Posted: 29 Sep 2016 06:30 AM PDT
The North Dakota legislature meets once every two years. In the last biennium, CTE programs were slashed by $2.2 million, and could be cut by as much as $3.4 million – 10% of the state’s total CTE budget – when the legislature returns in January. In an attempt to stop these cuts and restore previously-cut CTE funding, North Dakota ACTE executive director Rick Ross launched a statewide town hall tour to talk about CTE. Last week, I joined him to travel across the state.
Throughout our five-day statewide swing we attended town hall meetings in 11 different cities. I spoke about important trends in CTE, why CTE is a good investment of taxpayer dollars, relevant federal legislation, and how CTE is helping to fuel the talent pipeline so critical to the 21st century economy and North Dakota’s largest industries – agriculture, energy and manufacturing. Rick spoke about the specific implications that cuts to CTE were having, and about cutting-edge CTE programs throughout the state.
The tour included stops at both secondary and postsecondary institutions, and was attended by policymakers, local media, educators and students. The town halls proved to be a particularly effective way to spur a dialogue on CTE issues with state legislators ahead of the upcoming North Dakota legislative session. Local media outlets were also in attendance to cover a variety of innovative programs taking place in their own backyards. In fact, the town hall tour even prompted one paper’s editorial board to call on the state legislature to support CTE, calling cuts “pennywise and pound foolish.”
Oftentimes, the best way to effect change is by bringing relevant stakeholders together. These town halls provided a forum for legislators, business leaders, administrators, educators, students and other stakeholders to engage one another on the importance of CTE and how budget cuts would negatively impact local programs, and by extension, North Dakota’s economy. Classroom tours also allowed legislators and the community a firsthand look into 21st century CTE – a far cry from the more traditional “vocational” courses that many envision from their time in school.
To promote CTE in communities and state legislatures across the country, other states should consider ways, including by hosting similar events, to open communications between relevant players in the CTE ecosystem. Earning support and “buy-in” from the public is important – both to securing funding and increasing enrollment – and town halls offer the opportunity to show off local CTE programs. CTE is preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce, and it’s important that everyone knows it.
If you’re interested in learning more about the tour, or would like to talk about organizing one in your state, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com. Below are several photos from the North Dakota town hall tour.
Speaking at Lake Area Career Tech Center in Devils Lake, ND
Students in the diesel technology program at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, ND
Students participate in a welding class at North Valley Career and Technical Center in Grafton, ND. The class is also taught virtually to students in other parts of the state.
Town hall stop at the Career Tech Center at Magic City Campus High School in Minot, ND
Student in the petroleum production technology program at Williston State College in Williston, ND
Students in the wind energy technician program at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, ND