As part of President Obama’s goal to redesign American high schools, yesterday he announced a new collaboration between the US Department of Labor and the US Department of Education to provide high school students “with the industry-relevant education and skills they need for a successful future.”
Under the administration’s proposal, $100 million in Department of Labor revenues from the H-1B visa program would be made available on a competitive basis for Youth CareerConnect Grants. Grants would be awarded only to schools districts with a strong public private partnership that includes, at a minimum, a local workforce investment system entity, a business, and an institution of higher education. Applicants would also be required to provide a 25% match in order to receive the grant.
The proposal is very similar to the administration’s blueprint on Perkins reauthorization that was released in April 2012, and which has received negative feedback from members of Congress and the education community. In our comments to the House Education and the Workforce Committee, NASSP expressed concerns about those provisions of the blueprint requiring a private sector match at the local level, mandatory partnerships with institutions of higher education, and a competitive grant competition versus formula funding.
Applications for the CareerConnect Grants tare due on January 27, 2014, and awards would be made in early 2014 for program implementation to align with the 2014-15 school year. Additional information is available on the Department of Labor’s Web site.
The President’s announcement overshadowed a hearing conducted earlier in the day by the House Education and the Workforce Committee to discuss reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. In his opening remarks, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) expressed concern about the administration’s proposal, stating, “I am discouraged by this morning’s news that President Obama plans to announce a new national competitive grant program aimed at career education—without any input from Congress. Another program will only further muddle the system at a time when we need to make smart, structural reforms to improve CTE programs under the Perkins Act.”
Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education at the US Department of Education, said that CTE “has enormous potential to successfully prepare all Americans—including the disadvantaged—for college and careers.” Not yet able to discuss the President’s new proposal, she outlined the four principles in the administration’s blueprint for Perkins reauthorization, arguing that the federal investment in CTE “must be dramatically reshaped to fulfill its potential.”
Other witnesses at the hearing talked about the importance of engaging businesses to help design CTE programs and provide mentoring and internship opportunities for students, aligning K-12 education with industry credentials, and encouraging more agreements between high schools and institutions of higher education.
A highly skilled workforce is obviously on the minds of members of Congress these days. Last Friday, NASSP member and Illinois High School Principal of the Year Lazaro Lopez testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee at a subcommittee hearing on training builders and manufacturers for the future. Now an associate superintendent, Lopez talked about his success at Wheeling High School, a Title I comprehensive high school with a STEM focus organized around career pathways. The school has a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, hospital lab with senior care facility, a nanotechnology research lab, and the goal is for all students to graduate with a “Diploma Plus.”
Lopez outlined three key “non-negotiable principles” that drove the work of their career pathways: 1) a sequence of courses that lead beyond high school; 2) external experiences that provide students a real world understanding of career areas through internships or problem-based learning experiences; and 3) an opportunity to earn college credit and/or an industry certification.