On November 4th, Oregonians in Happy Valley and East Portland will vote to elect a State Representative for District 48. The race features incumbent Democrat Jeff Reardon and Sonny Yellott as the Republican challenger. Each candidate was given equal opportunity to respond to APANO’s questionnaire, to engage more directly with Oregon’s 220,000 Asian and Pacific Islanders. Their responses to 3 questions crafted by APANO members have been unedited and printed in full. APANO makes no candidate endorsements, this information is solely for the purpose of voter education.
1. Oregon currently graduates half of it’s English Language Learners, who make up 10% of the state’s K-12 student population. What policies will you support to ensure that students–including ones who identify as English Language Learner, have access to quality education and career-readiness programs after graduation?
Reardon (D): In my first session, I sponsored a bill to increase the funding for the Earl Boyles Early Learning Center. That concept (different bill number) succeeded, and I could not have been more excited. Early Learning programs have a proven track-record of better outcomes for students, especially those students who come from low-income households or who speak another language in the home.
However, not all ELL students begin in Oregon schools at the pre-school age, so we need other options. As a former educator, I know how difficult it is to teach a classroom that is overcrowded. Increasing school funding helps all students, because kids the attention they deserve. I’ve also been a staunch advocate of Career and Technical Education, which allows students to engage in learning in a different way that sitting at their desk, staring at the front of the room. By working together as members of a team, by using their hands, and by thinking critically, students are better prepared for careers and college.
Community Colleges are a critical part of CTE, and the state has had it’s eye toward the “middle 40” of the Governor’s 40-40-20 plan. I have supported stable funding for these schools because they are the backbone of the community. Community Colleges provide education to residents of all levels and backgrounds, but one thing they do extremely well is prepare students for careers.
I remain concerned that ELL funding is not adequate to meet the needs of many schools. I am also concerned about the ability of school districts to use the dollars in a manner than best benefits ELL students.
2. Access to quality, affordable, and culturally competent health care ensures Oregonians are able to thrive and contribute. Please explain the policies you will support to increase access to care, and address health disparities, specifically for immigrants and refugees.
Reardon (D): I am very happy to see that more Oregonians than ever before have access to health care. But health care remains expensive, even for those receiving a tax credit, and I’m looking forward to supporting policies that help get those costs down. I am particularly interested in the Governor’s plan to incentivize providers who keep patients healthy. Last year, I toured Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center, one of the largest employers in the district, and I was impressed by many of the measures they took to prevent repeat trips to the doctor’s office. Their staff talked about everything from preventative care to follow-up calls after surgery to make sure patients weren’t experiencing complications. Those are the types of things I’d like to see worked into state policy.
I also am supportive of school-based health centers. I think these centers make it easy for many families to utilize services and they save on additional capital construction costs. It is imperative that the staffing at these centers is equipped to handle the demographics of the surrounding community. It is also critical that there are open lines of communication between local health providers and other service providers in the community, such as IRCO.
3. What policies do you support to strengthen economic opportunity and jobs for all communities in Oregon?
Reardon (D): It goes without saying that good paying jobs are critical to Oregon’s recovery. Although many counties have replaced the jobs lost during the recession, not all of them have. Part of my district is in Clackamas County, which has struggled to do so. The rural counties have it even worse. In the counties that have replaced jobs, many of the new jobs are low-paying service industry jobs, compared to the family-wage jobs of the pre-recession years.
Again, because of my background as a CTE teacher, I believe that technical courses, and the jobs that follow, are critical to our community. While I am very interested in manufacturing, technical careers include aren’t just shop classes. The manufacturing jobs of the present use advanced robotics and computer engineering. Technical careers also include health care, agriculture, natural resource management, business, marketing, and culinary arts. These are the types of career paths that sustained our nation through many decades, and that provided a living wage. I will continue to support technical education, as well as policies that allow industries to grow.
I also believe that the rising cost of housing has affected the average family’s to succeed. That’s why I began the Affordability, Balance, and Choice Housing Work Group this year to discuss ways of making home ownership or affordable rent a reality for more Oregonians. That work group has come up with a number of proposals that we have submitted for the 2015, and I’m looking forward to reading the finished bill drafts in the coming months.