by: PHOTO BY: KYLIE WRAY - U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (left) with North Clackamas Superintendent Matt Utterback and students at the Sabin-Schellenburg Career Technical Center.Thankful students surprised U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader on Thursday when he walked into a room full of new computers at the North Clackamas School District’s Sabin-Schellenberg Professional Technical Center.

“We’ve learned a lot having the programs that we have access to,” said Hope Alexander, a sophomore on the school’s video-production team who’s been able to study high-tech editing.

“If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have gotten all this state-of-the-art equipment,” said Deborah Barnes, a Sabin-Schellenberg teacher who is president of the North Clackamas Education Association.

“She’s exaggerating a little bit,” Schrader said.

However, as both a member of the Oregon Legislature and a second-term congressman, the “No Labels” Democrat has been a big supporter of funding for the type of education provided at Sabin-Schellenberg, the largest such high school facility in the state.

“This is the future of education in our difficult time,” Schrader told school and district leaders on April 4. “It’s no longer about always getting a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree — it’s about getting a bloody job.”

Despite a slowly recovering economy, Schrader and local education leaders see an opportunity for tech-education funding “now that we’re crawling our way out of the recession.” Schrader acknowledged the tough politics needed to get over the effects of the sequester and debt ceiling, let alone make an investment in education.

“I don’t have a great plan there other than that between May 19 and July 19, when the debt ceiling hits, there’ll be an opportunity for health care reform,” he said.

Superintendent Matt Utterback noted that federal funding has been slowly declining with enrollment and worried that there could be a major hit of up to $700,000 on July 1. Schrader encouraged education leaders to “beat the drum to let everyone know how losing this money is hurting how well you can work with kids.”

Schader also predicted that more than $1 billion in Perkins tech-education funding would be “safe” in the White House budget plan to be unveiled this week. Most of Clackamas County’s share goes to Clackamas Community College, but it also affects high schools.

“The president will show key investments in education and infrastructure, and certain reductions, because that’s how we’re going to dig ourselves out of this,” he said. “As we look at the needs, based on what he talked about in his State of the Union, there’s an opportunity to encourage him to augment that Perkins budget in a big way.”

School leaders hope that President Obama will be the next big name to visit Sabin-Schellenberg “since the president has been talking a lot about his support of career and technical education, he should visit the best high school in the country for that,” said Barnes, who has started a serious lobbying effort for the visit through Schrader and Oregon State University basketball coach Craig Robinson, the president’s brother-in-law.

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