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Indiana Legislation Threatens Lower-Paying CTE Programs

Under an Indiana House budget proposal approved in February, several career courses such as radio/TV, cosmetology, culinary arts, nutrition science, energy industry and fashion would lose funding.

by Sue Loughlin, The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind. / March 18, 2021
(TNS/Stacey Wescott)

(TNS) — South Vermillion High School just recently got its student-run newscast off the ground as part of a new TV/media class.

But now, teacher Dave Basan and district officials wonder if they'll be able to offer the class in the future.

Under an Indiana House budget proposal approved last month, the state would cut funding for several career courses, including Radio/TV, cosmetology, culinary arts, nutrition science, energy industry and fashion.

Those career and technical education [CTE] courses, currently funded at $200 per student, would be cut to zero.

According to a Chalkbeat Indiana report, "House Republicans say they are not aiming to undermine career education, and in fact, the budget projects an increase in money for career training of nearly 8 percent next year. But it diverts aid from programs in fields that state analysis considers low paying and low demand. That funding would instead go to courses in areas that are typically higher paying, such as nursing, biomedical science, and welding."

Programs are classified under "high value," "moderate value," or "less than moderate value" based on factors such as demand and average wages for each profession. Radio/TV is considered "less than moderate value."

The House budget bill "eliminates CTE funding for the less than moderate programs," Basan said, as his students created promotional videos for various classes.

"Right now, we get so much per student to help with our programs. If this bill passes, that money goes out the door," he said.

The class just started in January and came about last semester after Principal Mark Schimmel asked Basan to work with students to livestream events that families could not attend in-person because of COVID.

Now that COVID numbers are going down and athletics events are outside, students are focusing on a newscast recorded first period that includes school news, weather and sports; it is shown fourth period during home room.

"The kids worked really hard trying to get this off the ground," Basan said.

Students are learning to use various software programs, including Open Broadcaster Software for recordings and Adobe Premier Pro for video editing. They create their own graphics.

"This is something they can take and either use in different classes now or use down the road if they choose to go to college and pursue this profession," Basan said.

If funding is cut, he's not sure the school will be able to continue the program. "We kind of rely on that money," he said, and it has helped with equipment purchase.

While much of the state focus is on STEM, it should not be at the expense of courses that can help students get jobs they are interested in after high school, he said. Basan also teaches some of the STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] courses.

"I think the focus has been so high on getting STEM off the ground, we're kind of forgetting about the career part of it. A lot of our kids are going to go right into the workforce," he said. Those programs targeted for funding cuts provide valid career options for students.

In a statement, Rep. Bob Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, said, "We are at a critical point in growing our state's workforce. As more employers open up shop in Indiana, the need for highly skilled workers continues to grow. Many of these positions do not require a college degree, but they do require some form of additional training. The House budget proposal, which is currently being considered by the Indiana Senate, works to incentivize career and technical education programs that prepare students for the high-demand, high-wage careers offered in Indiana."

State Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, said of the concerns about CTE funding cuts, "I know it's being looked at. I'm concerned as well with CTE funding."

In looking at proposed CTE funding for Clay and Vigo school districts, the House budget includes overall funding increases for both — 9 percent for Vigo County schools and 10.7 percent for Clay Community schools, he said.

"I'm trying to get clarification," Ford said.

"Where they are going, they've been studying in the state what are the jobs that need to be filled. They are trying to fund more of those jobs that are in demand is the goal," Ford said. But he believes more of a regional approach may be needed, because Terre Haute might have different jobs in demand than Fort Wayne, for example.

On the Senate side, "We're still trying to figure out the CTE and the budget" and how CTE will be funded, he said.

But he supports the approach being used because "the pot is somewhat limited. We should be enticing kids to go into professions where there is a demand in our marketplace," Ford said.

State Rep. Tonya Pfaff, D-Terre Haute, believes students "need choices, not just the ones we like best. They need classes that they can explore and learn what their passion is." On the House side, she offered an amendment to help restore funding for the courses targeted for funding cuts.

The Vigo County School Corp. also would be affected, said Bill Riley, director of communications.

While overall CTE funding might increase, CTE programs are funded by career pathway. "It's hard to keep a program if there is no funding for that pathway," he said.

One pathway of concern in Vigo County is in the area of energy, Riley said. "We have traditionally sent quite a few students to a Duke Energy apprenticeship program" to train as lineworkers, "a really good-paying job" once the apprenticeship program is completed, he said.

Loss of funding for that program "would really have an impact," Riley said. "We have a lot of energy jobs here in the Wabash Valley."

In terms of culinary arts, with Terre Haute about to get a new convention center and casino, there should be a great demand for workers in that area, Riley said. Hospitals and universities also need employees with expertise in nutrition and food service.

Among the students in Basan's class TV/media class is Emily Taylor, a sophomore. She'd like to eventually go into acting and "I think it really helps me with that."

She's one of the news anchors on the daily newscast. "It's helped me get more comfortable in front of the camera," she said. "I really like this class."

Easton Terry took the class because "being in front of the camera is always something I thought would be fun." He's announced at sports games, but "being in front of the camera and putting it out there for the whole school to see and the rest of the world — since it goes on YouTube — is kind of cool."

He's the weatherman for the newscast.

Terry hopes funding isn't cut for the program. He understands other classes maybe be a higher priority, "but some people may want to pursue a career in this, and it gives them a first-hand opportunity to see what it's like and see if they actually enjoy it or want to pursue something else. It's great to see in high school, before you have to pay a lot of money for it" through post-secondary education.

(c)2021 The Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Ind.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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