New 2-year lease on life for 163 Partnership Academies

September 26, 2012

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Financially threatened high school career academies will get a lifeline and new career tech programs will get a lift, now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation committing $68 million for those and related projects over the next two years.

Students in the engineering academy at Dublin High School. Source: California Department of Education  (click to enlarge).

SB 1070 will sustain the career technology programs in high schools and community colleges that were to lose their funding and authorization at the end of this fiscal year in June. Now they will have additional time, and the Legislature will have two more years, to consider their future. The bill’s author is Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who has been a CTE champion in the Legislature.

The chief beneficiary will be 163 California Partnership Academies, about a third of the total 503 in the state, that were started three years ago under another bill that Steinberg sponsored. Their funding will continue through June 2015.

Partnership Academies are small three-year schools within comprehensive high schools that offer career and college opportunities: college prep courses, academic counseling, job internships, and career training in areas ranging from engineering and architecture to manufacturing, agriculture, and health science. They must serve primarily minority students who have done poorly in school. Though their track record is good – with significantly higher graduation and college admission rates than similar students statewide – their future was in doubt without secure funding, even though the amount per school in state aid ($59,000, to support a coordinator’s time and collaborative planning among Academy teachers) is not huge. And not all will get money the second year, when funding shrinks from $48 million to $20 million. They’ll have to compete with data showing outcomes, such as attendance and graduation rates and readiness for the next stage at a community college. Most of the grants under SB 1070 will be competitive, administered by the California Department of Education and the Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

“If a Partnership Academy can demonstrate good performance, it will get the money,” said Patrick Ainsworth, director of the Career and College Transition Division of the state Education Department. “This is one of the few performance-based systems.”

Linked to community college

Those programs that create a pathway to further specialized training, workforce development, or a degree at a community college – particularly in high-demand professions – will stand the best chance of being funded. An example of such an arrangement is the Engineering Academy at Cordova High School, which has an agreement with American River College’s Engineering program. Students can earn up to six units of college credit if they get an A or B in the class and pass a portfolio assessment at the end of the year.

About a third of the $48 million next year will go toward K-12 CTE grants. Funding categories besides Partnership Academies include:

The $48 million for 2013-14 and $20 million for 2014-15 will come from the Quality Education Investment Act, a $3 billion program created to settle a lawsuit brought by the California Teachers Association against Gov. Schwarzenegger for failing to repay school districts and community colleges money borrowed from Proposition 98 in 2004-05. SB 1070 is from the portion of QEIA that went to the community college system.

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