Career education is projected to receive a boost under Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, part of a larger push for workforce development training in California.
The governor’s budget proposal for 2015-16 includes $876 million for career technical education and other job training initiatives at K-12 schools and community colleges – welcome news for programs that saw course offerings cut and enrollments decrease over the past several years.
The governor identifies the programs as a key part of a larger, $1.2 billion statewide effort aimed at “reinvesting and reshaping California’s workforce preparation systems.” The effort aims to get students into training programs that are more closely linked to regional workforce needs and to better coordinate job training programs at colleges and schools.
The initiative is also sparked by a need to better prepare students for college and careers, a key goal of education reform efforts and of the Common Core State Standards in math and English, which have been adopted by California and 42 other states.
“Increasing the resources available and better targeting where they are used will improve the skills of California’s workforce and better meet the demands of the growing economy,” the governor’s budget summary said. The funding, the summary said, is a “first step toward a broader strategy of aligning 49 workforce investment boards, 72 community college districts, more than 1,000 other local education agencies, and the employment programs of 58 county human services agencies.”
Linking career technical education in the schools with a larger workforce effort is an important shift, said Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education.
Career technical education “is a long way from being just high schools and community colleges and micro arrangements,” Kirst said. “It’s being refocused as part of this regional approach to create skills and jobs rather than being merely something for local high schools to do for their local high school population. The level of policies is moving upward in terms of a workforce focus, rather than going to schools to solve those problems.”
Brown’s package for career education includes $250 million over each of the next three years to create a Career Technical Education Incentive Grant Program to spur partnerships between school districts, colleges and business. The program is intended to “accelerate the development of new and expanded high-quality CTE programs,” according to the budget proposal.
“It looks like the governor is really concerned about returning California to the economic power that it once was, and that starts in the secondary schools,” said Randy Page, president of the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs.
Groups receiving the money would have to provide a dollar-for-dollar match to qualify, Brown said, and must prove their effectiveness across a range of outcomes such as graduation rates, course–completion rates and the number of students receiving industry credentials and certificates.
The state budgeted a total of $500 million over the past two years for a similar grant program, called the California Career Pathways Trust, which also promotes regional partnerships between K-12 districts, community colleges and businesses. However, districts are not required to provide a dollar match to qualify for that funding.
Brown also proposed an additional $29 million for apprenticeship programs that provide adults with a steady paycheck as they receive on-the-job training, and $48 million to extend the CTE Pathways Initiative grant program for an additional year. The program, which was scheduled to sunset in 2014-15, supports efforts to better link career programs at schools with those at community colleges.
The budget also proposes $500 million for adult education programs, which provide English as a second language classes, apprenticeships and career training opportunities, among other programs.
The proposed budget “is a significant signal that [Gov. Brown] cares about economic mobility by focusing on workforce development,” said Van Ton-Quinlivan, vice chancellor of workforce and economic development at the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.
The governor’s proposals are in keeping with federal requirements outlined in the reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act jobs training program, Ton-Quinlivan said. Agencies receiving federal money are now required to have common measurements and “integrated planning instead of staying in their silos,” she said.
“The time has come to focus all these disparate efforts to get these monies to work together” in California, she said.
Tim Rainey, executive director of the California Workforce Investment Board, said the funding proposal kicks “up a notch – or maybe a few notches” – existing efforts to align jobs development in the business sector with career training programs in the schools.
“We realized none of these components would really impact employment and jobs alone,” Rainey said.
The additional funding is “a step in the right direction” for occupational programs in schools, said Randy Page, president of the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs.
“It looks like the governor is really concerned about returning California to the economic power that it once was, and that starts in the secondary schools,” said Page, director of Tri-County ROP, which serves Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties. “We can’t satisfy the needs of the employers and business community and keep them in the state if we’re not able to provide robust programs.”
Still, Page said he is eager to see details of the proposed grant program and its required “dollar-for-dollar” match. Additional information on the proposal is expected when a trailer bill to the budget proposal is released, possibly as early as Friday. Page also is concerned about the expiration date for the funding in three years.
“It all looks really good on paper,” Page said, “but actually implementing the program and sitting back and seeing how districts and community colleges and county offices work together to make this money effective will be the test of how effective this is in the long term.”
Fred Jones, an advocate for career and technical programs who represents the California Business Education Association, said the proposal brings promising news for career technical education. The dollar-for-dollar match requirement of the grant program provides an incentive to build quality career programs in the schools. The accountability requirements – asking recipients of the money to prove their effectiveness by meeting a range of measures – will help ensure that programs meet quality benchmarks, he said.
In 2007-08 – before the recession and before state categorical funding was relaxed – Regional Centers and Occupational Programs received a dedicated $486 million budget allocation, Jones said. The categorical “flex” allowed districts to use money previously earmarked for specific programs – such as regional occupation – for any purpose.
Enrollment in career education programs dropped 12 percent from 2011-12 to 2012-13, according to state figures, and the number of courses offered statewide decreased by 11 percent.
“We need to discuss exactly what the funding amount should be,” Jones said, “but what’s mattered most to me and those of us who have been advocating for career tech for the last several years is high-quality programs.”
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office commends the governor’s budget proposal on workforce education as “laudable,” but faulted the proposal for a potential “piecemeal approach.”
The plan “does nothing to streamline existing, overlapping regional groupings” dedicated to workforce development, according to an LAO analysis of the governor’s budget proposal.
The plan could fragment existing workforce efforts “by augmenting certain existing programs while simultaneously creating new programs with similar workforce objectives,” the LAO said.
“We are concerned that such a piecemeal approach could be counterproductive,” the analysis said, “and result in additional redundancies and inefficiencies in the state’s workforce development system.”
“The whole plan is to reduce redundancies, not create new ones,” said Rainey, noting the new federal Workforce Innovation act requirements.
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