Presidential Focus for Career & Technical Education…

(Originally Published on Monday, February 13, 2012  Written By: Stephanie Simon)

“President Barack Obama on Monday proposed substantial new spending on education with a $69.8 billion education budget heavily focused on boosting career and technical training, both at the high-school and college level.  Overall, Obama asked for an increase of 2.5 percent, or $1.7 billion, in discretionary spending on education as part of his fiscal 2013 budget proposal to Congress.  The centerpiece of the education budget was an $8 billion Community College to Career Fund, which aims to train 2 million workers for jobs in fields such as high-tech manufacturing, clean energy and healthcare.

The initiative would encourage partnerships between two-year colleges and local businesses to identify in-demand skills and develop courses that help build them. It would also finance online and in-person training for up to 600,000 aspiring entrepreneurs.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the College to Career initiative relied on community colleges developing strong relationships with local employers, who could help design courses and degree programs to “train workers for skills that businesses are looking for right now.” The businesses would also be expected to offer apprenticeships. Duncan cited as models community colleges in Nevada that are ramping up nursing programs to meet local demand and schools in Florida that cater to a growing fashion industry. “It’s really important that this not be driven by us in Washington,” but be based on local business needs, Duncan said.

Obama also asked Congress to direct $1.1 billion to improve career and technical education at the secondary-school level. He proposed spending a further $1 billion on high-school “career academies” that train future workers in industries such as health care or information technology.

Until recently, career and technical education wasn’t popular in reform circles because “there was a worry that poor or minority kids were being pushed into that track and a feeling that college should be for everyone,” said Michael Petrilli, an educational policy analyst with the Fordham Institute. “We’re seeing the pendulum swing back now.”

Some other highlights of the FY2013 budget that may be of interest:

– The proposed budget includes funding for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAA CCCT) program, which provides $2 billion over four years to help community colleges improve and expand their programs to meet local and regional labor market demands. The proposed budget also funds a new Community College to Career Fund at $8 billion over three years, which is designed to improve access to job training for two million individuals across the nation through State and community college partnerships with businesses.

– The proposed budget would fund programs such as Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and Promise Neighborhoods. The Administration also seeks to consolidate 38 programs into 11 competitive grant programs “designed to allow States and districts more flexibility to use resources where they will have the greatest impact.”

 – The proposed budget provides $80 million to prepare 100,000 effective STEM teachers, and $30 million for a math education initiative, jointly administered by the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, to support evidence-based approaches.

The proposed budget includes $12.5 billion to support summer and year-round jobs for low-income youth, and will help connect the long-term unemployed and low-income adults to subsidized employment and work-based training opportunities.

 – The proposed budget proposes $125 million to spur job training innovation among States and localities through this program which will be jointly administered by the Departments of Labor and Education. This competitive grant will be available to States and regions to implement “bold systemic reforms that break down barriers between programs and provide rewards based on outcomes, particularly in serving disadvantaged populations.”

Eric Ripley, Career & Technical Education Coordinator

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