding the measure in favor of other agendas.

"Our work is not easy, and there will be challenges, but we have to do everything we can to make sure the Legislature honors voter intent and helps our kids graduate," Thomsen added.

Thomsen serves on the Ways and Means Committee, the Business and Transportation Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Budget subcommittee, and has made a point of his eagerness to be a voice for his constituency, especially on matters such as Meassure 98, which he says voters have been asking for.

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