Leaders scrutinize merits of proposals as money dwindles

State leaders are considering the highest priority capital projects as the pool of grant money for secondary career technical education dwindles to the final $10 million.

They want to send money where it can do the most good and impact the most students.

Interest in expanding CTE programs through Idaho Career Ready Students remains robust throughout the state. Another $50 million worth of grant proposals poured in this month to Superintendent Debbie Critchfield’s office. The program has just under $10 million left.

ICRS is a $45 million effort by Critchfield to expand workforce training opportunities. Grant recipients are selected by an 11-member committee made of industry leaders, career technical educators, lawmakers, education leaders and Critchfield. Three subcommittees were formed to handle the large number of applications: existing programs, new programs and capital projects. Capital projects met Monday.

The subcommittee voted on which 33 proposals it will recommend to the full committee. Subcommittee members are Clay Long, administrator, Idaho Division of Career Technical Education; Lex Godfrey, secondary CTE instructor, Career Technical Educators of Idaho; and Robb Bloem, StanCraft Companies, representing industry.

The committee’s process involves, among other issues, analyzing cost estimates, the quality of a proposal, the number of students impacted and the proposed program’s sustainability.

Nezperce School District’s $65,000 greenhouse facility replacement purchase was a “no-brainer.”

But a University of Idaho proposal to create a $700,000 forestry and natural resources collaborative of high schools was not favored. They were unsure if an ICRS grant could be awarded to a university, because the guidance indicates it’s limited to school districts. However, districts can partner with community colleges for apprenticeships. 

The collaborative would serve all school districts in Regions 1 and 2 who want to offer a pathway in forestry or logging. The facility would be constructed on the university’s experimental forest. You can read the full proposal at this link.

“I’m not in favor,” Long said.

The committee felt the Lake Pend Oreille school district’s $4.5 million cooperative career technical center has merit and will recommend it for funding consideration. The center would serve Lake Pend Oreille, West Bonner and Boundary County school districts. Five high schools would benefit.

Superintendent Becky Meyer “has a ton of experience in making something like this succeed,” said Godfrey.

The rural students in North Idaho need access to a career technical center with diverse and robust programs to expand opportunities and increase the qualified workforce. Many students in North Idaho struggle to see viable options beyond high school, according to the proposal. To read the full proposal, use this link.

“There’s such a need up here,” Meyer said during a video conference call.

The capital project subcommittee’s recommendations will be discussed on Feb. 16, when the full ICRS committee meets to finalize spending decisions.

ICRS has received more grant requests than it has money to allocate. In the span of seven months, approximately $35.8 million has already been set aside for 35 approved proposals. A total of 150 applications were submitted, totaling $133 in spending requests. Only 34% of the requests can be funded. The Department of Education is administering the program.

Grants are intended to create or expand pathways into welding, fabrication, machining, agriculture, forestry, mining, nursing and cyber security. The program incentivizes rural schools to align programs with their community and industry needs. The money should reduce the problem of finding resources needed to sustain high-quality career technical programming.


Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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