EDUCATION
05/04/2011 09:27 pm ET | Updated Jul 04, 2011

Oregon House Considers Adding 'Future Plans' As High School Graduation Requirement

While schools across the country continue to balance budgets and consider different methods to make their students college-bound, Oregon representatives may have come up with their own solution to get students ready for the future.

In an attempt to increase Oregonians' employment options, the Oregon House of Representatives recently passed a bill that requires high school students to demonstrate a clear path for future education or job opportunities before they can graduate.

House Bill 2732, which was approved by the Oregon House on April 25, entails a student must complete and submit an application for a post-secondary education institution or apprenticeship program, enlist in the military, or attend an apprenticeship orientation in order to receive a diploma.

Beaverton Democrat Rep. Tobias Read sponsored the proposal, saying it will encourage students to consider career opportunities and think about their futures, reports the Oregon Daily Emerald:

"This bill does not intend to tell anyone what choice is right for them. It merely aims to prompt the consideration of those options and encourage students to think about what's important to them."

According to the The Oregonian, the bill passed 33 to 26, with about one-third of Republicans and two-thirds of Democrats voting in support.

Rep. Peter Buckley, a supporter of the bill, pointed out that Oregon's high schools aren't effectively preparing its students for the current job market, reports the Oregon Daily Emerald.

Buckley shared a story of a visit to a local high school several years ago where he surveyed advanced placement students in regards to their college futures:

"25 out of 28 AP students weren't applying for college...my heart broke at that point. This bill is a common sense bill...it will give (students) a push to fill out that application and say 'What's next for me?'"

Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, disagrees, reports the The Oregonian:

"This is not about education. It's just one more piece of paper. It's one more hoop we're making people jump through to get the diploma they have already earned."

Parent Kevin Taggart expresses similar sentiment, reports reports KEZI:

"I don't think it's the job of the schools to force kids to think about their future. It's the job of the schools to teach the kids to be successful in their future."

But deciding where to draw the line between parent and teacher accountability is a tricky subject. Trying to define who has more power and influence over a child's academic success, and who should have more of a say in regards to decisions about the future of education, is a debate heard around the nation.

One student, Gina Tilton, realizes the possible benefits the bill could have in cases where parents aren't as involved, reports Central Oregon's ABC News:

"There's so many kids I know that parents aren't involved, you know? At least out in our own community. There's a lot of kids struggling on their own. They're worried about tomorrow. So, to help them learn about their future and have jobs later on would be a good idea."

Some critics argue this added requirement would just be an unnecessary and unfair obstacle given college application fees; it costs $50 to apply to a school within the Oregon University System schools, reports KEZI.

Read offers a solution: Applying to Portland Community College is free for all students. However, despite the fact that community colleges typically cost less when compared to state universities and private institutions across the United States, enrollment rates and class sizes are still factors to be considered in today's education climate.

Dana Haynes, Communications Director for Portland Community College, said that enrollment has been up at all of Oregon's community colleges, reported Oregon Capitol News:

"A lot of community colleges, especially the smaller ones, are at or above their own capacity and couldn't really take a lot more students."

As students, parents and representatives continue to weigh in on the debate, the bill heads to the Oregon Senate for consideration. If passed, the conditions will take effect July 1, 2012, and, depending on the bill's success, could encourage school districts in other states to implement similar polices.

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