Viewing blog posts written by Gino DiCaro

California career tech education plummets in 2013

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Feb. 9, 2014

Last week the state released its new data on career and technical education enrollments in the state's public high schools.  While overall high school enrollment was down less than one percent in 2013, career technical education course enrollments were down almost 12 percent and CTE teachers had declined by almost 20 percent.  

California manufacturers continue to find a growing lack of skilled workers out of our high schools, our community colleges and our universities.  The state's public schools must find ways to bring back these courses and expose our students to the tremendous opportunities of manufacturing skills and careers.


Career Tech Chart

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Sen. Rod Wright scores one for equal respect for all students' dreams

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on May 26, 2009

Last Thursday, the California State Senate voted in support of Sen. Wright's SB 381 on an overwhelming and bipartisan vote of 32-2  (2 no's: Simitian and Wiggins -- 5 abstains: Alquist, Cedillo, Oropeza, Romero, Wolk).  Over the weekend, the most emailed article out of the New York Times was a piece, written by Matthew Crawford, on how we have devalued working with our hands. The two items together represent a growing shift back to education reality and the fulfillment of all our students' dreams. 

Crawford summed up how, over time, our country has begun to view our children's success:
"A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive. There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children."

The fact that SB 381 passed so overwhelmingly shows that we might be reaching the tipping point for a more balanced educational system that provides more than the traditional access to a resume of academic credentials, but options for technical skills and careers.

SB 381 calls for curricular balance in school districts that adopt the UC/CSU course admission requirements (known as "a-g") as a high school graduation requirement, by also requiring those districts adopt alternative graduation coursework that includes the core academics currently mandated by the state, along with a series of at least three career technical education classes.

We must not forget also, that this bill is a simple and clear reminder to districts of their legal obligation to maintain curricular equity and balance, as outlined in Education Code Sections 51224 and 51228:
51224. The governing board of any school district maintaining a high school shall prescribe courses of study designed to provide the skills and knowledge required for adult life for pupils attending the schools within its school district. The governing board shall prescribe separate courses of study, including, but not limited to, a course of study designed to prepare prospective pupils for admission to state colleges and universities and a course of study for career technical training.
More 51228

California's manufacturers offer high paying but very technical careers to our workforce.  These jobs play an important role in our society and pay, on average, $20,000 more than service sector wages for our hard working families.  At the very least, students should have the choice of exposure to these skills and this particular pathway.   SB 381 takes a big step toward equality for all students' dreams and, after weeks of internal legislative squabbling, garnered almost unanimous support.  SB 381 now moves to the Assembly. Stay tuned.

Here's some video from the floor debate that's worth your time:

SB 381 Author, Sen. Rod Wright's, closing speech (4:41)

Sen. Mark Wyland on SB 381 (6:31)

Sen. Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on SB 381 (4:46)

Sen. Bob Dutton, on SB 381 (1:08)

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Walters nails it on education

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on April 22, 2009

Yesterday, I wrote about how Dan Walters missed the mark on California's job woes.  Today, Walters nailed it on education.  He all but declared California's recently imposed high school exit exam a failure and the continued one-size-fits-all education system a serious threat to our children and workforce.

This blog and the many manufacturers it represents (along with the emerging torch bearer for the state's career technical education needs, the Get REAL coalition) gives equal respect for all students' dreams by demanding non-discriminatory educational resources to attain those dreams.  A mantra that has fallen flat in California's $60 billion education community.   That notion is substantiated by the fact that, over the past 10 years, high school dropouts have increased by 27 percent (reaching annual dropout rates around 35 percent) while crucial and inspiring technical courses have declined by 20 percent (and 50 percent over the last two decades).

Career technical education is often referred to in a positive light by the media and policymakers.  In fact there have been 253 CTE related bills introduced between 2000 and 2008, but take a look at recent policies and a few comments  during the continued CTE devastation.   Bottom line - rhetoric is getting our students nowhere in an education system that continues to grow in a one-size-fits-all manner.

