Daniel Bolen

About the author

Daniel Bolen has taught high school agriculture and manufacturing for 10 years in Oregon. He is currently the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Elgin High School, and is a member of the Oregon Agriculture Teachers Association.

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A s an agriculture teacher in and resident of Elgin, I’ve seen firsthand how our high schools need help. Measure 98 is our chance to do something to fix it.

Oregon’s graduation rate is nearly the worst in the country; and a very high percentage of high school students in our area do not stay in school to earn a high school diploma. However, data demonstrates that students enrolled in at least one career-technical course graduate at rates 22 percentage points better than general graduation rates.

How did we get here? Through eighth grade, Oregon’s students do OK. Their test scores are right on par with national averages. High school is where our students really struggle, largely because of years of state budget cuts.

For example, vocational and career-technical education classes all around Oregon have been slashed year after year, including those most of us take for granted, such as agriculture and auto and wood shops.

When you cut any high school vocational class, you take away classes that make kids want to come to school every day. We’ve been fortunate in Elgin to maintain our three career tech programs, but we must still operate these expensive programs on a very small allotment from the state. We struggle to keep up with current technologies, and when something breaks, it could very well wipe out most of the program budget for the year to fix that one item.

Career tech classes are where young people apply lessons from their academic courses and, for many, it’s the first time they finally “get” them and understand why they’re important. It’s also where they learn basic and transferable skills that employers are seeking, skills that can often lead students straight into a family-wage career in the trades.

Students in agriculture and other career technical programs throughout our county are learning real-world, hands-on skills that prepare them for high-wage and high-demand careers. Students are learning skills that will take them far in their lives. In Elgin, we are working to develop a small-scale fabrication and machine shop where students will manage customer orders, project design, fabrication and sales.

In addition, students are involved in job shadows and internships with business and industry professionals throughout Union County.

These problems with our high schools affect all of us. Employers struggle to find skilled workers in growing fields like agriculture, manufacturing, engineering, computer coding, electrical work, construction and more.

The good thing is, we can correct this. Voting yes for Measure 98 in November is our chance. Measure 98 would do three things:

Establish and expand vocational and career technical education so that high school students have access to relevant, challenging classes that connect to good-paying jobs.

Make sure Oregon’s high school students are well prepared for college by offering them college prep, advanced and early college credit classes.

Give students more support from guidance counselors, tutors, mentors and other staff to prevent them from dropping out.

Measure 98 isn’t asking Oregonians to open their pocketbooks and it doesn’t take money away from existing programs. Instead, the money comes from new, unallocated revenue that the state receives every year, thanks to a growing economy. More people than ever are working in Oregon, and the state is anticipating more than $1.5 billion in new revenue in the upcoming two-year budget period. Measure 98 requires the legislature to commit a small percentage of that new revenue to schools.

Measure 98 is real a opportunity that works: career technical education in all Oregon high schools, and college prep, too. Please join me in voting yes.