This piece reflects the views of Marty Wilde, a member of the Oregon Legislature, and not those of Emerald Media Group. It has been edited by the Emerald for grammar and style. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to email@example.com
As your State Representative, I believe that building a positive future for everyone in my district is the highest priority. Oregon faces enormous threats from climate change. We’re not building the infrastructure we need to support college and career training, and student debt is overwhelming our graduates. My job is to get you the environment and education you need to succeed.
In the last three months, an area the size of Indiana has burned in Australia, just the latest manifestation of climate change on our planet. Closer to home, we’ve seen wildfires worsen and snowpack decrease, yet we’re failing to meet even the modest goals we have set for carbon reduction. Your legislature owes you a plan that caps our emissions and eliminates our contributions to climate change. Adopting such a plan and then joining the Western Climate Initiative will bring tens of millions of dollars in investment into our state — and more than 50,000 jobs! Fighting climate change isn’t just good for the environment and your health; it’s good for your job prospects as well.
When it comes to your education, we need to build and maintain the systems necessary to train you for jobs that will pay a living wage when you graduate. Huestis Hall, the University’s basic science classroom and lab building, is so decrepit that, when it rains, water sheets down the inside of the windows. The entire building would pancake in an earthquake. LCC also has several buildings that need seismic safety upgrades and has had to defer offering more technical degree slots because of lack of space. This spring, I’m working to fully fund the Huestis Hall renovations through legislative action and by co-chairing LCC’s bond committee. We owe you safe buildings that provide an education leading to a career.
Too many students still can’t afford college or career training without incurring crippling debt. Despite a decade of promises from the Legislature to fully fund need-based financial aid, almost half of community college students and nearly two thirds of university students still have unmet financial aid needs, according to a 2019 report from the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. We finally plugged the holes in our K-12 funding system in 2019. Now, we must support community college and university students with the financial aid resources to build on that solid K-12 foundation and get the career training or college necessary to start rewarding careers.
I hear about the consequences of our failure to invest in the future every day. Last week, I heard testimony about how reduced snowpack threatens our ability to generate enough electricity to meet demand. A few days before that, a school superintendent told me that his construction costs had risen almost 20% because of the lack of trained construction workforce. Recently, I spoke with a software company that was considering expanding into our area but was concerned that they would not be able to hire local computer scientists because of our underinvestment in educating them. It’s time to get to work on the environment and higher education.
We accomplished great things in the 2019 legislature, including landmark investments in housing, healthcare and pre-K through grade 12 education — but the job isn’t done. Until we do our share to fight climate change, fix and expand our college buildings and finally fund need-based financial aid, we’re just marking time, not making forward progress. Let’s fight for Oregon’s future — for your future — this legislative session.