Prior to the Portland Public School (PPS) Board’s decision to wait until May 2017 to ask voters to approve a capital bond for schools, the Alliance had advocated that the bond include all three high schools (Benson, Lincoln and Madison) that were originally planned for renovation, while also making priority investments to address lead contamination in the schools. The delay in sending the bond to voters will allow the PPS Board to prioritize a national search for the replacement of Superintendent Carole Smith, who announced her retirement last week. The Alliance will continue to work with PPS when they revisit the bond proposal next spring. Read the letter.
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The Portland Business Alliance, the Value of Jobs Coalition, and Chalkboard Project today released results of a joint study called, “Economics of the Achievement Gap; Oregon and the Portland Area.” The report looks at the economic impact over time created by the ongoing achievement gap for minority students in Oregon’s public schools.
A key finding of the study shows that if the achievement gap for Oregon’s adult population had been eliminated by 2003, the increase in economic activity in the state would have been $1.9 billion higher in 2013. With nearly half of the students in the Portland Public School system alone currently identified as minorities, the achievement gap will have an even greater impact on Oregon’s future economic vitality.
Highlights of the study, completed with ECONorthwest:
The 2015 Regular Legislative Session adjourned sine die on July 6, 2015. This session was marked by strong Democrat majorities in both chambers and the newly appointed Governor Brown taking over just after the legislature convened. The Alliance partners with statewide business organizations on legislative issues, including moving the agenda laid out in the Oregon Business Plan. In addition, the Alliance plays an active role on issues in which there is a particular Portland-metro perspective. This session, the Alliance played an active role on several education issues.
The Alliance’s education advocacy focused on two areas: post-secondary education funding and STEM/CTE programs. Oregon’s seven public universities received $700 million this biennium, a funding increase of approximately 30 percent. While this increase was welcome, it is short of the targeted $750 million. Increasing post-secondary funding will remain a focus at the 2016 February session. This year’s increase includes $30 million directed to student affordability and support services to increase retention and graduation rates. In addition, post-secondary institutions, including universities and community colleges, received approximately $240 million in the capital construction budget.
STEM and CTE programs received $35 million in state funding for the biennium, a significant increase over prior biennia, for programs such as Regional STEM Hubs, CTE revitalization grants, STEM innovation grants and a Career Pathway Fund. The Alliance is a member of the STEM/CTE Coalition working in support of greater investments in this area.
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The Value of Jobs coalition revealed a groundbreaking study examining Portland-metro’s decline in personal income per capita relative to the U.S. metro average. The findings show that Portland-metro’s college-educated workers earn 10 percent less than the U.S. average, creating a $2.7 billion earnings gap between Portland-metro and the U.S. metro average. What is the largest population segment contributing to the gap? White, college-educated workers, and more specifically, white college-educated males who are working and earning less than their peers. This earnings gap means less money for families and public services, impacting the region’s overall quality of life.