California High School CTE Funding

California has become a national leader in providing grants for school districts to improve their CTE programs. But how well have Southern California districts done in capitalizing on available funds and how are districts implementing these funds?

In a previous post, the Lowe Down analyzed the Inland Empire’s capacity to prepare workers for the region’s middle income jobs of the future. While career and technical education (CTE) opportunities are widely available across Riverside and San Bernardino counties at the secondary education level, pathways towards middle income professions often start in high school or even earlier. The state of California has recognized the importance of revamping CTE programs, many of which are severely underfunded or are less relevant in today’s job market, and have pledged over $1.5 billion in CTE grants since 2014. The two main grant programs are the California Career Pathways Trust (CCPT) and Career Technical Education Incentive Grant (CTEIG) which both provide funds to school districts, county superintendents, direct-funded charter schools, and in some cases community colleges to both expand on current career pathway programs as well as develop new ones.

CCPT grants were awarded in two rounds (2014 and 2015), and individual awards ranged from $500,000 to $15 million. A report from Jobs for the Future found that CCPT grant recipients used their funding in similar ways: funding for new coaching and development positions related to CTE pathways, investment for new equipment essential to CTE classrooms, and the expansion of current programs. The report also found that in the first round of CCPT funding, consortia focused on either creating or expanding career pathways in the sectors of health and medical technology, manufacturing and product development, information and communication technologies, engineering and architecture, and agriculture and natural resources most often.

Turning towards Southern California, schools in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties received nearly $200 million in grants. Los Angeles County leads the way in terms of both quantity of grants and total volume of funding, however, if we consider the number of students in recipient school districts, per-student funding yields a different story.

The average CCPT/CTEIG funding per student in Southern California school districts who were grant recipients was $80.43, but there was a large amount of variation across counties. Districts in Los Angeles County received close to the average amount of CCPT/CTEIG funding per student whereas districts in both Orange and San Bernardino counties received $12 and $18 more than the average respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, districts in Riverside county received a mere $65.12 per student.

Despite these county-wide discrepancies, as the Jobs for the Future report concludes, districts are pursuing largely similar plans for expanding and improving CTE programs. For example, Pomona Unified (Los Angeles Co), which received a $1.1 million CTEIG grant ($48.04 per student), plans to develop a variety of new pathways, including IT, Media Technology, Sports Medicine, and Hospitality. Perris Union High (Riverside Co) which received a $1.4 million CTEIG grant ($129.10 per student) has budgeted the majority of their funds towards improving the materials and equipment used in current CTE pathway programs and increasing student exposure to post-secondary school and career opportunities.

As the Lowe Down has previously discussed, there is a shortage of middle income workers throughout California as well as a disconnect between the sectors workers are being prepared for and the sectors with the most promising job growth. It is therefore incredibly important that school districts continue to make use of available grants to improve CTE opportunities and prepare their students for a dynamic labor market.