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School to Work Moves Forward
in Vocational Education Reauthorization

July 17, 2004

School to Work Moves Forward
in Vocational Education Reauthorization

Karen R. Effrem, MD
EdWatch Board of Directors

The federal Carl Perkins vocational education law (H.R. 4496) is currently undergoing reauthorization in the US House Education and Workforce Committee. The Education Reform Subcommittee took up the bill on Wednesday, July 14th. The full committee is scheduled to take it up on July 21st.

In its current form, the bill contains two major improvements over current law.  First is language that clearly allows states to refuse money from this federal education program without jeopardizing funds from any other program.  This excellent language gives long overdue flexibility to the beleaguered states buried under a mountain of federal education regulations.  It should be in every federal education law and reauthorization.

Secondly, the bill language states that international comparisons of vocational education will be “aggregate.”   This at least gives the appearance that only group data instead of individual data is being given to international agencies for comparison, which was not the case in the recent Office of Education Research and Improvement/National Center for Educational Statistics reauthorization. (See http://www.edwatch.org/updates/031302.htm)

Despite these improvements, however, this reauthorization pushes forward School to Work programs and philosophy in these significant ways:

1) Federal “model sequences”

Model sequences are federal curriculum masquerading as state options.  Federal law has lost all credibility with its language about voluntary. States have uniformly adopted radical national education standards for their supposedly state derived standards and assessments required by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and NCLB’s 1994 predecessor. Cash strapped states adopt federal models because states are required by federal law to create “rigorous and challenging academic content and vocational and technical content.”

Once again, the federal government is directing education, contrary to the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. By developing, funding, and aggressively promoting “model sequences,” states will be enveloped in national School-to-Work models like the NCEE/Marc Tucker plans for vocational ed/STW. Tucker states:

The horrific national standards that Marc Tucker only dreamed about in this infamous “Dear Hillary” letter, just quoted, have given us, for example: the federal curriculum with its radical and anti-American We the People textbook for civics funded by our tax dollars; fuzzy math from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) math standards; and science standards that absolutely prohibit any discussion of the scientific controversies in evolution. In fact, the state of Washington proposes to adopt the national standards in their entirety, in lieu of any Washington state standards.  Washington is home to Dr. Shirley “we no longer see the teaching of facts and information as the primary outcome of education” McCune.  Michael Cohen, formerly of the Clinton Administration and now of Achieve, also recommends this, saying as recently as March, 2004,

Nothing in this vocational education reauthorization keeps states from turning to these national standards instead of developing state knowledge-based standards independent of a federal STW system.
What, for example, is to keep states from using the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) ideas about service learning (forced volunteerism chosen by the government that indoctrinates students into a radical anti-American worldview – (See http://www.edwatch.org/updates/061404.htm.) as part of their model sequences?  AYPF stated in their draft policy brief on service learning:

This whole idea of model federal curriculum is extremely objectionable and should be prohibited in federal law.

2)  Title II, the tech-prep program, was repealed in title only. 

Tech-prep has been one of the most overt federal STW initiatives. Important elements of tech-prep remain scattered throughout the bill. In addition to the model sequences, these elements include “work-based” and “worksite learning’ and a structure similar to Marc Tucker’s idea of how apprenticeships should be structured.  The bill says the tech prep program should,

Marc Tucker wrote about his vision for transforming schools from knowledge-based learning into a “seamless system” of job training centralized in Washington, DC. He stated:

Combining high school and college around certain job skills effectively redefines education away time for academic knowledge and into simply job training. It is fundamental shift in our education system, and it is being created through federal law.

3)  Throughout the bill, academic study and vocational training are ‘integrated,” with no assurance of any emphasis on academic knowledge.

The “education cartel” constantly opposes knowledge-based academic standards, insisting there is no time in the school day for high expectations of academic achievement. Yet students are leaving school for work-based and service learning. Is it any surprise there is no time for high expectations in history, literature, geography and math? Academic knowledge is what prepares citizens to lead, to govern themselves, to be free. When work and academics are integrated, something will be dominant, and, based on the statements of STW proponents, it is usually not knowledge.

4) The vocational education bill integrates schools with the bureaucratic one stop workforce centers and workforce boards of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

WIA establishes unelected entities that will direct job training and placement for all workers, from students to “displaced homemakers,” based on “labor market needs” of each state and the career fields assigned to that state by the Department of Labor. (See the careers assigned to your state at http://www.ed.gov/pubs/Standards/attach_d.html.)

5) Vocational programs can begin as early as the seventh grade.

Age twelve or thirteen is way too young to be involved in formal vocational education programs that are more than one or two classes as electives.  The junior high years should provide as broad a base of general knowledge as possible to give students the opportunity to become responsible citizens, maintain our republic, and later make a more mature decision on a career.  Ideally, these programs should begin in the eleventh grade, the level that traditional vocational education programs began. At the very least, they should wait until ninth grade.

Although the 1994 School to Work Opportunities Act has reached its sunset date, elements of that law and Marc Tucker’s STW vision are alive and well in Carl Perkins and No Child Left Behind. Key individuals with regard to H.R. 4496 are:


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