Gov. Boosts Technical Ed. Programs

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for the 2007-08 public school year includes $52 million allotted to bolster the state’s traditionally weak technical education programs.

His proposed budget for career technical education, formerly called vocational education, includes $20 million for ongoing funding and $32 million in new funding to improve and reform career technical education in high schools and community colleges.

‘This would make more students É better prepared,’ said Steve Pinning, the career technical education director of the San Diego County Office of Education. ‘Even for students who are in college, some of them have to take jobs. [Having career technical education] would give students the work skills to pay the bills while in school.’

According to Schwarzenegger’s Web site and the U.S. Department of Education, students receiving career technical education achieve more while in school.

Students taking career technical education clsses have improved their National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, which is taken in 12th grade, by eight points in reading and 11 points in math, compared to four points in reading and no improvement in math in noncareer counterparts. In addition, students who take career technical education courses may earn more once they graduate.

‘What happens is, some students have a strong ability to learn in a classroom environment,’ Pinning said. ‘Those students do fine, but there are other students too. Some students do well in classrooms, and other students need hands-on types of activities that they can learn from.’

Under the proposed budget, the governor hopes to expand the number of courses available in high schools and junior colleges and to guarantee that the classes students take are designed to prepare and help them succeed in emerging and growth industries.

The number of teachers and students in high school career-education courses has decreased during the past two decades, while total high school enrollment has increased. Total enrollment has risen by 51 percent in the past 20 years while teachers and students in job training courses decreased by 29 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

Students taking career technical education courses concurrently with college-required regular courses tend to do better academically. Many educators prefer that students have multiple options, rather than the ‘two-track’ system that is often at hand, which targets minority and lower-income students whose careers do not involve acquiring a college degree.

On the other end of the spectrum, some educators don’t believe that it is necessary for all students to take college-prep classes, because only 20 percent of California high school students go on to receive a four-year degree.

Schwarzenegger has said that in other parts of the world, such as China, India and many European countries, career technical education and a four-year degree are considered equal, but that Americans often classify career technical education as second-rate.

‘If this is done right, then everybody will benefit,’ Pinning said.