Georgia’s high schools could see changes in vocational education when it comes to who controls funding and content at the local level.

A new bill, HB 778, authored by State Representative Terry England (R- Auburn), who is chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which regulates the money from the state, looks to change how vocational training in high schools are governed and funded as the state continues to strengthen dual enrollment pathways.

Picture credit- GA House of Rep. photo archives.
State Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), House Appropriations Chairman.

The bill aligns with the various recommendations from the Rural Development Council which spent most of 2017 meeting at various locations developing recommendations to make rural Georgia economically competitive. Their main purpose was to bring forth legislation from the year-long discussions, and now HB 778 has been written.

The recommendations push forward a model sought after by politicians, known as the German-Style Apprenticeship program in correcting the occupational skills gap. However, researchers state that such a model may correct short-term skills gap, but that younger students need to have enough general academic skills to continue to build upon for long-term employment.

Governance of what is taught –

The bill looks to transfer the vocational division, known as Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education – CTAE for short, from the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) to the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG).  England’s bill looks to create new content standards established by the State Board of TCSG in consultation with the DOE’s State Board along with the Board of Regents; however, the State Board of Education at DOE would have to adopt the new standards. By transferring the direction of what is taught in the state’s high schools to TCSG, it also creates great influence on the credentialing of a local high school’s vocational teachers.

AllOnGeorgia discussed the main aspects of the bill with Rep. Terry England, the primary author of the bill. England was asked if teachers would be assumed by TCSG or would they remain employees of the local school district and who would handle the teacher credentialing.

England stated that the change would not impact high school teachers and they would remain a local system employee.

“There has to remain in place a way to handle employment issues at the local level.  While TCSG will be involved closely with all programs, the local principal and CTAE coordinator best know if the instructor is effective and fulfilling their responsibilities,” said England.

By remaining a school district employee, the teacher remains within the current teacher retirement system. Many school districts across the state must make sure instructors are qualified to teach within the K-12 system. Also, England added that curriculum alignment would be administered by TCSG which is similar to how the Advanced Place Courses are handled at the local level.

“The AP classes are designed by the College Board yet taught by the local teacher, this would be the same type arrangement,” said England.

Control of the funding and teacher impact  –

Other aspects of the bill would control how federal and state dollars are allocated to the school districts. Currently, vocational education in the state receives significant levels of federal dollars from Perkins Grants through the U.S. Department of Education. The federal dollars are split 50/50 between the secondary high schools and technical colleges within the state. The Georgia DOE sends and monitors funding to the local high schools, which can help fund a teacher’s salaries whereas TCSG sends money to the local technical colleges. However, this split is not required to be done in this manner in each state.

According to Perkins Grant Official at the U.S. Department of Education, Len Lintner, who has been monitoring Perkins and other vocational grants since 1978, says it does not matter who gives out the grants in the state, but there must be a way to monitor who separates it out from secondary (mainly high schools) and post-secondary (colleges).

Lintner says for Georgia to allow who controls the allocation under Perkins Act[m]ost of the duties of the post-secondary (TCSG) eligible agency delegates its authority to the day-to-day operations of CTAE in the state, so, for Georgia, it is done at the post-secondary level, and they make funds available to the secondary side of CTAE.”  

Under the bill, TCSG would assume all federal money for both high schools and technical schools. Also, the bill calls for 100 percent transfer of a local district’s earned state funding for vocational education from local school boards to TCSG through a memorandum of understanding.

As a whole, high school teachers’ salaries are funded by local districts through local and state dollars. However, vocational education teachers’ salaries are also supplemented with federal Perkins dollars depending on the teacher’s local contract. However, local teaching supplements for vocational teachers are said not to be impacted, as those are local dollars.

“The local supplement would still be the local supplement and so on.  The amount of funds remains the same coming to the local system earned the same way they do now as long as they are offering the courses,” explained England.

The Georgia Department of Education’s elected State School Superintendent Richard made clear in recent budget hearings that CTAE should remain under the purview of the DOE. The recommendations from the Rural Development Council did not ask the DOE about the transfer of the CTAE funding under the control of TCSG and DOE has expressed that they do not support the move.

“We oppose the recommendation to transfer CTAE to the Technical College System of Georgia. Georgia’s CTAE program is successful (for example, the graduation rate for Career Pathway completers is 96 percent – higher than the statewide average by 15.4 percentage points) and has responded directly and nimbly to workforce needs in our state. It’s a program that exists for the benefit of K-12 students – who will go on to multiple paths after high school including TCSG, USG, directly into a career, or into the military – and we believe it belongs under the purview of the state agency that serves those students,” said Meghan Frick, GADOE Spokesperson.

In recent years, some responsibilities have been duplicated within the state’s DOE concerning school turnaround and improvement. Last year, Governor Deal signed into law a bill that would create a Chief Turnaround Officer within the DOE answering only to the State Board. Currently, the DOE has a School Improvement Division to oversee failing schools. Similarly, the move to transfer responsibilities of the state’s high school vocational education and funding from DOE to TCSG could have untendered consequences at the local level, particularly in rural school districts.

Rep. England was asked if this bill is an effort to lessen the level of government by reducing the influence of the Georgia Department of Education’s role in vocational education.

“That is for each and every [House]member to decide for themselves.  I would say that that there still has to be a relationship with DOE for CTAE to be successful, but TCSG has as its primary mission to develop a workforce for our state,” England said. “TCSG, I feel, is better suited to proactively work with business and industry to understand their needs as it relates to the workforce.  If there is a seamless tie between CTAE and TCSG and program alignment, that job is much easier.”

With changes to the control of funding from federal and state formula distribution and content standards under TCSG, local schools boards could see reduced control over local curriculum development for vocational courses and teacher recruitment.

If the bill becomes law, TCSG would be the designated recipient of federal CTAE funds and local boards would have to apply for grants and, if signed by the governor, the policy would start on July 1, 2019.

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Jeremy Spencer grew up in rural South Georgia and has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, school administrator, and state education official. Jeremy is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus is local news, statewide education issues, and statewide political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as an education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns.  Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. He and his wife have lived in Camden County for 17 years, and they have two teenage children. Jeremy and his family live in St. Marys, GA and attend the Harbour Worship Center in Kingsland.

camden@allongeorgia.com

 

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