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Portland businesses, and the Portland Business Alliance, have a long history of supporting education. In 1905, before any conclusive data was published on the connection between education and economic health, the Portland Chamber of Commerce began awarding student scholarships. From that point on, the business community has continued to be a critical community partner, helping to fundraise and advocate for schools and steadfastly calling for adequate, stable and predictable funding.

Recent Education policy updates:

To view older policy updates than listed above, view the Education issue archive.

Portland Public Schools capital bond delayed

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.
(July 2016)

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Persistent achievement gap harms Oregon’s economy

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:

  • If the achievement gap for Oregon’s adult population had been eliminated by 2003, the increase in economic activity in Oregon would have been $1.9 billion higher in 2013.
  • If the achievement gap were eliminated over the next 10 years, Oregon’s economy would be 0.8 percent, or $1.1 billion larger, by 2035 and 3.6 percent or $3.9 billion, larger in 2060.
  • Eliminating the achievement gap in 2003 would have led to an increase in the gross state product per capita of $487, bringing the total gross state product per capita up to $54,237. This would have eliminated more than half of the gap between Oregon’s and Washington’s gross state product per capita.

To view the entire report online at
(July 2015)

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Education a focus of the 2015 Regular Legislative Session

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.
(July 2015)

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Study reveals $2.7 billion earnings gap between Portland-metro college-educated workers, U.S. metro average

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.
Key takeaways:

  • Portland-metro’s college-educated workers annually earn 10 percent less than the U.S. metro average, which results in a $2.7 billion earnings gap.
  • Roughly $110 million would be available to K-12 schools in Oregon if Portland-metro’s college-educated workers earned the same amount as the U.S. metro average, which could fund more than 1,200 teachers.
  • Portland-metro’s white, college-educated 25- to 39-year-old males rank 270 out of 284 U.S. metros in the number of annual hours worked.
  • Portland-metro has 6 percent fewer white, college-educated males with business degrees compared to the U.S. metro average.
  • Portland-metro lawyers earn $42,218 less annually compared to the U.S. metro average.
This study focuses on the earnings of Portland-metro’s white, college-educated males because they are the largest contributor to the regional income gap and, from an economics point of view, the characteristics of the white, college-educated males remain relatively consistent among U.S. metro areas making comparisons easier. The coalition members want to be clear, however, that the region must focus on correcting the income gaps associated with all Oregonians.

To view the entire report online go to
(March 2013)

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