Bill would pump more funds into career tech

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Senate’s education budget committee last week approved a bill that would help schools boards purchase equipment for career and technical education.

Known as the 21st Century Workforce Act, it has already passed the House of Representatives, and the Senate is expected to consider the bill this week.

Rep. Mac Buttram, R-Cullman, who is the bill’s sponsor, said it would allow school systems to update their career technical equipment to industry standards and expand those programs.

As part of the bill, a $50 million bond issue will be allocated with:

• $20 million for a new 21st Century Workforce fund;

• $10 million to local schools in proportion to the number of career tech teachers; and

• $20 million to local systems based on the number of career tech students.

Local systems would apply for grants from the fund.

Local superintendents said they applaud legislators for their work toward career tech.

“I applaud our leaders for the emphasis on career and technical education,” Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said. “Our focus in Alabama is on college and career ready. This is one aspect of the career component. The $50 million bond issue will allow schools to improve and replace equipment. Career tech is a vital part of education, and we look forward to expanding opportunities for our students.”

Watson agreed.

“For a change, we are recognizing that all kids are not going to college,” Watson said. “We need plumbers, bricklayers, welders, etc. They can make good money. What we are doing is we are trying to push kids so that they can maximize growth potential. For those who can’t go to college, we want to make sure that they can succeed in society.”

Watson said the $50 million bond issue will go along way in helping reach that goal.

The bill also creates a 21st Century Workforce Grant committee, which will oversee the grant money and allocate it based on needs.

The state school superintendent, the secretary of commerce, Alabama Industrial Development Training director, Office of Career and Technical Education and Workforce Development director, chancellor of the two-year college system and a member appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley, who serves on his College and Career Ready Task Force, will serve on the grant committee.