AFT President Randi Weingarten rightly was not much impressed with President Trump’s recent resort to vocational-school stereotypes in his State of the Union speech and his remarks at a Republican leadership retreat about vocational education and community colleges. The examples Weingarten cites of state-of-the-art career and technical education programs come from other parts of the country, but she could easily have drawn on many examples here in Texas. She commented:
Trump’s take on “vocational education”—out of date, uninformed
President Trump clearly needs an education about America’s career and technical education programs. They are not the vocational programs he recalls from his high school days; they are chock-full of programming that leads to jobs, opportunities and further learning. They are not just focused on auto repair, masonry and construction, as Trump called for, but also on health care, robotics, coding and engineering, and they are providing kids the skills they need for today’s economy. And frankly, community colleges have a broader and even more diverse set of opportunities.
I’d say Trump could ask his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, for a tutorial, but that probably won’t help since she spends more time trying to defund and destabilize public education than she spends in public schools and listening to teachers and communities.
I am quite surprised DeVos hasn’t alerted the president about the wonderful transformation of CTE programs, as she visited at least one of them with me in Van Wert, Ohio, in April 2017, where we got an in-person demonstration from the school’s robotics team at a school that won the state robotics championship.
Indeed, in 2017 alone, I visited 13 schools that feature robust CTE programs. These ranged from the Woodruff Career and Technical Center in Peoria, Illinois, which offers classes in health care, construction and law enforcement, to Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville, Louisiana, which offers Jump Start graduation pathways featuring courses on subjects from information technology to agriculture. At Bertram A. Hudson K-8 School in Birmingham, Alabama, I got to see kids build and race electric cars and construct drones. Great programs like these are in peril because Trump’s proposed budget makes deep cuts to career and technical education and job training.
Maybe DeVos and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta should visit some of these great workforce development programs with us to see why we are so proud of our public schools. And because DeVos has visited so few of these schools, next week, we’ll be bringing public schools to her doorstep, highlighting the great things she has not taken the time to see or acknowledge, and letting her know why teachers and communities are “public school proud.” Hopefully, she’ll share some of what she learns to help educate President Trump.