Democrats push for middle school CTE programs
CHARLESTON — Democrats in the West Virginia Legislature are calling for students statewide to participate in career and technical education at an earlier age.
Sen. Glenn Jeffries, D-Kanawha, Delegate Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, and Delegate Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, announced Monday they would introduce legislation in both the House and Senate to help school systems create career and technical education programs for middle school students.
A push toward technical education would not only provide students with needed skills and career opportunities, but also could bring businesses to West Virginia, Robinson said.
“What if West Virginia was the most educated and skilled workforce of all the 50 states?” he said. “What if West Virginia was the destination for all companies, entrepreneurs, to come here and find the most educated skilled workforce in the country?
“This all starts in connecting with students at an early age and introducing them to the wide spectrum of skills they can earn,” Robinson said.
Marshall County has piloted middle school CTE programs and it is time to expand them throughout the state, Zukoff said.
“We have a highly successful program,” she said. “All three of our middle schools have CTE programs.”
The Marshall County program includes career counselors, a jobs counselor for outgoing students, and this summer a two-day CTE middle school camp will be held to teach students about different available trades, Zukoff said.
“Our students are exposed to the workforce, the need, the different kinds of jobs that they would have available through out CTE programs,” she said. “I’m here to tell you that it works.”
Though not many specific details were given Monday, Robinson said the House legislation would set the structure of the programs while the Senate bill would concern funding. Jeffries said an early draft of the Senate bill included $5 million in grant funding for school systems, but did not give final numbers Monday.
Grant funding will allow counties with fewer resources to better implement these programs, Jeffries said.
“Our schools will be able to come back to the counties to ask for funding to be able to implement these programs,” he said. “The school would have to come up with the curriculum and what the cost would be and submit it to the board of education.”
“We have these career and technical centers all over the state, but in a lot of situations, they get the leftover funding from the rest of the schools,” said Robinson. “They have to be a priority.”