Despite billions more being spent on K-12 education each year, Oregon schools continue to shortchange too many kids. Our priorities are screwed up. We’ve become better at legalizing drugs than graduating kids from high school.

During COVID, the order by Kate Brown – supported by Tina Kotek – to keep kids home from school long after it was necessary or wise was one of the most damaging decisions of her eight years in office. Even before COVID, Oregon had one of the shortest school years and worst graduation rates in the nation. It has only gotten worse, as Oregon school kids during COVID lost two years of in-class learning, with far-reaching education, emotional and economic consequences for every child and family.  

Most troubling was that, in the face of a decade of school and student performance declines, Kate Brown and Tina Kotek caved to the teachers’ unions by actually reducing academic standards, eliminating the graduation requirement for reading, writing and math. Under Kate Brown and Tina Kotek, high school diplomas have turned into participation ribbons. I voted against this misguided, detrimental policy.

As Oregon’s independent governor, I will immediately restore academic standards and lost graduation requirements. I will ensure that the state respects local control of our schools so that parents’ and teachers’ voices can be heard where they really matter. I will demand accountability for per pupil spending and improvements in student achievement. I will appoint educators who will challenge – not defend – the failing status quo. When necessary, I will take-on the powerful teachers’ union to put the needs of students first. I believe in giving parents more options for their children’s education including charter schools, home schooling, and other alternative education opportunities such as career and technical education opportunities.

As governor, I will do everything I can to keep the culture wars and politics out of our schools while respecting the rights of local parents and teachers to decide what is best for kids in their own community. We need to let school boards do their jobs without Salem politicians constantly imposing their agenda. I do not believe it is fair to force female athletes to compete against biological men in school sports, but local school boards should decide what is best for their own communities.

I believe Oregon schools should not shy away from teaching all of Oregon and American history – the good, the bad and the ugly. We must embrace teaching as an act of education, not a means of political indoctrination. I will always listen – not dismiss – the concerns of parents and front-line classroom teachers, but I will stay focused on what it takes to ensure more Oregon kids get a quality education.

I believe we need more collaboration between community colleges, higher education, and the private sector to drive innovation, job creation and worker training. As a state lawmaker, I helped create OMIC, the Oregon Manufacturing and Innovation Center in Columbia County. OMIC is a hub of innovation and education between major Oregon manufacturers, colleges, and universities, and it is helping more of our young people find a path to quality jobs in manufacturing.