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More Funding for Voc-Ed, Groups Say

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Several big organizations, in a letter to President Obama, are calling for more federal support for career and technical education (the subject formerly known as voc-ed). The primary federal vehicle for those efforts right now is the Perkins program, currently funded at more than $1 billion a year. I've seen Perkins, which was reauthorized a few years ago, described as the largest single high school program in the country.

President Bush repeatedly sought to kill the Perkins program, and got nowhere, probably at least partly because of career-and-tech programs' strong popularity in Congress. Critics have said that career-oriented programs do too little to challenge students academically (here's a story I wrote in 2004 on the issue). The education organizations point to research they say indicates career-and-technical education plays an effective role in dropout prevention. I wrote about an approach to integrating math in CTE courses a few years, which was studied by the federal government and found to be effective.

There's been speculation that community colleges, which play a big role in Perkins, could receive special attention from the Obama administration, partly because of the backgrounds of some of the key nominees to fill jobs at the U.S. Department of Education.

Your thoughts: Should the federal government be directing more funding toward Perkins? Or should funds be directed toward other federal efforts?

6 Comments

I have been teaching Career and Technical Education (CTE) for almost 8 years now and I am still witnessing a decline in funding for our programs. Ten years ago, there where 2.5 CTE teachers just in my department (Industrial Technology), now there is just me.
I strongly agree with the comment about CTE courses helping to reduce dropout. Many of my students do not fit well into an regular education class, yet thrive in mine. This has very little to do with myself as the teacher, but the content is something in which they can relate. It makes sense to them and it "feels" more comfortable than a Geometry or English literature course.
BTW, I was not aware that Bush was tried to kill Carl Perkins. That is a shame.

Hopefully, the push in New Hampshire, as well as Utah and Massachusetts, for graduation at sixteen for students entering associate degree programs and technical schools will boost the support of this important component. Though, there is still too much of a prejudice, and misguided belief, by the administration and many legislators that America should move toward high rates of bachelor degrees. That's a shame, considering America has the highest standard of living for the greatest number of people in an economy that has fewer than 30% of its population with bachelor degrees.

There is another side to career and technical education that many are forgetting in this argument. Many of the computer science and information technology courses exist in these programs within states. CTE programs need to be evaluated for the courses they really contain, not for peoples preconceived notions of what exists in their curriculum. They are as diverse as the regular courses offered at the high school level and can be just as rigorous.

As a former CTE teacher in a comprehensive technical school, I firmly believe that the Federal Government needs to fund Perkins at a higher level. CTE education is an important aspect of our students education and as Leigh Ann stated above, the curriculum can be quite rigorous. It is time for people to understand the CTE has changed with the times, much more than "regular" public education.

Fix education? Simple . . . if every educational program or course was the best it could be, education would fix itself. And what is meant by "the best it could be"? Career-oriented and relevant instruction by competent instructors, national industry accreditation/certification/recognition, applied and integrated academics, safety certification, and effective industry partnerships. Just take a good look at any ASE/NATEF certified Automotive Technology program. THIS is where Carl Perkins federal funding should lead our CTE programs.

I feel that more funding should be geared towards career and technical education for the purpose that it is needed given that industry needs qualified employees in the workforce. Every student has special talents and all students are not equipped or have the desire to continue in an academically inclined profession. It is because of this I supported Jindal signing into law the career diploma legislation. With this, I hope that the dropout rate will decrease and more students will have a meaningful career that he/she is content with.

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