Senator Mark Hass
Democrat - District 14 - Beaverton
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, S-207, Salem, Oregon 97301
"Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world."
― Nelson Mandela
Education. Education. Education. It is a central value of families and a perennial talking point for politicians. But in 2015, Oregon leaders finally put their votes (and money) where their mouths are.
During the 78th Legislative Session, we increased the K-12 budget by $117 million, so that it totaled a record-breaking $7.4 billion. This represents a 12 percent increase. A portion of this increase will go to the 130 school districts that now offer the opportunity of full-day kindergarten. The research on the benefits of full day kindergarten vs. half-day are indisputable. This is why I worked so hard in recent years to make this a reality in Oregon.
Next year, nearly all Oregon children will have this opportunity. Full-day kindergarten is the jump start that launches children's reading and mathematical skills. It gives our kids the skills necessary to be academically successful throughout their formative years and beyond.
And in the post-recession era, we all know that 'beyond' includes a post-secondary education. Gone are the days when kids walked out of high school and into a stable job at the timber mill. This session, my colleagues joined me in acknowledging this reality by passing The Oregon Promise.
The Oregon Promise is simple. It says that if you keep your grades up and graduate from high school, we promise to provide you with two years of community college without borrowing a dime. There are plenty of jobs in Oregon; we need welders, medical technicians, mechanics, paralegals and more.
The problem is our youth must currently take on crippling debt in order to fill these positions. This landmark legislation eliminates debt from that equation. The key to this is leveraging this with federal funding so we can cover so many kids.
These are all steps forward for education. Yet, we didn't need to raise taxes to pay for them. Instead, we re-prioritized spending, partnered with the federal government and played smart. This is what taxpayers want and deserve.
Governor Kate Brown signing The Oregon Promise.
I hope you will join me in celebrating these investments in our education system. We still have a long way to go, but the 78th Legislative Session will be remembered as one of significant progress.