A House appropriations hearing Thursday on the president’s budget proposal for the U.S. Education Department focused mainly on K-12 issues, but a few lawmakers noted that they would like to see more of a spotlight on trade career opportunities as an option to four-year degrees.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle encouraged U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to promote career and technical education (CTE) more in the face of growing concerns over increasing college costs and student debt — though Republicans expressed concerns that the Biden administration was clamping down unfairly on proprietary institutions with CTE programs.
During his in-person testimony before the subcommittee that oversees education appropriations, Cardona highlighted programs in the administration’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget intended to provide an educational pathway toward trade and technical careers, including the proposed $200 million Career-Connected High Schools Initiative. It would provide competitive grants to support partnerships between local educational agencies, higher education institutions (including community colleges) and employers to support early enrollment in postsecondary and career-connected coursework, work-based learning opportunities, and academic and career-connected instruction across the last two years of high school and the first two years of postsecondary education.
Cardona said such a program also would help to create a system that would preserve good CTE programs. He cited a recent visit to Henry Ford College in Michigan which has a program that prepares high school students to transition into college and into waiting career and technical jobs. But there are only “pockets of excellence” like this program across the country, he said, explaining that too often a good program fades when the innovative leaders who started it leave. The Career-Connected High Schools Initiative would ensure that such programs would remain and thrive, he added.
Child care opens opportunities
In a discussion about parent students and their challenges, Cardona highlighted the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS), which supports the participation of low-income parents in postsecondary education through the provision of campus-based child care services. He cited a student he met during a recent visit to Bergen Community College in New Jersey who accessed its CCAMPIS program.
“She wouldn’t be able to go to school if it weren’t for CCAMPIS,” he said.
Such programs are providing an opportunity to reach students who didn’t think postsecondary education was an option for them, Cardona added.
“When I talk about re-imagining education, we must look at this as an opportunity to attract students who may not be traditional students,” he said. “There are many people during the pandemic that had an epiphany and wanted to change their trajectory in life, and they want to go back to school.”
Questions about ARP spending
Several Republicans also questioned Cardona about how some school systems are spending American Rescue Plan funds, citing examples of school districts using the funds to install turf athletic fields and upgrades to fitness equipment instead of addressing loss of learning and mental health issues.
Cardona said he didn’t know off the top of his head how much ARP money was yet unspent among higher education institutions, but he said accountability for those funds is a top issue.
The House subcommittee will hear from U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on May 17 about the administration’s budget proposal for the U.S. Labor Department.