Meeting with Democratic Senators

This morning I accompanied Kim to a meeting convened by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.  The Committee invited Kim, along with other workforce and education association leaders, to discuss with them ways of developing the 21st century workforce.  The meeting was co-chaired by Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Patty Murray of Washington, who also chairs the subcommittee that oversees the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act.

One of the overarching problems addressed by both Senators and invitees was the growing number of college dropouts.  When asked why students drop out, several people pointed to the skyrocketing cost of college tuition and the lack of family support.  Kim also mentioned that at the high school level, many students dropout because they lack focus.  Students don’t always see the relevance of what they are doing in school to the workplace or higher education.  This lack of focus can lead students to drop out of high school or to enter college without a clear understanding of why they are there or what they are going to do when they leave.  CTE can provide students with this focus, and show them the variety of options they have after high school.  Kim then addressed the growing problem that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has created for CTE: with all the requirements imposed by NCLB, many students have no time in their schedules to take CTE classes, and some of these electives are being cut.  For this reason, Perkins should be part of the discussion when NCLB is reauthorized.

Bryan Albrecht of ACTE and George Boggs of AACC touched upon the affect that the economy is having on community colleges.  Enrollments are up, but resources are sorely lacking.  According to AACC, community colleges now serve 46% of students enrolled in higher education.  If community colleges are to provide educational and training opportunities to this growing number of individuals, they are going to need an infusion of resources, or else they may have to start turning students away.

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