School officials react to state’s decision to change CTE funding

Local career and technical education classes will lose funding after the Indiana State Board of Education approved a change to its funding formula on Friday.

Although state board members voiced displeasure with the funding proposal, a product of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, the nine-member board passed it unanimously, as Indiana law requires the state’s education budget to be passed by the end of the calendar year.

The changes are set to take effect during the 2020-21 school year.

Certain classes students must take to begin their graduation pathways requirements, which the state introduced as a mandate for all freshmen this year, will no longer receive funding. Instead, funding will be shifted toward higher level courses that students take to complete those pathways.

Some students can graduate by taking core academic classes or hitting certain cutoff scores on the SAT or ACT exams. For others, however, career and technical education classes, or CTE classes, are the path to a diploma.

Under the new funding formula, introductory classes, such as Nutrition and Wellness, Child Development, Adult Roles and Responsibilities, Interpersonal Relationships and Consumer Economics, which were funded last year at the rate of about $150 per credit, per student, will not be included in state funding, according to state documents.

Higher level classes, such as Advanced Accounting and Advanced Manufacturing II will see a bump in funding, from $400 and $680 per credit, per student, to $680 and $1,020, respectively. State funding of CTE classes will see an overall increase to $130 million from $120 million, but school officials say the shift in funding away from introductory classes will make it tougher for schools to provide classes that are vital to students who are still exploring their interests.

CTE courses at Central Nine Career Center, which offers advanced classes in areas such as welding technology and construction trades, will see an increase in funding. Funding cuts for introductory classes, however, may mean students are not given the opportunity to ever realize an interest in the trades and make it to Central Nine as upperclassmen, said William Kovach, director of the career center.

“Students who might want to take intro courses at their high school might not be able to take the course because the funding is gone,” Kovach said. “There’s a possibility that kids don’t have the opportunity to study things they might want to in more depth.”

Indian Creek schools will continue to offer introductory CTE classes, but the funding shift is a step in the wrong direction, said Andy Cline, assistant superintendent.

“There’s a concern about losing that funding source and the direct impact it will have on continuing to provide those courses, but it’s still critical to continue offering life skill courses: nutrition and wellness; child development; and interpersonal skills. It’s critical for kids to be exposed to (those classes) and explore,” Cline said.

“If we can’t offer opportunities for kids to explore here, we run the risk of not making sure they know of the bigger opportunities at Central Nine that would be there for them to dig deeper into a possible career.”

Originally set to vote on Dec. 4, the state board of education delayed its decision on the funding changes after it received a flood of feedback from Indiana educators and state education officials, said Molly Craft, spokesperson for the board.

“The members made the decision to delay consideration of the CTE funding recommendations,” Craft said. “They received a lot of feedback and input from the field and made the decision that a special meeting was warranted to ensure there was enough time to consider the recommendation and feedback that was received.”

Some of that initial feedback came from Jennifer McCormick, Indiana state superintendent of public instruction, who took to Twitter earlier this month to express her displeasure with the funding proposal.

“Again, decisions made in isolation and communicated in the 11th hour are not by accident,” McCormick wrote.

The cuts may require Edinburgh Community Schools to appropriate funds from its budget to ensure that it can keep offering those introductory classes, Superintendent Doug Arnold said.

Without the chance to explore her interests in introductory CTE classes, Center Grove High School Assistant Principal Jennifer Perkins might have never discovered her passion for education, Perkins said.

“I’m not sure it’s helpful,” Perkins said of the funding change. “Kids need an opportunity to explore different career pathways. I thought I would be a nurse and I took anatomy and it wasn’t what I wanted to do. The classes they would remove funding for allow kids to explore certain careers and learn about being an adult.”

The change will result in students feeling pressured to complete a pathway they are not fully interested in, Principal Jeffry Henderson said.

“It’s almost as though by changing the funding mechanism, there’s an effort to have us direct kids to complete pathways rather than allow kids to select them based on their level of interest or their career exploration,” Henderson said. “Kids may get halfway through and realize that’s not what they want to do. Funding could create pressure to ensure kids enroll in a capstone course.”

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The following CTE classes will lose funding under the new state formula:

  • Nutrition and Wellness
  • Child Development
  • Adult Roles and Responsibilties
  • Interpersonal Relationships
  • Consumer Economics