The construction of houses by students has become a popular component of vocational-education programs in the nation, despite the recent drop in real estate sales.
But in Michigan the practice has provoked opposition that led to a legal opinion by the state attorney general barring school districts from engaging in construction projects on private property.
In the opinion issued last month, Attorney General Frank Kelley said that school districts have no authority to contract with individuals to construct houses on private property as part of a vocational-education program. The schools' programs were in direct competition with private contractors, according to Paul J. Zimmer, an assistant state attorney general.
The opinion was requested by a state legislator who cited the case of a district in the state's Upper Peninsula that won a contract to build a house for a couple on private property over private contractors in the community. The district had previously confined its construction projects to school property.
Opinions issued by the state attorney general are binding on all state agencies unless overruled by the courts, according to Mr. Zimmer. Last month's opinion has been sent to the Michigan Department of Education for distribution to local districts.
The amount of money spent by state and local education agencies for vocational education declined in 1980-81 for the third consecutive year, according to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics.
During the 1980-81 school year, the states contributed $7.80 for every $1 allocated by the federal government in support of vocational-education programs. During the 1979-80 school year, the state share was $8.30 for every $1 federal contribution.
Overall expenditures for vocational education have increased from $2.6 billion in 1971 to $7.5 billion in 1980. However, since 1977, the state and federal ratio has declined, reversing a trend set between 1971 and 1977. During that time, the states' share for vocational-education programs reached a high of $10.40 for each $1 allocation from the federal government.
The National Center for Research in Vocational Education is currently working with the Defense Department in its review of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
Commonly known as asvab, the comprehensive testing package is used by each of the military branches to determine eligibility for enlistment and to establish an individual's qualifications for assignments to specific jobs.
The Defense Department intends to improve the test and to upgrade the training available to guidance counselors who use the test.
asvab was developed in 1976 and has been made available to vocational educators as an assessment tool for placing students.--sgf