Tuesday, 28 February 2006 17:00

Bush budget request refuses to invest in tech ed

For the second year in a row, the White House budget request eliminates the federal investment in career and technical education authorized by the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act. The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) expressed disappointment with President Bush's budget request and will work with the Congress and administration to seek restoration of Perkins funds during the appropriations process. 

The president's request asks Congress to eliminate federal funds for career and technical education (CTE), along with other education programs, to implement the President's high school reform plan and to launch his American Competitiveness Initiative. CTE is an important partner in keeping the United States competitive and improving our nation's high schools. As the President noted in his 2006 State of the Union Address, "…our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people." ACTE and NASDCTEc agree and believe that CTE programs are essential to ensuring that the United States has a talented pool of well qualified, technically proficient Americans.

ACTE Executive Director Jan Bray stated, "The Perkins Act provides critical resources to state and local CTE programs at the secondary and post-secondary levels, with investments ensuring innovation and program improvement, as well as accountability for results. Investments to the Perkins Act, already proven to be successful, should not be shortchanged in this important initiative. Our nation needs to preserve this important program."

Added NASDCTEc President Kathleen Oliver, "The administration's budget proposal for career and technical education is very disappointing. At a time when the country's economy demands a well-trained workforce and when the added emphasis on academic performance requires an applied context, a significant reduction in funding just doesn't make sense."

Important to maintaining American competitiveness is to ensure currency and academic rigor in CTE programs. Federal funds serve this important role. With the elimination of the Perkins funding, we "tie the hands of states and local communities to keep pace with the rapidity of global change," stated Kimberly Green, executive director of NASDCTEc.

While policymakers and education advocates, including ACTE and NASDCTEc, have long called for increased focus on high schools and education to meet the needs of the 21st century economy, (see ACTE's "Reinventing the American High School for the 21st Century"), these goals cannot be achieved by eliminating programs such as Perkins that are already helping students succeed in both post-secondary settings and the 21st Century workforce.

ACTE President Connie Smithson further commented, "ACTE recognizes the need to improve our nation's high schools. However, students shouldn't have to choose between academics courses and CTE studies. Integration of academic competencies into CTE curricula and of real-world content and applied methods and examples into traditional academic classes can raise student achievement levels and increase understanding of rigorous concepts."

The Bush administration also called for elimination of the Perkins program in its Fiscal Year 2006 budget proposal. Congress rejected the proposal and funded Perkins at almost $1.3 billion. However, according to Bray, the bleak fiscal reality causes ACTE and NASDCTEc to remain concerned that effective CTE programs will be cut to offset funding needed to support other perceived priorities.

Oliver added, "CTE plays an integral role in supporting our country's economic growth and workforce needs, as it makes education relevant, keeps kids in school and helps to close the skills gap. If the investment in Perkins is eliminated, our country will lose many of the critical tools necessary to implement the President's goal for high school reform and ensure America's global standing."

ACTE and NASDCTEc advocate jointly for career and technical education with Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, and the White House, believing that the Perkins program is among our nation's most important investments in high schools, a key component of our post- secondary and workforce development systems, and vital to American business.