A giant step back for education

June 14, 2013 

Kudos to state Superintendent Randy Dorn for calling out Senate Republicans. In the Senate budget released over the weekend, Republicans have effectively eliminated career and technical education in public schools.

It’s a case of Republicans getting trapped in their own dogma. Career and technical education is not considered basic education in current parlance. Thus by taking money from the CTE line item and redirecting it to basic education, the Senate gives the appearance of complying with McCleary.

In reality, the Republicans are setting technical education back about a decade while the business community is screaming for a skills-oriented workforce.

Here’s what Dorn says: “The Senate’s proposal cuts $49.2 million (in) materials, supplies and operating costs (MSOC) for CTE students. It would give districts less money for those students than for non-CTE students, which would effectively end state-funded CTE programs.”

The business community should be outraged at the Republican’s proposal. The CTE programs introduce students to fields such as accounting, microbiology, robotics and software design, as well as traditional programs such as construction and auto mechanics.

Many of the CTE programs engage students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs that the business-orientated Washington Roundtable and others say can satisfy our state’s greatest need. The new jobs are in software development, aerospace and medical technologies, and our state is lagging behind.

The state Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board says the return on investment is $9 in government savings and additional taxes for every dollar invested in CTE programs. Employment rates and earnings for CTE students significantly exceed similar students who did not participate in CTE.

What the Republican budget writers apparently don’t understand is that CTE provides our young people with a coordinated approach to achievement.

Dorn’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Community and Technical Colleges have collaborated to create a 16-cluster pipeline for career education, such as manufacturing, science and technology, finance, health sciences and so on. Each cluster gives students a pathway to success.

The Senate budget would damage, perhaps irrevocably, this coordinated effort that the education and business communities have spent years creating.

Cutting CTE funding — to cynically create the illusion of more money for basic education without raising taxes — should alarm the business community. It’s the exact opposite of what they have told legislators our state needs to keep pace with the rest of the nation and the world.

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