Assembly Education Committee: CTE Bills on Today’s Agenda

June 12th, 2014

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s eight-bill package to improve and expand New Jersey’s vocational school programs is under consideration by the Assembly Education Committee this morning.

The Speaker has said that the package is key to making sure all New Jersey students are ready for work in today’s ever-changing economy.

New Jersey Business and Industry’s Association’s statement of support.

Here is the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools statement of support for the bills, provided by NJCCVTS Executive Director Judy Savage:

The New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools strongly supports Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s eight-bill package that is pending before the Assembly Education Committee.  These bills respond to many recommendations of the New Jersey Employer Coalition for Technical Education, addressing the workforce needs of employers by increasing the state’s focus on career readiness, expanding career and technical education opportunities, and providing multiple pathways for students to achieve career success.

We applaud the Speaker and Chairman Diegnan for their leadership in developing this comprehensive and multi-faceted bill package, and we thank the many Assembly members who have signed on as prime and co-sponsors of the various proposals.

New Jersey’s 21 county vocational-technical school districts serve approximately 32,500 secondary students in full-time and part-time programs that prepare all types of students for college and careers.  These schools, and the students who attend them, are successful because career and technical education (CTE) integrates rigorous academic content with career focused learning, enabling students to apply their skills and knowledge in a meaningful way.

County vocational-technical school programs are in high demand from employers who need a strong pipeline of highly skilled future workers, and from students and parents who recognize that CTE experiences and credentials add value to the high school experience.  On a statewide average, New Jersey’s county vocational-technical schools receive about 2.5 applications for each available seat.  Our schools have been forced to turn away thousands of young people who want to pursue a career-focused program.

Several of the bills before the Committee will help to expand the capacity of county vocational-technical schools through a variety of approaches.  This is an important educational and economic need, and we strongly support the proposals to facilitate program expansion in county vocational schools and through partnerships with other districts, community colleges and employers.

The Council supports the restoration of aid for adult students pursuing high school completion and job-focused vocational training, as these programs provide critical economic opportunities to young adults and others seeking to enter the workforce with the skills needed to land a well-paying job.

We also support the expansion of dual credit programs that are so successful in giving thousands of county vocational-technical school students a jump start on college, often saving substantial time and cost in earning their degrees.

And, we support the proposals to increase the focus on career readiness in New Jersey’s School Performance Reports and in the preparation of new teachers and counselors.

Our specific comments on the eight bills are as follows:

A3334 (Sponsors: Prieto/ Lagana) Requires New Jersey School Report Card to include indicators of student career readiness.
The NJ School Performance Reports focus exclusively on student achievement and college readiness measures, and the Council is already working with the Department of Education to identify measures of career readiness that can be added. Including career readiness as a required indicator in the authorizing statute is a positive step to ensure a greater focus on career readiness and recognition of positive outcomes in this area.

A3335 (Sponsors: Prieto/ Diegnan/Lampitt) Requires teacher and school counselor preparation programs to include coursework to support improved student career readiness.
This bill will increase the focus on career readiness by ensuring that new teachers and guidance counselors are well-prepared to help students increase their knowledge of career options, help students develop employability skills, and understand the value of career and technical education for all types of students.

A3336 (Prieto/Jasey) Authorizes an additional $50 million in bonds and increases debt service aid percentage for county vocational school facility projects that would increase enrollment.
There is a clear need to expand the capacity of New Jersey’s county vocational-technical schools so that more students can participate in high quality CTE programs.  The bill would provide two different incentives to encourage counties to expand their vocational schools –grants or a small increase in the level of debt service aid for locally funded projects. While we recognize the difficulty of committing additional funds for school construction at this time, the bill is a critical component of a multi-pronged effort to address employer needs by enabling more students to participate in career and technical education programs.

A3337 (Prieto/ Jiminez/Lampitt) Establishes four-year County Vocational School District Partnership Grant Program in DOE.
This bill would encourage county vocational schools to partner with urban and other local school districts and colleges to create new career and technical education programs in existing facilities.  It is a positive strategy with the potential to create new partnerships and models for collaboration.

A3338 (Prieto/ Diegnan) Requires all school districts and public colleges to enter into dual enrollment agreements to provide college-level instruction to high school students through courses offered on the college or high school campus.
This bill would expand on the success of NJ’s county vocational-technical schools and other school districts in developing dual credit agreements with community colleges and four-year institutions. Dual credit agreements have the potential reduce the time and cost of a college degree, reduce college remediation needs, expand access to college, improve completion rates, and challenge high school students.

A3339 (Prieto/Diegnan/Bucco) Clarifies that a county vocational-technical school program taught in an industry setting is not subject to school facilities regulations.
Given the immediate shortage of space for career and technical education expansion, this bill would encourage employers to collaborate with schools on the development of CTE programs that can be offered in workplace settings.

A3340 (Prieto/ Jasey/Johnson) Provides additional State aid to county vocational school districts in which enrollment increases by more than 10%
This bill would provide an aid mechanism to recognize growth when a county vocational-technical school undertakes an expansion to serve more students or converts from shared-time to full-time programs.  This is critical to help cover the initial cost of additional programs, teachers, equipment and support services when a district expands significantly.

A3341(Prieto/Diegnan/Johnson) Restores state aid for adult high school and adult vocational training programs.
Adult high schools and county vocational-technical school postsecondary training programs play a critical role in preparing out-of-school youth and adults for entry into the workforce, but the number of programs has been reduced significantly since funding for these programs was eliminated in 2008.  Restoring a modest level of funding would encourage the use of existing county vocational-technical school facilities to provide high-quality, affordable education and job training.

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