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House looks to expand career and technical ed; Trump, DeVos plan to cut it

By Amanda Litvinov

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The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353), a bipartisan bill that updates career and technical education (CTE) programs for students across the country.

CTE programs, which offer career-aligned courses that range from culinary arts to HVAC repair to health care and pre-law, are celebrated for providing hands-on learning and a clear path to well-paying careers.

Missouri CTE educator Dave Hope says for some students, CTE classes make them feel connected to their education—and their future—in ways that other classes do not. That may explain why the average high school graduation rate for students in CTE programs is 93 percent, well above the national graduation rate of 80 percent.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and at all levels of government have called for investing in career and technical education. But the budget supported by President Trump and Betsy DeVos cuts critical federal funding for CTE by 15 percent, which would deal a substantial blow to any effort to modernize and expand CTE programs.

Federal funding for CTE has already declined about 12 percent in recent years, making it difficult for some states to sustain high quality programs.

“The fact is that these programs aren’t cheap,” said Hope. “But if we’re serious about giving students skills that will help them walk into a job, they have to be trained on up-to-date equipment. We need to take them out in the field where they can see these skills in action.”

Hope, a former firefighter and paramedic, now runs a firefighting and emergency medical technician (EMT) academy at South Technical High School.

“[CTE] is closing learning gaps and filling holes in the workforce,” says Hope. “It’s ridiculous to even think of walking back that kind of progress.”

The House bill under consideration would, among other things, provide training to help educators reach special needs students and English language learners, and promote collaboration between educators and business leaders.

But if Congress is to expand access to high-quality CTE—for the benefit of more students nationwide and the economy—lawmakers must both pass the bill being considered in the House this week and reject the draconian education cuts proposed by the Trump administration in part to pay for private school vouchers.

You can help. Email your members of Congress and urge them to strengthen career and technical education.

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