March came in like a lion as leaders and members of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) converged on Crystal City in Arlington, VA to learn, participate and advocate for CTE at ACTE’s National Policy Seminar. Weather and winds did their best to keep these dedicated professionals away from voicing a united front around policies impacting CTE. Winds in the Washington, D.C. area were so strong the Friday before ACTE arrived, the city had shut down…this is not a set-up for a bad joke with a punchline about the hot air coming from Federal Triangle… The ACTE board of directors and Fellows program for 2018 were slated to arrive on Saturday. However, some planes were rerouted to other airports, others (like this one) made attempts to land, whereas others arrived with limited complications. Everyone had arrived safely, albeit a little more ghostly than their departed location.
The ACTE National Policy Seminar is a unique opportunity for members and advocates of CTE to learn about the policies being discussed impacting CTE. Policies in 2018 focused on the much needed Carl Perkins reauthorization, the federal funding supporting CTE programs at high schools and 2-year colleges around the nation; increasing Perkins allocation to provide opportunities for students to learn and skill up in high demand careers of the local districts; advocating for CTE teacher training programs at 4-year colleges and universities; and encouraging legislators to keep the Office of Career, Adult and Technical Education (OCTAE) a separate entity in the U.S. Department of Education.
Day one of the event features speakers and breakout sessions addressing here and now policies to thoughts from the future analyzing technological trends. CTE professionals from around the country strategize talking points to share with federal policymakers, incorporating local examples of how the policies have made an impact on the legislator’s constituents. Some of the state teams are made up of a dozen or more, to as small as a single, dedicated individual. No matter the size, these CTE professionals are ready to conquer Capitol hill the next day, meeting with their elected officials and/or their staff.
Capitol hill visits are best scheduled in advance. There are many groups and organizations buzzing around the Capitol offices, all advocating for their causes and initiatives, so last minute visits are not in the best interest for all looking to be involved. Each legislator’s office is set up with items and reflections of home. Being from Wisconsin, it was nice to be hundreds of miles away and see familiar sites: Cheese, Case Tractors, and other state-based products and companies. Meetings and interactions with the office vary in length and intent. Legislators and staff members are interested to learn about local programs and how policies could impact efforts. Regardless of political lean, it was encouraging to have an opportunity to express support or concern and influence potential change.