Lawmaker drafting bill to boost access to career-technical education

A bill to boost career-technical education opportunities for K-12 students could surface by the end of the week, says one lawmaker from East Idaho.

Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls, told EdNews Tuesday that he hopes to unveil by Friday a bill to make CTE more accessible for students, especially those in East Idaho.

Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls, presents the pared down funding formula bill during a senate education committee meeting on April 3. Photo by Sami Edge/Idaho Education News

“We need to get ahead of the curve to get our youth geared up for these kinds of jobs,” said Lent, a former Idaho Falls School Board member and training manager at Idaho National Laboratory.

Lent pointed to a forthcoming nuclear reactor testing center at INL, which INL Director Mark Peters has estimated will bring over 1,000 construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs afterward.

Lent said his bill aims to increase access to industry-aligned CTE programs in at least two ways:

  • Expanding access to CTE through partnerships between East Idaho high schools and the College of Eastern Idaho.
  • Increasing pay for CTE teachers who can compete for more lucrative jobs outside the classroom.

Improving access to CTE could also help boost high school graduation rates, Lent said. He pointed to the Idaho Falls School District’s 2019 grad rate of 73.5 percent — over 7 percentage points below the state average of 80.7 percent. Connecting more would-be graduates to CTE could underscore the connection between getting a diploma and getting a job in a CTE field, Lent believes.

“I’m really concerned that a large number of kids are slipping through the cracks,” he said.

Gov. Brad Little recently underscored in his State of the State address his recommendation for an additional $6 million in funding for new CTE facilities at the College of Eastern Idaho, Lewis-Clark State College, and the Department of Juvenile Corrections, in order “to strengthen our commitment to CTE in Idaho.”

Increasing access to industry aligned CTE programs in rural and remote districts was also a recommendation from Little’s Our Kids, Idaho’s Future K-12 task force last year. The recommendation didn’t go on to make the group’s shortlist, but state officials have said that doesn’t mean it would be left for dead.

Further Reading: See how one of the nation’s top-performing high-poverty schools uses CTE to help kids in poverty defy the odds

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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