Merkley Announces Bills to Prepare Students for 21st Century Jobs

Eugene, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley visited Churchill High School in Eugene today to discuss his science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education legislation that he introduced last week.  Merkley also unveiled legislation that he is preparing to introduce that would provide grants for career technical education (CTE) to middle and high schools. These CTE grants would establish more hands-on technical education in middle and high school classrooms and train students for the workforce. During today’s visit Merkley highlighted the important link between STEM and CTE education and creating jobs in the global economy. 

“What’s going on here at Churchill high school is incredible, and I wish it was happening in every high school in America,” said Merkley. “We’ve got to take a hard look at our priorities and start focusing on building the education infrastructure for our future. In today’s global economy, we have to get more competitive in educating and training our future scientists, mathematicians and engineers. But it’s more than just STEM – I keep hearing from advanced manufacturing companies that they need more skilled workers, and that’s why vocational education is so important too.” 

Merkley toured Churchill high school’s new STEM Studio and spoke with Churchill students who are participating in STEM education. Churchill received a $425,000 grant from the state’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Revitalization Grant to create a new STEM curriculum.  Last year, the Eugene 4J School Board also allocated $2.5 million in school consolidation bonds for the new STEM Studio. 

The STEM Education for the Global Economy Act that Senator Merkley introduced last week will help improve instruction in STEM subjects. The legislation aims to:

  • Improve student engagement in, and increase student access to, courses in STEM subjects;
  • Recruit, train, and support highly-effective teachers in STEM subjects and providing robust tools and supports for students and teachers;
  • Close student achievement gaps, and prepare more students to be on track to college and career readiness. 

Merkley also plans to introduce legislation that establishes a grant program to support middle and high school CTE programs that provide more hands-on technical education.  The purpose of these grants would be:

  • To enhance collaboration between education providers and employers;
  • Develop or enhance career and technical education programs of study;
  • Assess the ability of career and technical education programs to meet workforce needs; and
  • Give students the skills required for high-demand, high-skill jobs.