PA Schools Work: Career and Technical Education Vital for Post-Pandemic Economy
Report Outlines How Pennsylvania Can Become a Leader in CTE Access and Funding
PA Schools Work (PASW), a nonpartisan statewide movement working to ensure public schools are fully and fairly funded, and Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children today released a new report outlining steps Pennsylvania can take to become a national leader for delivering career and technical education (CTE) in a post-pandemic economy.
“Students deserve access to career and technical education if that is the career path they choose, and there is no greater return on investment than the school to workforce pipeline, especially during a pandemic where many front line workers in health care or distribution and logistics are CTE graduates,” said Kari King, President and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
Career and Technical Education: Setting the Standard in Pennsylvania, explores how CTE funding is structured in other states and makes recommendations for how Pennsylvania can set the standard for education to workforce preparedness, while acknowledging the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
King said three key steps emerged during her organization’s comparison of career and technical education in Pennsylvania to that of other states, the first of which is ensuring sustained investments in the CTE subsidy and equipment grant lines of the state budget, which were inadequate before the pandemic.
“We must statutorily amend the CTE formula to adjust its weights and allow more funding to be infused,” she said. “We also need to fund basic education more adequately. School districts pay 90 percent of the costs to send students to career and technical education centers. With school district finances further constrained, CTE will continue to be negatively impacted.”
Adding a CTE weight to the basic education funding formula as a long-term funding solution should be considered in the 2022 reconstitution of the Basic Education Funding Commission, the report notes.
“Governor Wolf and the General Assembly have demonstrated the value of CTE in the equipment and grant line and CTE subsidy line, but funding is just one piece of the puzzle to ensure access to this vital component of our state’s public education system,” said King.
She noted adapting best practices from other states to fit the Commonwealth’s needs can improve CTE quality and access in Pennsylvania. Throughout PPC’s research it was clear that no one state has solved the puzzle to comprehensively fund CTE, but specific practices such as examining earlier involvement of students at the middle school age, or focusing on special areas such as those with high poverty rates, are ideas to examine.
The report notes the amount of available data surrounding CTE outcomes pales in comparison to other metrics on child well-being and, more specifically, the K-12 education space. Improving data collection, analysis and utilization to better inform decision-making regarding career and technical education is an approach the Commonwealth should take immediately.
“At a time when uncertainty looms large, we might expect there to be shifts in industry demands that require new job clusters, or that cause others to regress. Increased unemployment rates may necessitate an analysis of what businesses are essential, subsequently impacting CTE offerings,” King said. “As the KIDS COUNT grantee for Pennsylvania, PPC calls on the state to ensure better datasets are captured on an annual basis, in a disaggregated manner, so that we can make better informed policy decisions moving forward. Also, the state Department of Education should provide a comprehensive, statewide annual report that is easily digestible and available to the public.”
PA Schools Work urges policymakers to increase funding in the 2021-22 state budget for CTE and consider the significant return on investment: a $10 million ask in a $34 billion state budget in exchange for preparing students for a 21st century workforce and economy.
To learn more about PA Schools Work , visit paschoolswork.org.