Implications of California’s 2018-19 Budget for Career and Technical Education

This blog post was written by Jennifer Hogg and Laura Pryor of Social Policy Research Associates.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) is experiencing a resurgence in high schools nationwide, and California is no exception. Much of this resurgence is due to its evolution, from traditional vocational education to CTE pathways, which can provide students with a tangible leg-up for both college and career. California’s 2018-19 budget provides the financial support districts need to create, expand, and sustain high quality programs.

History of CTE funding in California:

Five years ago, California overhauled the way it funds K-12 education, transitioning from a confusing patchwork of categorical block grants to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The introduction of LCFF in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013-14 eliminated most grants, rolling this funding into a base per-pupil amount with additional funding for at-risk populations, which allowed local education agencies (LEAs) more flexibility in how they spent state funding. The largest CTE grant, the Regional Occupational Centers and Programs (ROCP) block grant, was among those eliminated in FY 2013-14.

In the time since this overhaul, the state introduced limited-term grant programs to assist LEAs until LCFF is fully funded. For CTE, this includes the CTE Incentive Grant (CTEIG) and the California Career Pathways Trust (CCPT). While CTEIG had a more general purpose of continuing funding for CTE programs, the CCPT was created for the purpose of bringing high schools and community colleges together to create pathways aligned with regional workforce needs. The funding periods for both grants have concluded (as of FY 2016-17 for CCPT, and FY 2017-18 for CTEIG).

CTE in the 2018-19 budget:

On June 14, 2018, the California legislature passed the governor’s FY 2018-19 budget bill in its revised form, which was then signed into law on June 27. In addition to higher-than expected LCFF per-pupil rates, the amended K-12 budget includes $214 million for CTE through the Strong Workforce program. The Strong Workforce program was created in FY 2016-17 to provide funding for California’s eight Community College consortia to improve coordination between districts, community colleges, and local industry, ultimately “expanding the availability of high-quality, industry-valued career technical education and workforce development courses, programs, pathways credentials, certificates, and degrees.” This year’s Strong Workforce funding will be re-granted by CCCs to districts on a competitive basis with a match requirement.

What does this mean for high school CTE programs?

This is largely good news for the CTE programs at California’s high schools. The base rate for discretionary LCFF funding will increase from $8,700 per high school pupil in FY 2017-18, to $9,200 in FY 2018-19, so that LEAs can maintain or increase their contribution to CTE. In addition, a rare new set-aside is available for districts through their CCCs. For districts that chose to prioritize CTE, they will have the funds to continue and expand upon the work they have been doing in recent years.

How can schools utilize the lessons we learned in San Diego to create, expand, and sustain high-quality CTE pathways?

SPR recently concluded a two-and-a-half-year evaluation of San Diego County’s Office of Education CCPT grant, which included analysis of student-level data and interviews of 64 individuals including CTE students, CTE teachers, administrators, and district staff. Through this process, we learned about the important benefits of CTE pathways, including:

  • CTE pathways, when integrated across subjects, can increase student engagement and motivation to master core academic subjects.
  • Through work-based learning (WBL) opportunities, CTE students can develop professional relationships that may lead to future jobs, internships, or letters of recommendation.
  • CTE students can increase their competitiveness for college acceptance through having a deeper bench of skills on their application and, in some cases, qualifying for preferred admissions.
  • Through opportunities such as dual-enrollment and college credit by exam, CTE students can make progress toward a college degree while still in high school.

Second, SPR’s research also highlights important implementation considerations for schools and districts looking to create, expand, and sustain their CTE programs to produce these aforementioned benefits:

  • Invest in dedicated CTE staff to coordinate WBL, academic integration, and student recruitment.
  • Provide sufficient teacher professional development opportunities for CTE teachers to integrate curriculum with core content teachers.
  • Create and participate in regional CTE “peer exchange” programs in which well-developed CTE programs provide support to programs looking to expand.
  • Establish and foster productive relationships with local community colleges to develop and expand connections with postsecondary pathway opportunities.

As schools and districts move forward with making their LCFF funding choices, CTE will be on the table. Our research suggests that CTE pathways have the potential to make a real difference in the lives of students. With the current level of state funding available, we recommend that schools and districts closely consider the role CTE can play in strengthening strategies for meeting college and career readiness goals.

Read more about our evaluation of the CCPT grant in San Diego.