President’s budget doesn’t celebrate CTE month
© Greg Nash

February marks Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, a celebration meant to honor the nation’s CTE system. Millions of educators, school counselors, employers and students from across the country are praising all that CTE has to offer. However, President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget does not reflect this month’s celebration.

Today’s CTE is diverse, with career pathways spanning the vast world of work, leading to careers from engineering and information technology to advanced manufacturing, agribusiness and health science. CTE is an important option for all students and provides them with the academic knowledge and technical and professional skills that prepare them for college and career success. In fact, students involved in CTE are more likely to graduate, less likely to drop out of high school, and just as likely as non-CTE students to attend postsecondary education. In light of the oft-discussed “skills gap,” CTE plays a fundamental role in ensuring America has the skilled workforce necessary to maintain its economic competitiveness in the 21st century.

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The CTE community has had cause to remain hopeful that the administration would truly invest in CTE. Less than two weeks before his FY 19 budget was released, President Trump urged fellow Republicans at their annual retreat to “invest in workforce development, job training, and open new [CTE] schools…” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosDeVos: DOE to investigate if federal regs were broken in college admissions scandal DeVos moves to allow religious groups to provide federally funded services to private schools GOP bill would limit foreign student involvement in sensitive research projects MORE recently stated that “high-quality, rigorous, relevant career and technical education plays a vital role” in the nation’s education system. These comments reflect the excitement about CTE expressed by parents, students, education leaders and business institutions throughout the nation.

However, the administration’s budget is in sharp contrast with these statements. The budget continues the trend of drastically underfunding the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) at an annual rate that is 13 percent less ($170 million) than it was a decade ago.

Taking a longer view, Perkins has remained relatively flat funded since 1991 and the program’s buying power has fallen by $933 million - a 45 percent reduction over the last quarter century - while continuing to serve around 12 million students annually. This underfunding forces CTE programs to do more with less and thus serve fewer students, ultimately leaving programs unable to keep pace with a rapidly changing world and the workforce’s growing demands.

Ensuring all students have access to high-quality CTE programs does require investment. But we know that investment pays off. In Wisconsin, taxpayers receive $12.20 in benefits for every dollar invested in the technical college system, and individuals who receive a certificate or degree from California Community Colleges nearly double their earnings within three years.

In addition to underfunding Perkins, the budget eliminates funding for other programs that are critical to CTE student success, including funding for the Every Student Succeeds Act that supports effective career guidance and educator development. Other teacher education programs, like Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, are eliminated, and adult education funding, among other funding, is severely cut.

While the president’s budget failed to celebrate CTE, Congress’ budget still can. In fact, both chambers of Congress introduced bipartisan resolutions honoring CTE Month. We strongly encourage Congress to invest in CTE programs to ensure that America has the skilled talent the workforce demands in the 21st century.

LeAnn Wilson is the executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), which represents tens of thousands of education professionals and is the nation’s largest not-for-profit association committed to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. You can reach Ms. Wilson at lwilson@acteonline.org. Kimberly Green is the Executive Director of Advance CTE, which represents state leaders of Career Technical Education. For the past twenty-four years, Kimberly A. Green has worked extensively on federal policy impacting CTE. Working closely with Congress, the administration and a broad range of stakeholders, she represents the interests of and seeks support for CTE. You can reach Ms. Green at kgreen@careertech.org.