Election 2016: Pence’s CTE Record in Indiana Hints at Republican Ticket’s Education Agenda

This is the first part of a series exploring the 2016 presidential candidates’ positions, records and statements about Career Technical Education (CTE). This post examines the Republican ticket.

Trump PenceLacking an Education Record, Trump Makes Nods to Parental Choice

Coming from the private sector, Republican Nominee Donald Trump has a limited record on education. Yet he has provided some hints as to what an education agenda would look like under his administration, including a smaller role for the federal government, more choice for parents, and more employable college degrees.

Trump’s campaign website advocates more power for parents, arguing that “education has to be at a local level. We cannot have the bureaucrats in Washington telling you how to manage your child’s education.” The real estate tycoon voiced similar sentiments in his Republican National Convention speech, promising to empower “parents [to] send [their kids] to a safe school of their choice.”

While Trump, to our knowledge, has not explicitly endorsed Career Technical Education  (CTE) as an educational strategy, there is some evidence that CTE would be included in a plan to expand parental choice. The Republican party’s 2016 platform calls for “options in learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools.” If this is any indication of what a Trump administration would look like, then CTE would likely be a priority.

In regards to higher education, the Trump campaign’s national co-chairman, Sam Clovis, hinted in an interview with Inside Higher Ed that the campaign wants reforms that would incentivize getting degrees that lead to jobs over liberal arts degrees. He argues that schools should put some “skin in the game” and share some of the risk when students pursue degrees that do not lead to high-wage jobs. This would likely lead colleges to make decisions based on students’ prospective majors and post-graduation employment prospects.

In Indiana, Pence Spearheaded Regional Collaboration and Invested in Expanding CTE

Governor Mike Pence, in contrast, has had 12  years in the U.S. House of Representatives and nearly four years as governor of Indiana with which to demonstrate his CTE chops. His education record in the House is short: he voted against the No Child Left Behind Act on the grounds that it put too much power in the hands of the federal government, and voted for the Carl D. Perkins Act of 2006. Since his election as Governor of Indiana in 2012, however, Pence has made a concerted effort to prioritize CTE in schools all across the state, emphasizing the viability of both college and career pathways, which he calls “two Plan A’s.”

Most would say that Pence’s résumé in Indiana is CTE friendly. The crown jewels in his CTE record are the regional Indiana Works Councils and the state-level Career Council, both of which he worked with the state General Assembly to create during his first year in office.

The Indiana Works Councils include 11 regional boards, each composed of education and business leaders who work locally to align CTE programs with regional workforce needs. Together the councils have provided more than $4.3 million to support innovative CTE curricula across the state, which in turn reached more than 2,600 students in the first year.

At the state level, the Indiana Career Council has brought together leaders in education and industry to develop and drive CTE strategies across the state. With a three-pillar strategic plan and ongoing reviews of education and workforce needs, the Council has been the torchbearer for linking K-12, postsecondary and adult CTE to Indiana’s high wage, high demand economic sectors.

The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce invited Pence to speak at a hearing in 2015 about expanding opportunity in America’s schools and workplaces. In his testimony, Pence once again reinforced the need for two “Plan A’s” and urged the committee to ensure that non college-bound students “can thrive in their future careers, and one way to do this is to again make career and technical education a priority.”

While the Republican ticket has yet to articulate a proposal to expand and invest in CTE at the national level, we are hopeful that, given the Republican party’s platform and Pence’s record in Indiana, CTE would be a priority in a Trump-Pence administration.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

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