I’m Kathryn Zekus and I’m the new Senior Associate for Federal Policy. I’ll be leading Advance CTE’s government relations efforts, including advancing our federal legislative priorities, engaging Advance CTE’s members in advocacy efforts, and maintaining and growing meaningful partnerships with relevant stakeholders.
Given the renewed energy around reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins), I’m especially excited to jump into this work and had great opportunities to do so this past week at the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) National Policy Seminar (NPS) in Washington, D.C. Some major highlights from NPS were Josh Kraushaar’s keynote address, which pushed the audience to think about political capital, the state of the party politics in the U.S., and what may be in store in 2018, noting that Democrats only need 24 additional House seats to be in the majority and that this is a more likely outcome than big gains in the Senate, from his perspective as Political Editor at the National Journal.
Additionally, Kim R. Ford, Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education, encouraged the audience to maintain its commitment to Career Technical Education (CTE), noting that now is the time to lift up the positive outcomes associated with CTE. She also called on the audience to transform the language used to describe the opportunities CTE provides by emphasizing how it positions students for success in life.
Lastly, Sarah Raikes, 2017 ACTE Teacher of the Year, shared what advocacy for CTE means to her and urged her colleagues to jump into advocacy efforts wholeheartedly. Her succinct message and inspiring personal story was an excellent example of effective advocacy and a great conclusion to the day.
The next day, NPS organized opportunities for ACTE’s membership to meet with their members of Congress to advocate for CTE. The day ended with a reception sponsored by the Senate CTE Caucus, Project Lead the Way and ACTE where attendees heard from Senators Todd Young (R-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) about their bipartisan commitment to CTE. In addition to hearing from these CTE champions, students from all over the country showcased their innovative CTE projects, inventions and ideas. The student presentations were incredibly impressive and many focused on solving real-world problems. For example, one student designed a device for the inside of an athlete’s helmet to cool him/her down during physical activity! Hearing from students’ about their educational experiences brought CTE to life for all who attended the reception.
The last day of NPS focused on the teacher education pipeline, and included panel discussions that touched on the nuances of the issue, the variety of state and local contexts that impact it and tangible solutions that the audience could implement to support the recruitment and retention of CTE educators. In addition, our very own Kate Kreamer discussed the findings from our recently released report, The State of Career Technical Education: Increasing Access to Industry Experts in High Schools. All in all, NPS was a great start to my first week at Advance CTE and a valuable learning experience – I’m already looking forward to my next CTE meeting, the 2017 Advance CTE Spring Meeting!
Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate, Federal Policy