Advocating for Effective CTE Policy

As the world evolves, so do the standards by which we live. Career and technical education is perhaps one of the most elite, vibrant, and practical realms of the United States education system. Since the formation of CTE with the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act of 1917, policymakers and society have viewed industry-based education as a necessity to ensure that the American workforce thrives. However, with an ever-changing world, comes ever-changing policy and funding sources.

Many educators and education professionals find advocating for effective federal policy and funding overwhelming at first. Funding for CTE remains a great concern. CTE funding is impacted by some factors we have little control over, like economic conditions, but others we can influence, like lack of knowledge and understanding of CTE among policymakers. Therefore, to combat the issue: How can we, as CTE professionals, tell our story and share the successes of our students? Some would lean toward advocacy and educating our policymakers about the importance of CTE. And, while that is a great avenue to traverse, I also firmly believe that showcasing student work and having student voice is perhaps the most powerful weapon in education. Give the students a voice – let them showcase their accomplishments – and you are sure to see an increased investment and interest from policymakers.

As a former agricultural education instructor, I often found that advocating for program funding was a challenge. However, the old adage of ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’ became ever so true. My students and I continually made our presence known within our school district and the community, and (usually) enjoyed the support of school policymakers, local elected officials, and even our state legislators. Why did we have the support? Because we were proficient in telling our story and branding our image. It all comes down to how our programs serve as a positive agent of change and have profound positive impacts within our communities. Society must see the value in a program in order to support and nurture it.

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act is vital to CTE programs across the nation. Without the financial support through Perkins Funding, many states would not be able to provide exceptional CTE curricula to the students they serve. Lack of funding would in essence have a direct impact on society as a whole. Cuts in federal funding would deplete the resources necessary to allow our graduates to be college prepped and career ready.

Moving forward… What can YOU do to help the cause? For starters, get the support of your local advisory board and community. Then, showcase the brilliant work of your students. And lastly, COMMUNICATE! Open the lines of communication with your policymakers and make sure it stays open – that means policymakers at all levels – local, state, and federal. Invite them to events. Send them newsletters. Keep them in the loop. It will make a world of difference – that’s a fact. Communication is and will always be key to the success of your program!