Editorial: Vote yes on Medford CTE bond request

Vocational training long has been a part of the high school curriculum, and it still is — but it has been neglected and diminished in recent years, as more emphasis was placed on preparing students for college. Now, educators are realizing that students who don’t plan to or can’t attend college are being shortchanged, and career and technical education — CTE, for short — has an essential role to play in readying students to fill good-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree.

Voters signaled their support for that approach when they passed Ballot Measure 98 two years ago. The measure directed the Oregon Legislature to provide direct funding to school districts to increase high school graduation rates. Establishing or expanding CTE programs was one of the three specific areas designated for additional funding.

That money can pay for more teachers in technical subjects, but it can’t be used to build new labs and classrooms for them to teach in. Medford School District officials recognized that the CTE classes the district offers now are not extensive enough, and not offered equally at both high schools. In addition, classroom and lab space is not adequate to allow for expanding the CTE courses offered to students.

The district is asking residents voting in the May 15 election to agree to issue $25 million in bonds to build new technical education facilities at both high schools. The cost to taxpayers would be 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The owner of a home assessed at $265,000 would pay about $32 a year. Assessed value is generally less than market value.

The money would go to expand and remodel existing technical education facilities at North Medford High School and build new classrooms at South Medford High School. Both schools would then offer courses in plumbing, electrical, carpentry and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

Part of the urgency surrounding this bond request is the shortage of contractors available to do the construction. Prices are rising as a result, because the contractors who are still in business following the recession are able to name their price. The longer the district waits, the more expensive this project will be, especially as the cost of building supplies is rising, too.

Expanding CTE courses will provide training in exactly the skills the building industry needs. That’s why voters will find statements of support for Measure 15-175 in the Voter’s Pamphlet from local builders, plumbing contractors and building trade unions.

Statistics show that Medford School District students who enroll in at least two CTE courses graduate at a 94 percent rate, well above the district average. And nearly half of Medford students don’t go on to post-secondary education. But they still need jobs that will pay them a decent wage.

We recommend a yes vote on Measure 15-175.

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