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Sac Bee misses the most important education cuts

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Jan. 13, 2009

In this morning's piece on the California Teachers Association and their proposed tax increase, the Sacramento Bee editorial board mentioned that every aspect of education had taken a hit except teacher salaries.   The Bee editorial board wrote, "While virtually everything in education has taken a hit -- academic programs, art and music, counseling, books, labs -- teacher salaries remain among the top 10 in the nation."

We take one major exception with that information and the overall article.  California manufacturers have a substantial stake in our high school career technical education programs and rely upon them for critical workforce both from college and straight out of high school.  These high wage employers have suffered as a result of a 40 percent decline in student access to these programs over the last 20 years (see chart below and here's a prime example showing CTE is the last priority).  That the Bee did not mention one of the largest and most dramatic declines in our education system could be an oversight but it's a hard number to miss and deserves proper attention.

It deserves that attention because the state categorical spending for career technical education is about to become extinct with the flexibility being given to schools to raid these funds.  The Get REAL coalition put out a release today making a hard case for securing what's left of vocational programs.   These programs are absolutely essential to California's economic recovery and one can argue the lack of access to these courses has contributed to the overall problem.  Our students need relevance in their high school course work to find their path to success.  Without it we are left with more dropouts -- already above 30 percent -- and too many high school graduates with limited workforce skills or college inspiration.

The media, the Governor, the Legislature and CTA must understand that they have whittled these critical career programs down to the bone and, for now, we must at the very least protect existing funds or risk our economic recovery and our students' success.

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California can learn from Chicago's agriculture students ... yes, 'agriculture'

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Oct. 27, 2008

Don't miss this NPR piece on the impressive success of an urban agricultural science high school in Chicago's south side.

It shows how a high school can, at the same time, provide a hands-on agricultural science program along with a traditional college-preparatory education.  600 students apply to participate and travel up to an hour to attend.   The school features a 72-acre working farm where they learn husbandry, farm fish, grow corn, poinsettias, apples and more, milk cows, and sell their commodities based on an ever-changing market, shedding light on an entire modern agricultural spectrum, from Illinois' bean fields to the Chicago Board of Trade.  The school records only a six percent dropout rate.  Sixty-one percent of the students are African American, 27% are Caucasian and 12% are Hispanic.

Whether it's agriculture, bioscience, raw manufacturing, or otherwise, California's high school students continue to suffer the losses of valuable career education courses like the ones featured in this piece -- curriculums that use innovation, experimentation and enterprise to teach skills and expose students to the success and opportunity they need most.   California has allowed the disintegration of these types of programs for a long time but the state's budget problems now threaten a close-to-extinct statewide vocational system.  Already more than 30 percent of California's high school students drop out and only two of ten students go on to get a four-year college degree.   Cutting more career technical education will only make California's economic problems worse, leaving more dropouts and high school graduates with little or no skills to take advantage of tremendous opportunities in our increasingly technical and hands-on workforce.

The major hurdle, among many, is California's unwillingness to require, fund and measure these courses in public education.  Try integrating a program like Chicago's ag science curriculum in a California public high school and you'll run up against funding issues, "time-in-school-day" problems, A-G University of California enrollment requirement road blocks, and others.  Simply put, it wouldn't happen ... even in a state with 400,000 agricultural jobs.   Last year, CMTA and the Get REAL coalition were defeated on all major career technical education reform bills.  One of those bills -- SB 672 by Sen. Tom Torlakson -- specifically would have allowed high schools to take existing funds (after all prop 98 allocations) and implement programs like these for graduation.   Here's how it went down -- All the democrats except one abstained, basically killing the bill without publicly killing the bill.

Like 'Da Bears from the same midwestern region, we'll be back next year, as committed as ever ... and we might even fly out some ag students from Chicago.

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