Magazine article Techniques

Educators Flock to NPS Amidst Concerns about Budget Cuts

Magazine article Techniques

Educators Flock to NPS Amidst Concerns about Budget Cuts

Article excerpt

AT TIME OF INTENSE POLITICKING ON Capitol Hills as legislators work feverishly to cut federal spending, and amidst more threats to slash Perkins funding, career and technical education (CTE) professionals from around the country converged on Washington, D.C., to attend the Association for Career and Technical Education's National Policy Seminar (NPS), March 7-9. Brenda Dunn-Messier, assistant secretary of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), and Jane Oates, assistant secretary of the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), were keynote speakers. In addition, panels of congressional staffers and other experts provided CTE professionals with an overview of federal programs and initiatives that relate to CTE and workforce development, and information about proposed funding cuts.

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Jan Bray: ACTE is Your Voice

ACTE is working vigorously to ensure that the voice of career and technical educators is not drowned out in the loud political debates ongoing on Capitol Hill some of which will affect CTE, said ACTE's Executive Director Jan Bray al the Opening General Session. The Association continues its outreach to key legislators to remind them of the value of CTE in helping to educate the nation's youth, and prepare a skilled workforce. Everyone's talking about job creation, Bray said, and the key is to help legislators connect the dots between CTE, job creation and workforce development. Also important is the strength in numbers as ACTE works to secure funding and effect change.

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"When you go back home, tell your colleagues that you are tired of carrying the burden alone; that if they don't step up to the plate, there'll be no more plate to step up to," Bray said.

OVAE Chief: Good Work Being Done, Challenges Remain

There is a need now more than ever to raise students' academic performance and provide them with the skills they need to succeed in the new economy, said Dann-Messier, assistant secretary of OVAE. The United s was once the leader in the world in umber of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. But that standing has dropped significantly, she said. [According to a 2010 report by the College Board, the U.S. is now 12th among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree.] This is very worrying, Dann-Messier said, because the recession has highlighted that those without a college degree are most affected by a dour economy. She said the U.S. needs to create 8 million more college grads by 2020 in order to compete with other nations. Winning the future will require a. shift in paradigm, one that includes the idea of lifelong learning.

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CTE has an important role to play in positively affecting outcomes such as postsecondary completion rates, Dann-Messier said. But the field has been plagued by inconsistencies that have only served to reinforce a negative image. Among the concerns: some programs are in need of updated equipment, better education models, and programming that is strongly linked to high-wage, high-demand careers. The new CTE recognizes that all students must have a common core of academic and transferrable skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving, and less need for remediation.

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"The new CTE is a 21st century education that helps students acquire 21st century skills,'" she said.

Regarding proposed funding cuts to Perkins. Dann-Messier said the current program needs to be strengthened before it can be expanded- That is why President Obama's FY 2012 budget proposes to combine the Perkins Basic Slate Cram and Tech Prep programs and reduce the overall funding for these two programs to $1 billion (resulting in a $264 million or 21 percent cut for Perkins). The good news, she said, is that the reauthorization of Perkins will provide an opportunity to strengthen the program and link it to all education programming. …

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