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Oregon's low graduation rate propels Allen Alley into governor's race

Republican gubernatorial candidate Allen Alley appears on "Your Voice, Your Vote" Sunday, April 10, 2016. Click the play button above to watch his appearance. (KATU Photo)

Republican businessman Allen Alley was at his grandson's fourth birthday party watching the children play when he knew why he wanted to run again for Oregon's highest office.

"I looked at them and realized that pretty much every other kid in America had a better chance of graduating from high school than they do," he told KATU's Steve Dunn during Sunday's "Your Voice, Your Vote."

For years Oregon has had one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country. The issue has captured the attention of the state's governors. Under the leadership of former Gov. John Kitzhaber, the state set an ambitious goal of getting every child to graduate high school by 2025.

Kitzhaber envisioned a seamless education system from birth to college to career, where money would be targeted to outcomes. He got the Legislature to sign off on a new education board led by a chief education officer to work toward that end.

Kitzhaber's successor, Gov. Kate Brown, still talks about creating a seamless education system and announced at a leadership summit last December that she would hire an education innovation officer within her administration to focus on improving the state's graduation rate.

During Sunday's interview, Alley told Dunn that the state's not getting the most bang for its buck.

"We spend about $400,000 per classroom yet about only 100,000 of that ever gets into the classroom," he said. "That's 300, 000 that's spent somewhere else. We have to do a much better job of getting money to the kids."

This is Alley's second run for the governorship. In 2010, former NBA basketball star Chris Dudley defeated him for the Republican nomination. Dudley narrowly lost to Kitzhaber in that year's general election.

This year Alley is in the race for the nomination with Salem oncologist Bud Pierce and several others.

Alley announced he would run for governor shortly before the filing deadline in March, upending the race, which had been focused on Pierce, who had announced his run in September.

Alley is better known, especially after his run against Dudley. He also ran for state treasurer in 2008 and was the Republican Party's chairman for two years after his loss to Dudley. He also served under Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski as deputy chief of staff.

Alley's business interests lie in technology, and he was co-founder and CEO of Pixelworks.

After Kitzhaber resigned in February 2015, Brown, then secretary of state, ascended to the office of governor. She is running for governor on her own merits this year to finish out the remaining two years of Kitzhaber's term.

The Republican who wins the nomination in May will likely challenge Brown, who has five opponents for the Democratic nomination -- all of whom are unknowns in the political world.

A total of 13 people have filed to run for governor: Five Republicans, six Democrats and two Independents.

Watch Dunn's interview with Alley above. "Your Voice, Your Vote" airs Sundays at 9 a.m.

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