Federal

Bush Plan Worries the Voc. Ed. Community

By Sean Cavanagh — January 25, 2005 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Bush administration’s recent unveiling of its plan to extend accountability and other academic measures into the nation’s high schools has caused backers of vocational education to worry that the proposal may squeeze their programs out of the federal budget.

Advocates for career and technical education in recent weeks have launched a pre-emptive strike to urge members of Congress and other influential parties to help them stave off potential cuts to their funding—even though the administration’s fiscal 2006 budget is not expected to be released until next month.

In particular, their goal is to preserve funding in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, the federal government’s primary vehicle for career-oriented school programs, which currently receive about $1.3 billion annually.

Concerns about next year’s budget spiked earlier this month, after President Bush spoke publicly about his secondary education proposal—and about changing the way the federal government provides aid for high schools. The plan calls for testing students in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades in reading and mathematics; expanding incentives to teachers working in high-poverty schools; and analyzing the academic records of incoming 9th graders to determine if they need help. The proposal carries an estimated $1.5 billion price tag, though the White House did not specify how much of that money would be new, as opposed to existing funding.

Speaking at a high school in Virginia two weeks ago, the president also called for consolidating some high school programs—though he did not specifically say cuts to vocational programs were on the way.

The Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment on the vocational community’s concerns.

“The problem is they’re like silos,” Mr. Bush said of federal high school programs. “They’re prescriptions that may not meet the needs of the local high school, or the school district—you know, a program to promote vocational education, or to prepare for college, … or to encourage school restructuring.”

Not long after that speech, the Association of Career and Technical Education sent an alert to its 30,000 members, voicing concerns about the proposal’s effect on vocational education. A second organization, the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium, issued a similar notice around the same time.

“Our greatest fear is that all, or most, of our budget would be cut to fund the president’s high school proposal,” said Christin M. Driscoll, the senior director of public policy for the Alexandria, Va.-based ACTE.

Vocational advocates note that during the past two budget years, the administration has called for bringing higher academic standards to the federal vocational program—while seeking to cut its funding from $1.3 billion to $1 billion. That money was later restored by Congress. In 2002, proponents went public with fears that the White House was planning to eliminate the Perkins program or move its functions into the Department of Labor, speculation that was dismissed by the administration. (“Advocates Warn Voc. Ed. Cuts May Be Afoot,” Nov. 27, 2002.)

“They’ve dropped enough bread crumbs,” said Kimberly A. Green, the executive director of the Washington-based state consortium, in summing up her concerns.

Congress at Work Again

That budget speculation also emerges as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Perkins Act, a process that federal lawmakers failed to reach agreement on before adjourning last year. Two reauthorization bills were introduced last year, in the House and the Senate. Because this is a new Congress, those proposals would have to be reintroduced if they are to become law.

Rep. Michael N. Castle

Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del., who led House reauthorization efforts last year, expects new legislation to closely follow last year’s bill, and hopes to have the measure approved by the House education committee by April, said his spokeswoman, Elizabeth B. Wenk. The lawmaker does not favor paying for the president’s high school plan through cuts to other education programs, such as vocational education, she said.

Sen. Michael B. Enzi, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, issued a statement praising the president’s plan, while noting the importance of continued vocational funding “as a critical component of high school education.”

The Perkins legislation introduced last year in both chambers would have established various incentives and mandates for states to improve local vocational programs. The bills also would have created new indicators to judge the effectiveness of high school and college programs.

Yet some critics, such as Ross Wiener, the policy director for the Education Trust, say those bills need “substantial modifications” and lack the teeth necessary to force state and local programs to improve their academic rigor.

Mr. Wiener points to the findings of last year’s congressionally mandated National Assessment of Vocational Education. While that report indicated that the percentage of students taking core academic courses in English, mathematics, and science has risen in recent years, it also concluded that “secondary vocational education itself is not likely to be a widely effective strategy for improving academic achievement or college attendance without substantial changes to policy, curriculum, and teacher training.” (“Vocational Students Lag In Achievement, Report Says,” July 14, 2004.)

Although the vocational community has fought off significant changes to their federal programs in recent years, that position leaves them vulnerable when federal officials—including the Bush administration—start pushing for changes in high schools, Mr. Wiener said.

“They might have protected their program [into] irrelevance,” said Mr. Wiener, whose Washington-based group promotes higher academic standards. “We have to distinguish between high-quality voc-ed and low-quality programs that don’t prepare students for today’s economy.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 26, 2005 edition of Education Week as Bush Plan Worries the Voc. Ed. Community

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal 'A Snitch Line on Parents.' GOP Reps Grill AG Over Response to Threats on School Officials
Attorney General Merrick Garland said his effort is meant to address violent threats against school boards, not to stifle parents' dissent.
5 min read
LEFT: Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. RIGHT: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, left, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the U.S. Department of Justice on Capitol Hill on Thursday, questioned by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, among others.
Greg Nash via AP, Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal School Boards, 'Domestic Terrorism,' and Free Speech: Inside the Debate
From critical race theory to COVID policy, the heat on schools has raised issues involving free speech and the safety of public officials.
13 min read
Brenda Stephens, a school board member with Orange County Public Schools in Hillsborough, N.C. has purchased a weapon and taken a concealed carry class over concerns for her personal safety.
Brenda Stephens, a school board member in Hillsborough, N.C., says board members face threats and bullying, an atmosphere far different from what she's encountered in years of board service.
Kate Medley for Education Week
Federal Senate Confirms Catherine Lhamon to Civil Rights Post; Kamala Harris Casts Decisive Vote
Joe Biden's controversial pick to lead the Education Department's office for civil rights held that job in the Obama administration.
2 min read
Catherine Lhamon, nominee to be assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, testifies during a Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
Catherine Lhamon, then-nominee to be assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, testifies during a Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing in July.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images
Federal White House Outlines COVID-19 Vaccination Plans for Kids 5-11
The Biden administration will rely on schools, pharmacies, and pediatricians to help deliver the COVID-19 shots to younger children.
3 min read
Ticket number 937 sits on a COVID-19 vaccination at the drive-thru vaccination site in the Coweta County Fairgrounds on Jan. 14, 2021, in Newnan, Ga.
A ticket number sits on a COVID-19 vaccination at the drive-thru vaccination site in the Coweta County Fairgrounds in Newnan, Ga.
Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP