Dan Walters opined today that vocational skills could get a big and needed boost from SB 381, a bill that will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations committee tomorrow.   The bill simply asks that any high school requiring those courses approved by the UC and required for admissions to both UC and CSU campuses for graduation also provides career tech options for its students.

SB 381 protects curricular pathways for all students by saying ‘no’ to districts who wish to force a one-track "A-G" system on all students without providing career-preparatory coursework, too.

Take a look at this video of soundbytes from technical education students (and a teacher or two) who were recognized yesterday in the legislature.  These students show the passion and success these courses produce, as well as the impediments to real-world technical education opportunities.  Every Legislator should watch this.

Notwithstanding the students in the video above, California’s recently released enrollment data shows the 22nd straight annual decline in CTE enrollments.  These declines are a result of the continued slashing of CTE programs, despite dropout rates that grow above 30 percent statewide.   Policy and political writer Thomas Elias said it best in a column last week,"make no mistake, what’s happening is a tragedy of epic proportions. Its human consequences dwarf those of the budget and water crises, serious as they are."

While Walters was spot-on in the need for the bill and CTE alternatives, he did get two important pieces wrong.  First, he said that Los Angeles Unified would have to provide CTE options and second, that "A-G school districts" would have to provide dual tracks.  LAUSD does provide for a CTE opt-out of their A-G mandate, but the bill would not apply to LAUSD since they adopted their policy prior to June 30, 2009.  Also, SB 381 would require all future districts that mandate students take college-prep coursework must also include at least 3 CTE courses in such a graduation requirement to maintain curricular balance.  This will remind districts of their legal obligation to prepare kids for the world of work before they adopt a college-only graduation mandate.

Pay attention to the Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing (and their words) tomorrow at 9:00 a.m..  Sen. Rod Wright miraculously got SB 381 through the last two committees.  High wage and technical employers, students, parents, and the 400-member Get REAL (Relevance in Education and Learning) coalition are hoping for a third miracle tomorrow.