Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

The Push for Perkins Funding

Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

The Push for Perkins Funding

Article excerpt

For months AVA has been readying its position paper on the Perkins Act reauthorization. After input from members and polishing by the Legislative Committee at the December convention in Dallas, the paper has been finalized and sent to key Congressional representatives. AVA hopes to influence the House and Senate education committees to continue the Perkins Act in a form that strengthens vocational-technical education.

Because the new Republican majority questions whether federal aid to vocational-technical education should even continue, the position paper now includes an introduction to the 30 recommendations summarized in a draft report published in the November 1994 Journal. To that end, the introduction is designed to focus Congressional attention on the ways in which vocational-technical education benefits the U.S. society and economy.

At the outset, AVA acknowledges the need for the federal government to review programs and determine their viability. The test, AVA says, should be whether programs "address an issue of national significance" that requires a federal leadership role and whether an investment of tax dollars can be justified on the basis that it returns more than the original amount.

"The evidence is clear that the federal investment in vocational-technical education passes these two tests," AVA says.

The paper directs the education committees' attention to business leaders who have stressed the dire need for improved human capital and to a global economy that clearly requires trained workers.

Dollars invested in vocational-technical education are returned through the taxes of vo-tech completers who get good jobs, according to the paper. It also points out studies that show vocational education graduates earn more and are more likely to go to college than those from the general education track. The vo-tech graduates also are less likely to drop out of school, saving the government in welfare payments, Medicaid benefits and criminal justice system costs.

However, AVA does stress the need for modifications "to meet the challenges presented by the changing workplace I and the goals of education reform." The paper calls for redrafted federal vocational-technical education legislation that focuses on five general areas:

* vision, mission and goals; * collaboration and partnership;

* educational delivery;

* funding, governance and leadership; and * accountability.

Vision, mission and goals

AVA defines its vision for the federal investment in vocational-technical education this way: "To make the United States more competitive in the world economy by developing more fully the core academic and occupational skills of all segments of the population." That language is carefully crafted to stress both academic and technical skills and to include all students.

Vocational-technical education's mission, then, is to be the primary system that prepares youth and adults to enter a competitive workforce and continue learning. Fulfilling the mission will require "continued and increased support from local, state and federal resources, public policy initiatives and private sector investment." AVA advocates use of the current secondary and postsecondary occupational education system-urging that the government not set up a new system or otherwise exclude vocational-technical education.

To convince Congress of vocational-technical educators' commitment to keep programs current with industry demands and education trends, AVA notes that educators have set these broad goals toward which quality programs must work:

1. All high school graduates will have the core academic and occupational skills necessary to either immediately enter the workforce or continue their education.

2. Every adult who needs new or upgraded skills to advance in the workplace will have access to an appropriate training program.

3. The success of vocational-technical education programs will be judged by standards set in collaboration with employers and by the student's career goals. …

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