Research has found out that several states, including Michigan, are facing budget cuts for their vocational programs, such as career technical education. Vocational Education directors are thus faced with serious challenges as they make desperate attempts to maintain their programs from becoming extinct. It was reported by Christoff and Dawnston in the Detroit Free Press (2011) that the controversies on how federal funding being made available to vocational and technical education program is in jeopardy. The report by the Committee for Education Funding (2011) further alleged that the federal funding for the schools, offering technical education as well as those that offer career education, was at risk.
According to Klein (2009), President Obama has instead sought to prioritize the need for improved standards of academic in the overall and the rate at which students graduate from colleges. The report by the Committee for Education Funding (2011) further notes that the president’s choice was based on his determination to lower the little amount of money that the federal government was spending on vocational trainings. The cut in the budget specifically targeted the high schools throughout the United States.
Funding for such programs comes primarily in the form of the Carl D Perkins Act IV grants to states. President Obama therefore proposed the cutting down the Perkins grants (Bureau of National Affairs, 2010). This had a great overall impact noting that the only alternative to career training available for the public schools were those college industries, which majorly exist to make profit. The report by the Committee for Education Funding (2011) further points to the possibility of lowering the standard of education, based on the fact that this industry has been criticized for high charges and low level of effectiveness, which means that the students who pass through them have never been competitive in the employment field (Prybylski, 2003).
Subsequently, a little more than one out of every 10 students in higher education attends a profit-making institution. Riordan (2010) argues that this is problematic not only for vocational directors, but also for career technical education students, who participate in CTE programs on both secondary and post-secondary levels. Thus, compelled leaders like Arne Duncan, who was the Education Secretary, urged the directors from all over the country to put more pressure on the government to increase the amount of funding allocated towards vocational education, noting that all the three levels of governments were facing budget strain and that if no pressure was put, then the governments were likely to abolish the program (Campbell, 2009).
The schools offering vocational and career trainings in a number of high schools had been affected by the consistency in the budget cuts that had been witnessed over the years decreasing a number of their summer-school programs and even reducing the number of days the students attend school in a week (Congressional Quarterly, 2001). The worse came in 2006 when President Bush stopped all the funding of the vocational education in high schools. This forced the directors of vocational education to come up with new programs, such as the High School Intervention Initiative, as a way of funding vocational education (Committee for Education Funding, 2011).
However, the Society for the Advancement of Education (2010) notes that the ineffectiveness in the utilization of such funds and strict assessment requirements prompted the majority of the agencies within the state to come up with other forms of interventions, while abandoning vocational education. This is contrary to the findings that without more time for instruction, no American student would do well in their education. The statement was also confirmed by Jack Jennings, who is the Chief for Center on Education Policy and noted that the directors have had to contend with both the reduction of allocations to states and the fact that the majority of the districts have also been failing to obtain their cushion, which had been enabling the directors to meet both the state and local education needs. He described the situation as the funding cliff, which not only faces the districts within Michigan State but also those in other states (Legislative Council State of Michigan, 2012).
Christoff and Dawnson (2011) note that in the 2012 fiscal year, budget for career and technical education estimated a 20 percent reduction in funding and showed a little more than $1 billion. Overall, the financial aid given to schools by the government had declined by 2.2% which translated to $300 for every pupil or even more in given districts. According to Detroit Free Press (2011), the government offered only $12.6 billion as School Aid Funds to K-12 public schools, which meant that each pupil was going to receive $300 less than what they had received during the initial budget year that was to end on the 30th of September 2011.
In the case of Michigan, the Detroit Free Press (2011) reported that the committee to the senate slashed $1.5 billion from what it used to spend on education and instead changed the ways in which it used to fund its education. Moreover, Karen Bouffard noted that the Michigan K-12 education state aid spent on each student was to be reduced by $ 340, while at the same time each school was to obtain just half what it used to be getting for every kindergartener, who had been attending school for a half a day according to the budget that the Senate Appropriate Committee was to pass (Committee for Education Funding, 2011). The state also cut its FY 2010 budget towards school aid by $382 million. This resulted in a $165 reduction in the amount spent on every pupil (Johnson, Oliff & Williams, 2011).
In a bid to fight the negative effects of the budget cut on the quality of education, Michigan went ahead and approved a number of drastic measures to be taken for the Detroit Schools. The officials of the state gave Robert Bob, who is the emergency financial manager, the authority to implement the plan, which was meant to help eliminate deficit by increasing the sizes of certain classes to 60 students, while at the same time closing down a total of about 70 schools. They argued that the plan was able to eliminate deficit up to the tune of $327 million as was entrenched in the state’s requirement (Committee for Education Funding, 2011).
