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Oregon Continues Spending To Revive Career Education Programs

In Centennial High's metal shop, students weld together catapults, fix motors and build barbecues. They'll occasionally  custom-build items, too, like this "J." It's part of the initials for a couple getting married. The Centennial School District received an Oregon CTE grant in 2013.

In Centennial High’s metal shop, students weld together catapults, fix motors and build barbecues. They’ll occasionally  custom-build items, too, like this “J.” It’s part of the initials for a couple getting married. The Centennial School District received an Oregon CTE grant in 2013.

Rob Manning/OPB

Oregon education and labor officials announced Monday they’re giving schools more than $10 million in grants for career technical programs.

Hillsboro High School is spending its share on bioscience. A Gresham partnership has an eye on cybersecurity and product design. Bend High School is adding a food truck to its culinary program.

“I’m very pleased to see the ongoing expansion of hands-on, applied learning to more schools around the state,” said acting Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Colt Gill, in a joint press release from Oregon’s departments of education and labor.

“These programs are good for students, good for businesses, and good for local communities.”

Oregon legislators launched the Career Technical Education Revitalization grant program in 2011 with a pilot of $1.8 million. Supporters in the Legislature, education and business see the spending as a way to restore career programs that were reduced or eliminated in the wake of budget cuts since the 1990s.

State labor commissioner, and former state lawmaker, Brad Avakian was one of the original backers of the state investments in technical education.

“As our economy changes – especially with automation on the rise – the importance of skills training in middle school, high school and throughout a person’s career will only continue to grow,” said Avakian, in the joint press release.

Much of the money has gone toward small, rural school districts with limited means to raise the amounts of money necessary to re-establish industrial programs. The grants frequently have industry partners kicking in money as well.

The 2017 grants continue to push the funding total higher. This year’s $10.3 million is a bump up from the $9 million allocated in 2016.

Two of the largest grants in 2017 are going to central Oregon and the north coast.

Jefferson County schools are getting $436,000 to help Warm Springs youth get technical training, such as internships connected to utility providers, telecommunications and the aerial drone industry.

Warrenton school leaders are launching automotive, manufacturing and natural resources programs, after cutting such programs.  

Portland Public Schools did not get a grant, though Oregon’s other largest districts, Beaverton and Salem-Keizer, did. Beaverton will receive $317,000 to expand an information technology program at Southridge High School and to add an engineering program aimed at engaging students who have historically not pursued such careers.

The 2017 round of funding included $1.1 million in summer programs. Salem-Keizer’s nearly $99,000 grant is for nine summer camps for middle and high school students.

Oregon high schools are starting to plan for dedicated funding for career training and related programs under another founding source — Measure 98 — which voters approved a year ago November.

A recent message from the Oregon Department of Education said districts can expect to receive per-student funding distributions in July for the 2018-19 school year.

Funds linked to Measure 98 are intended to go toward keeping high schoolers in school, boost college preparation efforts and to support career-technical education.

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