By Daniel Bendtsen
Via Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE— The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted to restore its program that provides a teaching degree in career-and-technical education, formerly known as vocational education.
The trustees eliminated the program in 2017.
The program was axed amid $42 million worth of budget cuts, and College of Education Dean Ray Reutzel suggested the program, which was averaging just 2.5 graduates each year, should end.
However, the Legislature effectively forced UW to restore the program after House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, was able to get an amendment on the budget bill passed in February that withheld $1 million in block grant funding to UW until the university affirms “that the College of Education has instituted a program to train career and technical education teachers.”
Harshman said the elimination of vocational education training in the College of Education is detrimental to fostering skilled workers across the state.
“I think our university is very responsive to these kind of policy statements,” he said.
Trustee Mel Baldwin said Thursday he has “resentment” for the Legislature’s demand.
“To sequester a million dollars of our supplemental funding until we do what someone wanted us to do is not a real happy time for me,” Baldwin said.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow attended the trustees’ meeting this week and also had a different perspective than Harshman.
The type of CTE teacher training that Harshman mandated is one that Balow says is obsolete.
While producing CTE teachers is still important, Balow said those teachers need to be specialized in certain trades, not just trained to teach CTE as a whole.
Modern CTE teachers should have “both industry experience as well as the pedagogy knowledge of teaching effectively in a classroom environment” to produce high school graduates ready “for scaled and valuable jobs,” Balow said.
“I absolutely still believe it to be true that career and technical education, whether we’re talking about in high school or post-high school, has become highly specialized,” Balow said. “So a general career and technical education teacher is really going by the wayside. We want our teachers to understand the industry that they’re teaching. … I don’t think (my comments) allay Trustee Baldwin’s concerns one bit, and in fact may in flame them a bit.”
UW’s CTE instructor, Rod Thompson, has now been tasked with continuing the current program for no more than two years while also developing “a revised, integrated CTE program that broadens the degree to include additional CTE teacher education concentration areas to attract and sustain a fiscally viable cohort number of students statewide to justify retention of the CTE teacher education program.”
The proposed revision to the program, which will be refined by a task force, will focus on creating a CTE bachelor’s degree in which students will spend three years at a Wyoming community college before spending the final year at UW.
However, Sandy Caldwell, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, said that talks had already been underway to create that “3+1” program even before the Legislature’s mandate.
Thompson has been asked to help develop that program on a timeline that would have UW ready to accept transfer students by fall 2021.