Central Nine educators say certain classes at risk if bill passes

Career and technical educators are trying to persuade state lawmakers to reconsider taking away funding from certain classes.

Particularly, Central Nine Career Center educators are seeking a change in House Bill 1001, which was passed by the Indiana House of Representatives and awaits action in the Indiana Senate. The bill would divert funding toward courses that are considered “high value” and have a greater demand in the workforce, and eliminate funding for those that have a “less than moderate” value, according to the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet.

Central Nine teachers last week wore black in step with educators across the state who were protesting a shift in funding away from public schools and toward private schools, according to a news release from Central Nine Career Center.

“Current provisions in HB 1001 threaten to divert funding away from public schools, where 90% of students attend, to benefit private schools,” the news release said.

But the language regarding “less than moderate” value courses is especially troubling for teachers and the about 200 Central Nine students involved in those classes, which include cosmetology, culinary arts and visual communications, among other offerings, said Bill Kovach, Central Nine director.

For chef Clint Smith, who teaches Central Nine’s Culinary I class, the bill could pose a serious danger to the existence of his class if it is signed into law, he said.

“This would potentially have a significant impact on the aspects of food service and culinary arts we’re trying to do,” Smith said. “It would already detour or swerve or pivot any type of funding that is already pretty meager coming into the program. Nobody is comfortable talking about shutting a program down, but I think that is the most devastating potential impact.”

Brad Magness teaches visual communications at Central Nine, another program threatened by the bill. Cutting funding for the class would have a negative impact because of all the career fields that stem from it, Magness said.

"All of us in career and technical education have advisory boards and industry partners and universities we work with to offer dual credit," Magness said. "All those folks are appalled, to say the least, that they would cut funding for this. We do more than a lot of people think. There are so many avenues to travel just in my area: social media marketing, graphic design, the digital world has offered so many possibilities."

The purpose of what was called Blackout4Ed was to raise awareness about potentially harmful legislation and encourage people to contact their state lawmakers, he said.

“We agreed to wear black, take photos and send out social media posts to reach out to the community and raise awareness for a pretty heinous bill,” Smith said.

The stakes are high, and there is no guarantee efforts to sway lawmakers will be successful. If the bill passes, Central Nine won’t receive funding for programs that are considered less important by the state, Kovach said.

“We have been sending letters, emails, making phone calls to the senators to let them know that we oppose the idea of defunding these less than moderate programs or courses,” Kovach said. “(If it passes), next school year they will not get funded. We can offer (those classes), but will no longer receive extra funding from the state.”