Political Common Ground on Career Learning – Mar 1, 2024



Two members of the influential state Senate Appropriations Committee questioned why the Governor’s budget didn’t spend more on career and technical education (CTE).

Here’s the clincher – they’re Republicans who are pushing to spend more.

Let’s grab this moment of opportunity for extraordinary bipartisan cooperation on programs proven to set young people up for career success.

Republican Senators Rosemary Brown and Tracy Pennycuick both queried Education Secretary Mumin and his team on Governor Shapiro’s budget recommendation at Thursday’s hearing.

“I’m really surprised by the Administration’s lackluster support of career and technical education,” said Senator Brown, adding that she wonders if there is enough funding for programs to purchase modernized equipment. “What [career and technical centers] do is amazing…it’s only a 2% increase, I cannot understand that level of support.”

Senator Pennycuick wondered why Shapiro intends to spend millions more in state universities with declining enrollment “when we see waiting lists at our career and technical schools.”

Children First’s own research when we traveled the state visiting 17 career and technical centers (CTCs) discovered at least 25,000 students being unable to access the career learning they want.

There are more than 80 CTCs in Pennsylvania that teach a range of in-demand trades like plumbing, electrical, pharmacology, technology, HVAC, and cosmetology. Other students access CTE classes in their own districts. For example, the School District of Philadelphia launched its own training program for future teachers

Some students take CTE because they want to launch their career soon after high school. “I met a young welder, a young mom [who’s] got a job on the table first semester of welding school for $125,000,” said Pennycuick at the hearing. Other students pursue CTE because they’ve decided not to go the college route or they want higher learning without incurring sizeable student loans. 

But CTE goes beyond a ready, steady job. Study after study shows that where states and public schools do it right, career-related learning boosts student outcomes

Students with greater exposure to CTE are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and earn higher wages. Students who take more than two CTE courses in high school are 21% more likely to graduate high school compared to otherwise similar students. And CTE provides the greatest boost to the kids who need it most: boys and students from low-income families.

We have to seize this unusual bipartisan moment and continue the call for greater investment in CTE. As Senator Pennycuick said, we if we focus on “career and technical career fields and get our students to stay in Pennsylvania…that’s what’s going to grow our economy.”

Learn how to voice your support for children and teens through your local newspaper by writing letters to the editor.

Click here to send an email to Kevin Burgess at Children First for more information.

Commonwealth Charter Academy:
Gov. Shapiro’s budget of only $8,000 a year per student is just not enough to cover our cyber charter school expenses!

Also Commonwealth Charter Academy:
We made more than $122 million in profits under the current funding stream.

Children and teens are enduring unprecedented rates of anxiety and depression. Join Children First for an important conversation on how we can change the system so kids get the help they desperately need. Register today at childrenfirstpa.org/mhstrategies.
“Sending millions of taxpayer dollars to
a new cyber charter school that is
managed by a giant for-profit corporate
entity when we have yet to address the
school funding court decision is not only
unconscionable – it is unconstitutional.
We must strengthen charter school
accountability and transparency, prevent
fraud, better serve high-need students,
and ensure that neighborhood public
schools are not adversely affected.”

– state Senator Lindsey Williams