Nineteen county vocational-technical school leaders traveled to the nation’s capital last week to spread the word about the success of NJ’s career and technical education programs and seek continued support for CTE funding.
The group was in Washington, DC, for the Association of Career and Technical Education’s National Policy Seminar. While the meeting sessions sponsored by the ACTE were enlightening, nothing compares with the excitement of going up to Capitol Hill to meet with New Jersey lawmakers and their aides to discuss CTE.
Armed with data documenting the success of county vocational-technical school graduates and the growing demand for CTE programs, school leaders divided into small groups for meetings with their Congressmen and Senators. Our goal was to give our lawmakers a vivid picture of today’s county vocational-technical schools and an understanding the importance of federal CTE funding to our schools.
Mikki Regan of Morris County Schools of Technology and colleagues from Union, Somerset and Hunterdon counties had a great meeting with Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen and aide Cassie Coggeshall. Across the hall in the Rayburn House Office Building, Bill Hoey and Nancy Webber Loeffert of Ocean County Vocational-Technical Schools, Tim McCorkell of Monmouth County Vocational Schools, and Kimberly Schneider of Mercer County Technical Schools briefed Caitlin Ross, an aide to Rep. Chris Smith.
Tom Bistocchi of Union County Vocational-Technical Schools was surprised to be greeted by 2008 Magnet High School graduate Brittany Stromko when he arrived for a meeting with her boss — Representative Leonard Lance. Chrys Harttraft of Somerset County Vocational-Technical Schools and Kimberly Metz of Hunterdon Polytech were also part of the discussion about CTE success in the 7th Congressional District.
Right after our meeting with Rep. Bill Pascrell’s legislative aide aide Arthur Mandel, several members of our group met Congressman Pascrell as he headed over to the Capitol for a floor speech and spoke to him about the important role that CTE plays in New Jersey. The Ocean and Cape May County representatives posed for a photo with Rep. Jon Runyan before sitting down with legislative assistant Jeff Brabant to make the case for continued federal funding under the Perkins Act.
Council President Phil Guenther of Atlantic County Institute of Technology led a delegation including Robert Matthies of Cape May Tech, Dina Elliott of Cumberland Technical Education Center, Mike Dicken and Brian Shakespeare of Gloucester County Institute of Technology for a great meeting with Representative Frank LoBionodo and aide Rachel Bolander.
Brian Loughlin of Middlesex and colleagues from Monmouth, Mercer and Hunterdon counties appreciated the chance to reconnect with Rep. Rush Holt, who is a member of the Congressional CTE Caucus. Brian and Chrys Harttraft led the team meeting with Rep. Frank Pallone’s legislative aide, Brendan Hennessy, and members of our group had a chance to speak personally with Congressman Pallone as he was walking over to the Capitol for a vote.
The South Jersey team had a great meeting with Rep. Rob Andrews and his Congressional Fellow, Adrienne Izzo. Congressman Andrews spoke enthusiastically about the value of CTE and the need to expand these programs for secondary and adult students in NJ. We could not agree more.
I was honored to reconnect with Rep. Albio Sires, who was so supportive of county vocational-technical schools when he was NJ’s Assembly Speaker, and remains a strong proponent of CTE programs. It was great to have Howard Lerner of Bergen County Technical Schools with us to discuss to importance of CTE programs to New Jersey’s urban centers.
We headed back to the Hill on Wednesday to meet with Ashley McCabe of Senator Menendez’ staff and Kyle Brown, Senator Lautenberg’s aide. Both of our senators are strong supporters of CTE and we were honored that Senator Lautenberg stopped by to say hello. Senator Menendez staff graciously provided VIP tours of the Capitol to two groups of our CTE leaders.Howard Lerner of Bergen Tech and I wrapped up the trip by meeting with John Maniscalco of Assemblyman Garrett’s Office.
The NJ team was exceptionally gratified by the interest and commitment exhibited by lawmakers and staff members of both parties. Our representatives in Washington understand that career and technical education benefits students, employers, and New Jersey’s economy. They know that federal support is critical to our ability to continue to develop new career programs and update existing offerings. As Congress turns its attention toward the budget for the 2013 fiscal year, we left feeling optimistic about their support for continued funding despite these exceptionally difficult fiscal times.