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Oklahoma CareerTech Damaged by Federal Cuts

"Federal cuts, when combined with additional proposed state cuts we are hearing about at the legislature could close 90 CareerTech programs in high schools to about 10,000 enrollments. Technology centers, skills centers (CareerTech programs behind prison walls) and the state CareerTech agency will also feel the state and federal cuts."

Congress approved a final funding bill that completely eliminates funding for Tech Prep as well as basic state grants by $37.3 million. The cuts will impact funds going out on July 1 for the 2011-2012 school year.

For Oklahomans, this means a $2 million reduction in the federal funding provided by the Carl D. Perkins Act. When coupled with possible state funding cuts Oklahoma CareerTech's ability to serve students who could benefit from CareerTech education or who plan on continuing their education into college will be severely affected.

"Federal cuts, when combined with additional proposed state cuts we are hearing about at the legislature could close 90 CareerTech programs in high schools to about 10,000 enrollments,"  said Phil Berkenbile, director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. "Technology centers, skills centers (CareerTech programs behind prison walls) and the state CareerTech agency will also feel the state and federal cuts."

Perkins provides federal funds to states for the purpose of enhancing academic and technical skills of career and technology education student by implementing high standards, linking secondary and postsecondary programs, and providing professional development and technical assistance to career and technology educators.

The bulk of the Perkins federal cuts, about $1.6 million, will go to Title II Funding - also known as Tech Prep. About $400,000- $500,000 of federal funding proposed cut from Title I of Perkins - also known as "regular Perkins" - provides federal funds to secondary schools, technology centers, and community colleges offering associate of applied science degrees.

At the local level, funds are used for enhancing career guidance and counseling, providing innovative, high-tech equipment in career tech programs in high schools, technology centers, and community colleges.

Tech Prep classes and majors include a college component and provide federal funds to technology centers and community colleges in support of development of technology center-to-community college alignment. This allows high school students to earn college credit in technical programs while still enrolled in high school.

Perkins funding supports the training and education that leads to high-wage, high-demand employment in new and emerging technologies, encourages innovation and supports educational mandates.

"Now that Tech Prep funding is eliminated, this program will not function at its current level of success by providing savings for Oklahoma families," Berkenbile said. "Many of the opportunities to increase student performance will not be available."

In addition, budget cuts to 'regular Perkins' will adversely affect students in the classroom by reducing or possibly eliminating materials and technology such as industry-related  lab equipment for CareerTech's biotechnology education or alternative farming methods like wind or aqua farming.

"High school students and adults enrolled in a Tech Prep career major have had the option to enroll concurrently in a community college through a cooperative alliance and simultaneously earn college credit hours," Berkenbile said. "Last year, for example, Oklahoma CareerTech students were enrolled in more than 73,000 college credit hours."

Because of this partnership with Oklahoma Higher Education, CareerTech students have graduated not only with a diploma but transcripted college credit toward an associate of applied science degree and industry certifications.

In Oklahoma during the 2009-2010 academic year, 28 technology centers, 15 colleges, and 378 sending schools partnered with local business and industry representatives to form Tech Prep consortia across Oklahoma. These consortia serve 67 percent rural schools. Tech Prep made it possible for 8,702 adult and high school students to transcript 73,042 college credit hours.

Cooperative alliances delivered more than 31,900 total hours of professional development to 4,970 contacts including counselors, principals, and instructors in common education, CareerTech and higher education.

"Cooperative alliances will continue to exist," Berkenbile said. "But the funding cuts will eliminate many of the services essential to help students have easy access to this opportunity.

By Ann Houston, Communications and Marketing  ahous@okcareertech.org

Posted April 15, 2011

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