Testimony to the House Select Subcommittee on Technical Education & Career Readiness

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1 Testimony to the House Select Subcommittee on Technical Education & Career Readiness Presented by Vicki Smith, Board President, Homer-Center School District; JOC Chairperson, Indiana County Technology Center And Eric Wolfgang, Board President, Central York School District; former JOC member, York County School of Technology Pennsylvania School Boards Association April 28,

2 Good morning. My name is Vicki Smith and I am the board president of the Homer-Center School District in Indiana County. I am also the chairperson of the Joint Operating Committee of the Indiana County Technology Center, which is the governing body for the center. With me today is Eric Wolfgang, who is the board president of the Central York School District, and a former JOC member at the York County School of Technology. We speak to you today from these perspectives. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association is a nonprofit statewide association representing the 4,500 elected officials who govern the commonwealth s public school districts. PSBA is a membership-driven organization that is pledged to the highest ideals of local lay leadership for public schools. Our membership not only includes school board members, but career and technical centers as well as solicitors and supervisors. Thank you for allowing us to speak with you today, to participate in the dialogue and continue working with you. We would like to thank Chairman Grove and this committee for giving PSBA the opportunity to testify on issues related to technical education and career readiness. PSBA supports the work of this subcommittee to refocus efforts to enhance career and technical education programs in Pennsylvania. Our changing workplace means continual need to sustain high-quality occupational programs that enable all young people need to meet today s demands. Employees must be prepared with the abilities to work with resources, information, systems and technology. Businesses are facing shortages of skilled workers and are eager for schools to produce more highly educated graduates. Last year 46 states and the District of Columbia took action to boost career and technical education with nearly 150 new policies to provide more funding, expand employer partnerships and strengthen programs that provide college-level credit in high school

3 Clearly, the importance of our secondary school system of career and technical education continues to grow. Today s career and technical education is not old-school vocational education by another name. The design and delivery has changed as our economy has evolved. The National Association of State Directors of Career Education Consortium emphasizes that twothirds of jobs created by 2022 will require some form of postsecondary education. Modern career and technical education is adaptable, cross-cutting and a partner not an alternative -- to college preparatory education. Student who are CTE concentrators are far less likely to drop out of high school than the national average, a difference estimated to save the economy $168 billion each year. Recent studies also find that over 75% of CTE concentrators pursue postsecondary education after graduating high school. 2 Pennsylvania continues to develop Programs of Study to ensure secondary and postsecondary students are enrolled in challenging academic and technical coursework. Technical skill attainment has steadily improved over the last several years. Consider these facts from the National Association of Career and Technical Schools, and from the Pennsylvania Department of Education: 99% of CTE high school students graduated in From to , the number of industry certifications earned by CTE students has increased over 75%. Since 2011, the percentage of competent or advanced National Occupation Technical Institute test takers improved from 76.13% to 85.19% in The number of industry certifications earned by CTE students increased from 18,381 certifications earned in to 23,621 during the school year. 82% of CTE postsecondary students achieved an industry recognized credential, certificate or degree. 74% remained enrolled or transferred to another postsecondary institution

4 The members of this committee are very much aware that the responsibility for control and support of public schools is legally vested in the General Assembly, but in large measure, the operation is delegated to local school boards who strive to improve the educational opportunities for all children, youth and adults. This is measured by the need to use school tax dollars effectively and efficiently and to equalize educational opportunities across the state. Career and technical education centers are key to providing specialized opportunities for students across the state. PSBA believes that the investment in CTCs is not only critical to the success of our students in Pennsylvania, but also to the success of Pennsylvania s economy. The system that has been established to provide technical education programs provides excellent opportunities for students, and is an effective use of taxpayer dollars. If school districts were required to separately fund and administer a CTC the cost would be unsustainable, as it is widely accepted that technical education programs cost more than basic education. Instead, consortiums that join school districts together in funding CTCs provide for efficient administration, pooling of resources and collaboration. This system also provides CTCs with the ability to provide a variety of high-quality, high-skill programs to meet the needs of students. We do believe that many of our school districts realize this investment is smart and not a drain on their own personal budgets. As I mentioned in the introduction, I am the chairperson of the Indiana County Technology Center JOC and board president of the Homer Center School District. My experience with the Indiana County Technology Center, ICTC, began in 1999 when I was appointed as Homer- Center s representative. To be honest, at that time I knew very little about the educational opportunities being offered at ICTC. However, I quickly realized the value of the vocational/career education offered by ICTC and became one of its biggest supporters. Our tech center is an amazing place where students have the opportunity to learn marketable, career enhancing skills while earning their high school diploma, additional industry certifications, and for some, college credit. I ve found that our career and technical center also provides a place where all students have the opportunity to excel and truly shine. Let me tell you about several of those students. 4

5 Many of the students at the ICTC are invisible at their home district. The opportunity to excel in their career field through SKILLS USA competitions, other competitions, and live work in the community give ICTC students an opportunity to shin an opportunity that doesn t exist or is too risky at their home district. The three students that produced an award winning NOCTI video that was shared at the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference have stated that this one award has changed their lives. They now believe in their SKILLS and have developed more self confidence in their ability and look now to a future in the industry. One girl actually said she never believed she would have any success. Because of their success at ICTC, the principal at their sending school has now given them several school-wide photography projects. This would never have happened if it were not for their success and ICTC promoting their success. They are now visible to their principal at their home school and perhaps to several of their teachers and peers as well. ICTC flourishes because of our affiliation with industry, the support of our local school districts, our program sponsors and our dedicated, highly qualified administration and staff. Our industry partners support ICTC through their mentorship, equipment donations, supply donations, and internship opportunities. The sending districts support ICTC by encouraging students to explore the programs offered by ICTC and through tuition paid by the schools for our students who choose to attend. The reality is that no matter how much support we get from our schools and local industry, costs keep going up and the technology needed for the jobs of today, as well as jobs of the future, keep evolving. None of our districts can keep up with these demands on our own. As you are all aware, state revenue for sending districts averages 39.6%. If the state can increase this figure across the board, then the home schools would not be faced with increasing the local tax burden to fund our schools. The seven (7) school districts of Indiana County which comprise the sending districts of ICTC have embarked on an exciting new project to bring up to date and forward looking opportunities to all our students.. By working together we are doing something different and leading the way. Our JOC has partnered with the NASA affiliated Challenger Center for Space Science Education to bring a Challenger Learning Center to our campus. This center will be a showcase for the Commonwealth. The Center will service K-8 students in 22 western PA counties with exciting 5

