Local leaders meet to discuss the need for more funding in career and technical education
January 24, 2019 9:17 AM
by Vincent Corso
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PLEASANT GAP —  Local and state leaders gathered at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology to discuss the vital role of career and technical education in supporting Pennsylvania’s economic development during a press conference at CPI on Jan. 10, and the need for more funding from the state to support those programs. 

CPI was an appropriate place for PA Schools Work, a nonpartisan statewide movement working to make sure public schools are fully and fairly funded, to hold the press conference together with Jennifer Myers, vice president of economic D=development for the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County and Dr. Richard C. Makin, CPI president. State Reps. Rich Irvin, R-Spruce Creek Township, and Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, were on hand, along with representatives from the office of state Sen. Jake Corman’s, R-Bellefonte, and Kari King, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. The group was joined by a group of CPI students.

The event highlighted a new report, “Skilled Workers Needed: Ensuring Investments in Career and Technical Education,” produced by PASW partner Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, and looked for the state to provide more funding to school districts for CTE programs.

“Workforce development truly is the key to Pennsylvania’s economic development, but with member school districts paying 90 percent of the overall budget to send students to career and technical education centers, CTE quality and access could be compromised,” said King. “We’re asking policymakers to prioritize CTE funding so that we can fill the jobs requiring a CTE background.”

Career and technical education allows high school students to prepare to enter the workforce directly after high school, saving students and their families thousands of dollars in postsecondary tuition and training costs. It prepares students for a range of in-demand jobs that can offer pathways to careers in new media, health care, construction, today’s high-tech manufacturing sector and even the law. Something that is needed in Centre County and across the state, said Myers.

“This report states that workforce development is the key to Pennsylvania’s economic development, and at the CBICC we couldn’t agree more. In fact, the release of this report and our collective message today is especially timely as employers across Centre County and across Pennsylvania support career and technical training,” said Myers. “What employer wouldn’t want the peace of mind knowing that its employees already have acquired the skill set the job requires? Every employer we talk to wants that, and those who partner with career and technical educational centers know that is exactly what they will get when they see a resume from a job applicant who chose the CTE path in high school.”

A lack of sustained investments in CTE funding, and more broadly, basic education funding, has caused limited access for students who wish to enter the workforce immediately following graduation, said Jackie Cullen, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators.

“The $10 million investment in the career and technical education subsidy was an important first step in last year’s budget, as was the PAsmart initiative,” said Cullen. “Creating educational and career pathways for students is crucial to maintaining a competitive workforce, fostering economic growth and bolstering Pennsylvania’s middle class.”

According to the report, Pennsylvania currently has 74 career and technical education centers that educate approximately 55,000 students across the commonwealth. PA Schools Work and its partner organizations are calling for an additional investment of $10 million in the CTE subsidy as part of the 2019-20 state budget.

“But CTE, unfortunately, is not available to all students to attend because many school districts simply cannot afford to send all students who all interested in those programs,” said King. She said the CTE subsidy represents about 8 percent of the cost of CTE funding statewide with another 2 percent of the funding coming from federal grants. This leaves the school district footing 90 percent of the costs, said King.

“This is at a time when school districts are still trying to meet basic education needs,” King said, “the portion that they are expected to pay for CTE is a high burden”

“This report makes a strong case for what we already know: career and technical education is a critical part of delivering the quality education students deserve from their public schools,” Makin said. “Our mission at CPI is to produce highly competent individuals who are prepared and motivated to pursue the high-skill careers of the 21st century. It would not be possible for us to deliver that promise without the support of our state policymakers.”

Benninghoff congratulated the group of CPI students at the event for making a great choice for their future. He said in talking to people in the state about what is needed to grow jobs, the number one thing he heard was that “we need a qualified, well-trained workforce.”

“So the individuals who made the choice to be here at CPI, I think you are making a tremendous investment. We as a commonwealth know this, we hear this and we are trying to grow our investment overall because we know that investment today is going to help us in the future,” said Bennighoff, who added that he would like to see the state funding to CTE programs increase.

PA Schools Work is a non-partisan coalition of organizations from across Pennsylvania representing teachers and other educators — urban, suburban and rural communities — and parents and other community members working together to advocate for PA public schools, their students and the communities they serve.

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