callout_initiativesWhy is it important?

Education and workforce preparation are vital for Oregon’s economic success. Oregon aspires to grow companies that successfully compete as global leaders in innovative products and services.  Well-educated, talented employees fuel such enterprises, from the research department to the executive office to the factory floor. All enterprises are paying a premium for education and talent.  To raise our standard of living, we need to raise our level of education.

Education is also essential for vital, healthy communities. While it fuels economic innovation and job growth, higher education attainment enhances the life prospects of individuals and families and it reduces the high costs and tax burden of prisons, social services, and health care often associated with under education.

The Oregon Business Plan Vision for Education and Workforce

Oregon must educate as many of its people as possible at the highest levels to which they aspire. The Oregon Business Plan vision for education is called “40-40-20.” Forty percent of Oregon adults should have a bachelor’s degree or higher, another 40 percent should have at least an associate’s degree or other technical credential, and the remaining 20 percent should have a high school diploma that represents a high level of academic and work readiness skills.

Where We Stand Today

The United States is falling behind other nations on most meaures of education. Meanwhile,
Oregon is only slightly above the national average among states on most measures of education proficiency and attainment. Oregon needs to be in the top tier nationally and internationally. Alarmingly, the current generation of young working-age Oregonians (age 25-34) is more likely to have dropped out of high school and less likely to have graduated with a post-secondary credential than the generation preparing to retire (age 55-64).

Click on the chart to the right to see Oregon’s education attainment by age cohort in 2010 compared to the 40/40/20 goal. 

The Oregon Business Plan Strategy

In order to move Oregon toward the 40-40-20 goal, Oregon must undertake a fundamental redesign of its 0-20 education system.

  • We need to build a seamless, engaging PreK-20 education system built around clear standards for proficiency rather than traditional seat time in courses. Students should be able to move at their own pace through engaging, rigorous curriculum benchmarked to international standards.
  • We need an integrated data system to track student progress and evaluate how well schools support student learning.
  • We need to redesign the way the state budgets its PreK-20 investments to focus on students and their outcomes rather than on the funding of institutions.
  • We need to take a fresh look at delivery and governance. As part of that review, we need to seriously consider the decentralization of the university system.
  • We need to streamline our workforce system,  better coordinate local, state, federal and private workforce training dollars, and target workforce investments at high growth, high-wage occupations.
  • We need to increase our use of credentials to document the workskills of Oregon’s incumbent workforce.
  • We need to create stable and adequate funding for schools.  Strategies for doing this are included in our Public Finance initiative.

Recent Progress


  • Oregon hired Rudy Crew, a nationally acclaimed administrator, as Oregon’s first Chief Education Officer
  • The Oregon legislature passed two bills that advanced the recommendations of the newly formed Oregon Education Investment Board
  • HB 4165 streamlining and improving early childhood services in Oregon
  • SB 1581 establishing “Achievement Compacts” as a new standard of accountability between the state (the primary funder of education) and school districts (the primary deliverer of education services).  These achievement compacts qualify Oregon for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law.


  • SB 909 created the Oregon Education Investment board to coordinate learning services from 0-20.
  • SB 552 designated the Governor as superintendent of public instruction and created the office of “Chief Education Officer,” a new appointed position to oversee 0-20 education in Oregon.
  • SB 253 established 40/40/20 as the official goals of Oregon’s system of higher education.
  • SB 552 expanded a successful model for improving and rewarding teacher performance
  • SB 242 gave the Oregon University System more autonomy and control over its finances
  • SB 250 allowed districts to save costs by opting out of education service districts (ESDs)
  • HB 2301 improved the state’s virtual charter school laws
  • HB 3681 liberalized Oregon’s inter-district transfer laws

Priority Action Items

The way policymakers approaches Oregon’s budget challenges over the next decade will have significant implications for education performance.  The most important thing that Oregon can do is to implement the budget and tax policy changes outlined in our public finance and budgeting initiative.  Essentially, we have to reinvent the way we budget for and deliver public education in order to improve education performance in the face of Oregon’s looming “decade of deficits.”

We recommend the following approach:

  • Shift from slioed education budgeting to a single education budget (prek-20) that focuses on students and outcomes rather than on funding agencies and institutions.
  • Set goas for the system such as:
    • Increase number of students attaining degrees
    • Increasing minimum standards in reading,  writing, and math
    • Reducing time to degree (across prek-20) by one year
    • Reduce costs per student by  10% or more.
  • Redesign the delivery system, incentives and financing to meet these goals:
    • Revamp incentives to reward student achievement and accelerated credit and degree completion.
    • Create performance-based scholarships.
    • Redesign the financing/incentives of special education and english as a second language.
    • Incent districts and colleges to consolidate delivery and administration.
    • Reconsider the state role in student transportation.
    • Address employee compensation issues re: healthcare and PERS.
    • End the Oregon University System’s status as a state agency, providing the system with greater autonomy and flexibility.
    • Place future kickers in a rainy day fund, tied to education.
  • In addition to these system changes,  Oregon should make targeted investments in workforce development, including:
    • Supporting the Engineering and Technology Industry Council  (ETIC) engineering education program
    • Rolling out the National Career Readiness Certificate, a statewide credential for incumbent workers seeking jobs.
    • Better coordinating and leveraging existing workforce dollars from local,  state, federal and private sources.
    • Supporting efforts to place high schoolers in meaningful summer employment.
    • Other recommendations contained in the recent report by the Oregon Workforce Partnership:

Tell Us What You Think!

We need your ideas.  Do you support the vision and strategy?  Do you have ideas for specific policies and actions to advance the strategy?  Please share them with us.