6 space themed STEM experiences. We view Challenger as the catalyst that will light the spark of enthusiasm in our younger students for science, math and technology education - to ignite their imaginations to all the possibilities of the future. However, once that spark is lit, how do we fan the flame? Where do our students go once the mission is ended? Our sending districts are collaborating to create STEM ICTC a first class STEM facility located on our campus. The pathways have been determined, costs to operate are being analyzed, fund raising is underway and the excitement is growing. We were fortunate to receive the support of the PA Department of Education through a line item in last year s budget and we are asking for your continued support of this project. Research has shown that students in western Pennsylvania are underserved in the area of science and math education. Challenger helps to close this gap for our youngest students. STEM ICTC further closes the gap for the high school students of Indiana County. In addition, we are creating work-force development opportunities for adults and non-traditional students in our area. The model we are creating at ICTC, shared STEM education, can be done across the state for similar sized schools. Districts across the commonwealth, in home schools and CTCs, are already increasing STEM influence in all curricular areas educators are responding to the research and to what we hear from business and industry. Again, we need your support to create a regional CTC that eliminates redundancy and duplication of services and which can be a model for other such centers across the commonwealth. Each of our districts is looking at the best way to implement STEM education into the curriculum. Members of the House and Senate can partner with us in this endeavor. Project Lead the Way, a program which HC is exploring, is a nationally recognized, standards based example of a curriculum that works and that is enthusiastically supported by business and industry. Stem education requires investment in technology, both hard ware and software - you can help us with this. We promise you that we can and will prepare our students with the best skills necessary for successful, productive futures. At the same time, we will improve our communities, and our economic health. 6

7 Thank you for inviting me here today to share my story with you. I have some brochures on our project to share with each of you and I welcome your questions at the conclusion of our testimony. And now I d like to turn the remainder of the testimony over to Mr. Wolfgang. Good morning, I am Eric Wolfgang. I am the Board President of the Central York School District, and have previously served for seven years as a JOC member of the York County School of Technology. I wish to thank the committee for the opportunity to testify today. I am also a proud graduate of the York County School of Technology during which time my technical course of study at the school was their electronics program many years ago. I went on to get a post secondary degree in Electrical & Electronics Engineering Technology from Penn State and am still employed today in the field of electronics as a Quality Assurance Manager. There are 14 school districts in York County that comprise the sending districts of YCST. York Tech is one of only a few comprehensive technical schools throughout the state, whereby they supply not only the technical programs, but also all academic subject areas. Over the last several years, the school has expanded their offerings and altered their schedule in order to service parttime students from sending districts. These students may want a specific technical course of study, but wish to remain at their home school for everything else. In addition, as a fully comprehensive high school, there is a very large special education student population, which requires many additional dollars to support their education, as I am sure you are aware. Many of these students benefit greatly from a technical education which helps them become productive members of the future workforce. The school currently serves just under 1,700 students in grades 9-12 and a very large adult evening program. Because our tech school is comprised of 14 different sending school districts, it is becoming increasingly more challenging to meet the budgetary needs of the tech school, when each of our 14 districts are wrestling with our own budget constraints every year. York County has been one of the fastest growing areas of the state over the past decade, but state funding has not kept pace with this growth. We very much want to increase programming and student population at the school, but have had to proceed more slowly than we would have liked because of such a small amount of state funding that goes directly to the tech school. 7

8 The large adult education program helps the community greatly, but also adds to the on-going upkeep and maintenance of the building. The tech school is not allowed to maintain a fund balance of any significant amount making it difficult to plan for normal year-to-year maintenance of the facilities. When major unexpected expenses do arise, the 14 school districts have to come up with the necessary funds to address the concern, usually without any advance budgetary planning on their own budgets. As a product of the tech school, I have a great perspective on the importance of career and technical education and have remained committed to that belief during my 16 years on my school board. Looking at the issue from a statewide perspective, the system that was established is generally working, but its capacity is based on funding. PSBA has held for many years that the state should increase the amount of per-pupil state basic subsidy for CTCs so that school districts do not have to bear the majority of the costs. Currently, approximately 5% of a CTC s budget comes from federal Perkins funding, 10% or less comes from the state Career and Technical Education Subsidy, and the remainder about 85% or more comes from member school districts who pay tuition for their students who enroll in the CTC. Unfortunately, state funding for career and technical education has been level-funded over the past six fiscal years. While we recognize that this request for an increase is not easy considering our current budget discussion, we believe that CTCs are vital to the continuum of career training in Pennsylvania and are worth the investment. This investment could be built into a new funding formula on a weighted basis. PSBA also recognizes that the cost of equipment and materials for technical education is one of the largest items on their budgets, but is also one of the key components to making programs successful. The state should provide a level funding of a least 50% or greater for acquiring or updating equipment for career and technical centers and should award tax credits to businesses that make fiscal, goods or service donation to these schools. Thank you for your time today. We appreciate the opportunity to provide testimony and we look forward to your questions. 8

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