Highlights of Governor’s State of Union speech

The point I want to make to you today is this: all of our job creation and economic development strategies will be futile in the long run unless we are successful in transforming our system of public education and our health care system.

Public education because none of us should be willing to accept 65 percent high school graduation rates or the fact that this generation of Oregon children could be the first to be less educated than their parents and their peers around the United States.

Health care because we can no longer simply stand by while businesses, families, and your state government are forced to spend more and more every year on an inefficient, hyper-inflationary system that is not making us healthier as a population.

With the creation of the Oregon Education Investment Board, for the first time, funding and governance will be aligned from early childhood services through K-12 and post-secondary education and training to achieve our state’s educational, social and economic objectives.

The Early Learning Council focused on restructuring the fragmented, inefficient way we provide early childhood services.

We committed to transforming the delivery of health care to reduce year-over-year cost increases while improving health outcomes for Oregonians. The business plan for our new “Coordinated Care Organizations” – which will be the primary tool for health care transformation – shifts the focus and financial incentives from the emergency room and after-the-fact acute care to prevention.

A second education bill is necessary in February. Next year’s kindergarten class will graduate from high school in 2025. Just yesterday, Education Week ranked Oregon 46 out of 50 states in K-12 achievement.

We can stick with federal control and a Oregon high school graduation rate stubbornly stuck at 65 percent, or we can take responsibility as a state to work together to devise a system that allows more flexibility while pushing every school and every district toward better student outcomes. We can continue to label schools as failing and over-rely on standardized testing as the single measure for student achievement, or we can recognize there is not a single formula for school improvement   

We have an opportunity to obtain a waiver from the punitive provision of the No Child Left Behind Law if we can create a home-grown alternative that provides smart accountability and better paths to student success. The second bill I’m introducing in February creates educational achievement compacts and is essential to obtaining a waiver.   

Achievement compacts replace the federal, compliance-based approach with partnership agreements between the state and our educational institutions. The compacts express a common commitment to improving outcomes, but tailor outcomes to unique circumstances of individual districts. The achievement compacts will begin to connect funding to outcomes so the state can become, over time, a smarter “investor” in education.

If we fail to pass achievement compacts in February, we’ll be left with the status quo under No Child Left Behind – an outcome everyone agrees is unacceptable.

We will not achieve our ambitious goals for educational attainment without additional resources. Our system of public education is underfunded at all levels. We can’t permit the absence of adequate funding to foreclose a real discussion about how to more effectively spend the resources we have.   

With regard to health care, action in the next month’s session is equally crucial, and I will be introducing two bills: one to fully implement our new health insurance exchange, and the second to gain legislative approval to proceed with the establishment of coordinated care organizations across the state.

Gaining approval from the legislature next month to fully implement Oregon’s Health Insurance Exchange and to move forward with the establishment of Coordinated Care organizations is our chance to put into place a system that is economically sustainable.

And while we’re well down the road toward transforming our health care and education systems, we must lock-in these changes this February to allow us to begin taking on other pressing issues facing our state:
•Establishing a revenue system that can weather our boom and bust economic cycles
•Adopting a ten-year energy plan that maximizes our limited energy resources
•Improving public safety to protect Oregonians from crime while reducing the costs to our state and to our citizens.
•Working toward a more sensible timber management policy that integrates State and Federal approaches.
•And redesigning our budget to align public investments with specific outcomes.

Our priorities are the right ones. Our sense of urgency remains acute. We must maintain the courage to forge ahead with the promise of an even brighter future.

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