Nevada Senate-Hopeful Heck Submits Technical Education Funding Bill

(Photo: Las Vegas Review Journal)

(Photo: Las Vegas Review Journal)

US Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), who is running for the US Senate seat of retiring US Sen. Harry Reid, has announced a bill that he hopes will change the way career and technical education funding is provided.

The bill is called the Career and Technical Education Equity Act, which Heck stated will ensure that Nevada continues to get its portion of federal career and technical education funding. This change will be accomplished by repealing the “hold harmless” stipulation of the funding formula.

The federal formula provided to states is based on population and poverty level and was put in place almost 20 years ago. The hold harmless requirement prevents states from receiving less funding than they got in 1998, according to Natalie Bruzda of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

This formula puts Nevada in harm’s way because of the state’s significant growth in population. The Congressional Research Service found that the new legislation would increase the state’s share of funding by an estimated 2.6%, or $258,000 in at least three years from the time it goes into effect.

But the director of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education at the Southern Regional Education Board, Dr. James R. Stone III, said he did not think the bill would be passed and added that the amount of money that would be accrued is minimal.

The Nevada Education Department reports that 76% of black students who were enrolled in a career and technical education program were assessed proficient in math compared to 60% of the school system’s general population.

Career and technical programs enable students to receive experience in distinct industries such as engineering, hospitality, nursing, and law enforcement.

Heck referenced a statement by the Obama administration which concerned a proposal to use some CTE monies for other programs.

“There’s not a whole lot of money that comes out of Washington, D.C., when it comes to helping fund career and technical education. [The bill] would re-do the formula to make sure that states that saw rapid growth … will not lose their critical CTE funding.”

At this time, Nevada receives roughly $9.7 million annually from the Perkins Career and Technical Education federal grants. In one year after the bill passes, that number would increase by $200,000 in one year and would top out at approximately $10 million every year, writes the Las Vegas Sun’s Ian Whitaker.

Without the increases that the bill is pushing, Nevada’s funding for CTE could face a reduction of up to 50%. Craig Statucki, president of the Nevada Association for Career and Technical Education, said:

“Districts across the state would no longer be able to provide the unique professional development that CTE teachers require to stay current with industry trends. New CTE programs at traditional high schools could not be developed to meet the needs of the emerging industry sectors of jobs, and some programs would need to be closed because of staffing cuts.”

The Associated Press reports that vocational education is not just for students who cannot make it in college, as it was perceived decades ago. Today, in fact, occupational training is coming back on the scene in many of the country’s high schools.

States, including Colorado, Louisiana, and California are creating “career pathways” that are a combination of training and academics centered on a unifying industry idea so that more students can continue on to a post-secondary education.

Congress is behind the concept. A reform bill adopted last year included technical and career education in what is defined as a well-rounded K-12 education.