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The Oregonian: Oregonians in poll and survey: Put vocational education back in high schools
Author: Betsy Hammond, The Oregonian
Posted: August 16, 2012

Read the original story in The Oregonian here.

In a short survey and poll about education priorities, Oregonians named as their top choice one that isn't typically a priority for policymakers: Restoring vocational classes in high school.

The pulse of the public was measured two ways: In an online survey of nearly 2,800 Oregonians who'd signed up to offer their views on public policy and a separate, more traditional telephone poll of 423 residents sampled to scientifically represent the state's population.

Given five choices for how to spend more money on education, from early childhood programs through college financial aid, Oregonians in both groups named vocational ed as their top choice.

Given $1 to divvy among the five options, the scientifically polled group alloted $26.20 to vocational education, while the survey of eager volunteers alloted $22.40. That beat out the No. 2 choice with both groups, reducing class sizes in kindergarten through grade three, which garnered $20.40 and $19.90, respectively.

The survey and poll were conducted by a new organization designed to solicit public views on state policy, called Oregon's Kitchen Table. It is housed in Portland State University's College of Urban and Public Affairs. It says it aims to explore in depth the views of real Oregonians about important issues.

Kitchen Table organizers noted that the high preference for vocational education was driven largely by residents of Central Oregon and Eastern Oregon, who showed a much stronger interest in that option than residents of other regions. They surmise that may be tied to high unemployment there, leading residents to want "direct job training for high school students entering a challenging job market."

The Oregon Department of Education hasn't gotten back to me with information about how much or how little vocational education is left in Oregon high schools. I frequently hear parents and students in the metro area pine for more of it. 

This nifty set of maps (pdf) from the state education department appears to show there are more than 700 career and technical programs, from agriculture to engineering, in high schools these days.

-- Betsy Hammond