A New Association Is Born

Techniques, February 2002 | Go to article overview

A New Association Is Born


When the National Society for Vocational Education and the Vocational Education Association of the Middle West came together in 1926 to form the American Vocational Association (AVA), a strong new voice was created.

Seventy-five years later, the AVA has become the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), and the programs that were once called vocational are now called career and technical. Although our name has changed, our commitment to providing opportunities for success for all of our nation's students has never wavered throughout our long history.

Federal Funding and a Federal Board

When President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act into law in 1917, it was the beginning of federal funding for vocational education in the United States. In addition to the $1.7 million appropriation for 1917-18, the act also created the Federal Board for Vocational Education to administer the provisions of the new law and to work on program planning and resolution of disputes. States were required to create state boards for vocational education, and states and local communities were required to match federal appropriations. The Federal Board approved the plans that were prepared by the state boards.

As federal funding under the Smith-Hughes Act increased at intervals that reached $7.2 million for 1925-26, the Federal Board began to look at the differences in the ways the states were utilizing these funds and carrying out their state vocational programs. Recognizing that their union would give them greater power on Capitol Hill and in dealing with the Federal Board, the National Society for Vocational Education and the Vocational Association of the Middle West completed their merger in 1926.

Building the Foundation

The constitution of the new American Vocational Association was developed by committees representing both of the merging associations, and the officers and executive committee were nominated by a committee chosen from the membership of both associations. Members of both of the old associations automatically became members of the new one. The committees representing the different sections in 1926 were agricultural education, vocational guidance, trade and industry education, commercial education, home economics education, part-time education and rehabilitation education. Within six months of the founding of AVA, 27 state vocational education associations became affiliated with the new association.

By 1926, enrollment in the vocational education programs of agriculture, home economics, and trade and industrial had grown to almost 900,000, and in 1929, Congress passed the George-Reed Act, authorizing an increase of $1 million annually from 1930 to 1934 to expand vocational education in agriculture and home economics. In 1931, AVA President Charles M. Miller said, "Vocational education in this country has grown from a number of small isolated beginnings into a great national education institution."

The early 1930s were difficult times for our country, and vocational education had to work to keep its federal funding in the midst of the Great Depression. In 1932, an attempt to repeal the Smith-Hughes Act was defeated, and an AVA study on changing conditions in industry, commerce, agriculture and the home was made a major project in the Federal Board for Vocational Education research program for that year. However, in 1933, President Roosevelt transferred the functions of the weakened Federal Board for Vocational Education to the U.S. Office of Education.

On January 1, 1934, the AVA established its national headquarters in Washington, D.C., where it could maintain an active national leadership role in advocacy of vocational education, and Lindley H. (L.H.) Dennis assumed his position as the association's first full-time executive secretary.

A temporary measure passed in 1934, the George-Ellzey Act, authorized $3 million annually for three years to be apportioned equally in agriculture, home economics, and trades and industry. …

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