Dr. Lee Rasch, President, Western Wisconsin Technical College
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March 7, 2003
Dr. Lee Rasch, President
Western Wisconsin Technical College
La Crosse, WI
On behalf of Western Wisconsin Technical College (WWTC), which is one of sixteen technical college districts in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), I would like to express concern for a proposal in the President's budget for federal fiscal year (FFY) 2004 that would eliminate the federal focus on career and technical education and redirect Perkins funds to offset shortfalls in federal support for reforms in secondary education.
Federal support for career and technical education would be cut by $326.3 million, a 24% reduction from the FFY 03 funding for the Perkins Act. This would eliminate all funding for Perkins Basic State Grants, Occupational and Employment Information, Tech-Prep State Grants, and the Tech-Prep Demonstration and National Programs. In addition, under the No Child Left Behind (Elementary and Secondary Education) Act, states and local school districts are incurring significant costs which means a further reduction in funding for career and technical education. Such cuts will have a devastating impact on the WTCS, and at Western alone, in excess of 1,600 students are projected to be served through Perkins funding in 2002-03. Close to 50 WWTC employees have a portion of their contracts covered by this grant funding as well.
The impact will be:
- Worker Shortages
Access to postsecondary career and technical education programs would be greatly reduced as Perkins funding represents the only federal funding dedicated for career and technical education. In light of workforce shortages and a need for a well-trained workforce, and especially now, we have a greater than ever need for technical expertise in homeland security and national defense, and education and training of nurses and allied health care workers. Perkins funding plays a vital role in developing our workforce and growing our economy nationwide.
- Special Populations
Our ability to serve special populations, such as students with limited English proficiency, disabilities, those who are single parents and others who are academically or economically disadvantaged, would be greatly reduced. To stress the importance of the impact to this group, in Wisconsin alone we have experienced a 60 percent increase in residents with limited English proficiency in the ten years between 1990 and 2000, plus we have had an overall population growth of 9.6 percent during this same period.
In Wisconsin, 2001-02 Perkins funds provided assistance to 19,300 WTCS students which included 61 percent who were academically disadvantaged, 65 percent who were economically disadvantaged, 24 percent who had disabilities, 18 percent who were single parents and 7 percent with limited English proficiency. Reinvigorating our nation's economy starts in each of our states and investing in the success and employability of these individuals is a key step. If you add in secondary special populations students in Wisconsin who benefited from this assistance, the number of students who gained the skills and confidence they needed to succeed in the workplace and in further education and training jumps to 125,000!
- Dislocated Workers
Our nation's economy is dynamic and the need for postsecondary, lifelong learning is vital. In the last three years the Wisconsin Technical College System alone has served well over 10,000 dislocated workers. The loss of Carl Perkins funding would hamper emerging and evolving workforce education needs.
The Administration describes the Perkins program as ineffective and further claims that our postsecondary institutions provide no accountability for how the funds are used. The fact of the matter is accountability for postsecondary use of Perkins funds has always been strong in Wisconsin and the WTCS looks at these accountability requirements as an opportunity to demonstrate the vital role and also the impact career and technical education has in developing the workforce, growing our economy and improving the lives of our state's citizens. As examples,
Workers who have achieved an associate degree from technical college occupational programs can expect to earn substantially more than those with a high school diploma and only slightly less than baccalaureate program graduates. Technical college graduates report wage increases averaging more than 10% each year in the five years following graduation.
Wisconsin earned an incentive award for successful performance under Title I-B of the Workforce Investment Act, AEFL and Perkins in 2000-01. In addition, Perkins programs met or exceeded performance goals for student attainment of academic and occupational skills, job placement and retention, nontraditional enrollments and retention and graduation rates.
Reaffirming our national commitment to career and technical education as the mechanism that is going to be a major force in stimulating and growing America's economy means we must maintain the Perkins program as separate education legislation and not incorporate Perkins funding into a new federal program, the Secondary and Technical Education Act. And further, the authority and administration of the Perkins Act should continue to be the responsibility of federal and state career and technical education agencies.
Thank you for this opportunity to briefly highlight issues that would demonstrate to the Administration the value of career and technical education to our schools, students, workforce and economy and further that this new proposal is not investing in our country's future. We need a commitment that will strengthen and not eliminate the Perkins Act.