However, it was against the desire of district leaders as was expressed by the district spokesman Wasko Steve. This was further demonstrated through the letter that was written by the Superintendent of Public Instruction to the state Mr. Flanagan M. to the emergency financial manager. He had stated that the plan had some loopholes giving example with the provision, which limited the ability of declaring bankruptcy by the financial manager during the entire period for which he was to be in office. According to Christoff and Dawnson reporting for Detroit Free Press (2011), over 150 Michigan charter schools and school districts are likely to stall in their operation, following the proposal by Rick Snyder to have the budget cut by $470 for every pupil. However, the worst effect was felt when the education officials within the state gave a direction to the emergency financial manager to close a number of schools as a measure of balancing the number of the available books and that of pupils (Committee for Education Funding, 2011).
The Problem Statement
It is generally clear that funding for vocational and career programs across the United States has been faced with major financial challenges (Yates, 2012). Initially, there were indications that vocational education, better known as career technical education, was increasingly becoming more effective as the funds were made available. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 assisted in it. The act was established to demand that all states that were receiving federal funds provide at least one program of study (POS) that could enable the students to acquire a more coherent and demanding course content that could allow for an improved academic standard in compliance with the requirements of the CTE.
However, with time, there has been a drastic decrease in the amount of money that is being allocated by Carl D. Perkins Act IV for CTE and vocational education. For example, the Obama administration has recommended a 20 percent decrease in its fiscal 2012 budget for career and technical education. The effect was even worse than during the 2006 fiscal year, when president Bush eliminated the allocation of funding for all the high school vocational education (Yates, 2012).
Significance of the Study
Knowledge Application and Social Change
In its nature and purpose, the study has the quantitative aspect that will contribute to the body of knowledge, needed to address the problems of funding, that has been a major challenge to vocational education. This will be possible as it seeks to explore on the available ways of helping state’s vocational directors to maintain funding for their programs. Apart from its financial aspect, the study also seeks to explore the finding that the nature of the traditional vocational and career training has also had a role in the declining level of vocational trainings. These assumptions were based on the fact that the training had initially focused on preparing students to take up manufacturing based jobs, which have greatly declined with time as the economy begun shifting more towards service and information.
The study also seeks to explore the truth in the other possible reasons put forward for the continued decline in the effectiveness of vocational training. One of such reasons is the fact that the program had been viewed for a long time to be for those students, who could not perform well. According to the Committee for Education Funding (2011), this argument greatly undermined the quality of the training. However, things have changed and an increasing number of high school students, who have undergone through this program, are proceeding to college.
This study will also contribute to the research-investigation knowledge base by monitoring the various procedures, which are being utilized for vocational education and providing an independent examination on the effectiveness of the CTE-based programs, as well as exploring the new ways in which vocational directors can acquire funding so that both secondary and post-secondary students can obtain a better optimum education through vocational funding.
The study will also help by familiarizing the policy makers on the possible effects the reduced funding of technical education would have on the quality of education in the state. For example, it makes clear that most of the students have equally dropped out of school because of their inability to provide the basic needs, especially those, who are taking care of their families. Such students had been depending on the summer jobs programs, while attending the summer schools in the various cities within the state and have since been forced to abandon school and enter into criminal activities as a means of survival. This has been caused by the drastic reduction in state spending on summer job programs (Reid, 2001). Moreover, it will also inform the directors of other factors that could be responsible for the reduced effectiveness of the program. This way it will contribute to social changes (Vera Institute of Justice, 2001).
The professional Application of the Study
The study seeks to shed more light on how the attainment of vocational and career education is related to professionalism. It therefore explains how denying the students such an opportunity can jeopardize their professional life. It is evidenced that there is a great need to prepare the high school students to have the capabilities needed to be successful as professionals both in the workforce and in college. Vocational training has been lauded for equipping the students in specific carriers or jobs (Northrup, 2003).
It helps the students to focus on how they can practically apply the skills they learn in class. It, thus, offers a special linkage between the working world and education. Moreover, the fact that it begins from the high school level enables students to graduate while ready to perform jobs, which require high level of skills and therefore increase their chances of earning a substantial amount of money. Additionally, graduates from these schools normally have certain advantages over those, who train informally, because they are often given certificates showing their skills and capability. It is also noted that career and technical education enables the students to explore the available career options and acquire the relevant academic skills. It equally improves their would-be academic standards and enable them prepare for their further education or a defined job within their preferred industry.
Michigan state had greatly improved in this line with some of its schools providing distinct vocational schools, which the students could attend mostly in the evenings. Most of the vocational and career training schools have embraced a cooperative training as their technique. This makes them more flexible and, thus, enabling students to have time to practice their dream job. Moreover, the Michigan state just like a number of other states has come up with a policy that emphasizes the need to have the schools change their focus to allow the students to, in addition of training for a vocation, also work hard to achieve a high school diploma in whatever course they are interested in. It is, thus, evidenced that vocational and career training has direct implication on the possible future profession of the students and therefore necessary for meaningful social change.
