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Wash. Schools May Get A Boost In Federal Funding For Career And Technical Education

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Sy Bean for the Hechinger Report
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An automotive repair technician program at Lake Washington Institute of Technology

Washington schools may get a boost in funding for career and technical education classes. That’s because Congress has voted to reauthorize the Perkins Act, which spells out gradual increases in federal dollars for vocational education through the year 2024. 

Washington has been getting about $20 million annually in Perkins Act funding. That money goes to the state Workforce Board, which then distributes it to public schools and community and technical colleges.

While the reauthorization passed by Congress lays out yearly incremental increases amounting to about a 10 percent boost by fiscal 2024, it’s not a guarantee that Congress will actually appropriate those amounts each year.

But state education officials say it’s a good sign.

“You’re starting to see some federal people finally start believing that the college degree, while it’s a great institution and has provided a great opportunity for a lot of people that need professional degrees, is not the answer for all of us,” said Dennis Wallace, agricultural sciences program supervisor in the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Marina Parr, spokeswoman for the state Workforce Board, agreed.

“I think there’s a lot of interest around career and technical education. There’s a lot of interest in making sure that students are prepared for both college and careers,” Parr said. “I believe this is a very good signal that people are paying more attention to this and supporting it more.”

Every high school student in Washington is supposed to take an occupational education class to graduate. School districts offer a wide range of classes including photography, web design, culinary arts and aerospace programs.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.