Research Question and Hypotheses
In order to address all these issues, the study will consider the following research questions: What measures have the vocational directors put in place to improve the effectiveness of vocational trainings, despite the reduced funding? What is the extent, to which the reduced funding has affected the effectiveness of the program? Is the reduction in funding the sole reason for the observed reduction in the effectiveness of the program? The study hypothesis will be that the Michigan vocational directors are faced with financial challenges majorly resulting from the budget cut to the vocational and career training schools by the federal government.
Operational Definitions of Technical Terms
This section will identify a number of terms that will be used throughout this study, while also giving their relative definitions. First is the career cluster, which is the grouping of different occupations. It closely relates to the 16 career clusters, which is a framework that is designed to help students prepare for a successful transition to college and the workforce. Another term is the career pathways, which is basically a 16 career clusters federal guidelines tool used to engage young people by developing a comprehensive integrative career exploration. Third is career readiness, which implies a state in which an individual is able to capitalize on his/her individual capabilities to create value to the workplace and the larger community (Legislative Council, State of Michigan, 2012).
On the other hand, career technical education (CTE) is a workforce training program that is focused on developing educational and workplace skills, while core 40 program is a program requiring students to complete all requirements for core 40. Additionally, prep tech is a program that offers instruction in both technical and integrated academic skills, while tech prep plan focuses on preparing students for postsecondary education. On the other hand, program of study is a program that focuses on providing students with basic skills to continue their education and/or secure employment after graduation from high school (Legislative Council, State of Michigan, 2012).
School to work is a workforce program that focuses on helping students make their transition from a school environment to work and/or college, while vocational education is a work-force program that offers a number of teaching positions at a given level of overall compensation. On the other hand work-based learning is a strategy, whose goal focuses on enhancing the traditional objectives of schooling, providing academic skills, empowering students to be better citizens and for the workforce. Finally, work readiness skills imply a set of skills and behaviors that help prepare young people for different occupations or closely related groups of occupations (Legislative Council, State of Michigan, 2012).
The study will consider the use of both secondary and the primary sources of information used in explaining the various relationships such as that of the reduced funding towards vocational training, the effectiveness of the program, and the change of strategies in funding the program by the educational officers. More specifically, the quantitative study will be very instrumental in finding out the rate at which the fund allocation to vocational education has been reducing with time. On the other hand, the qualitative methods of research will be instrumental in finding out the relationship between the reduced funding of the program and social change.
Primarily, this study will consider such methods as survey to collect fresh data from the field. The study will afterwards consider reviewing the existing literature on the topic so as to find out the information gaps that exist from the past studies. The qualitative research methods that will be used will be specifically helpful in understanding the attitudes of the vocational directors on budget cuts towards vocational education and their preparedness to finding other means of securing funds for the same. The study will therefore consider asking the directors certain broad questions and collecting various data that would be analyzed to come up with the various attitudes towards the budget cut rampant among the directors. This will help to evaluate the effectiveness of the vocational directors in addressing the challenges posed on them by the budget cut to vocational education.
It should also be noted that the qualitative research methods such as the administration of interviews will also be useful in identification of such areas as would need to be further researched on in the future, especially those relating to the effects the budget cut has on social programs. The interviewer will also take the advantage of the flexibility of the method to interrogate the respondents further whenever he will deem necessary. To be specific, the study considered survey, interview, and ethnography as its preferred methods of research (Lewis-Beck, 2004).
For the survey method, questionnaires will be sent to all the vocational directors within Michigan State. This means that the findings will be reliable enough to be effectively utilized by other states, which would want to improve their vocational training programs within the context of the K-12 program. In this case, a standardized questionnaire will be designed, tested, and administered by the researchers to all the directors. The interviewers will provide both the choice based questions and the open ended questions that the correspondents will complete. The survey method will be preferable over automated telephone survey approach, because of its convenient to the directors and the fact that it gives information that can be referred to in future, making it easier to analyze it and come up with the results (Lewis-Beck, 2004).
Assumptions, Limitations, Scope and Delimitations
There are a number of facts that will be assumed to be true during the study though they have not actually been verified. The first assumption will be that the nature of the traditional vocational and career training have a role in the declining level of vocational education. Another assumption will be that vocational education was the worst hit by budget cut among other programs. This assumption would imply that the cut in the budget specifically targeted the high schools throughout the United States. The study will also assume that the only alternative to career training that is available to the public schools were the college industries, which majorly exist to make profit. This portrayed a picture that such schools basically charge high for low level of effectiveness. This would imply that the students, who pass through such systems can never compete favorably in the employment field. Finally, there is also an assumption that all the vocational and career programs were solely funded by the federal government before it begun to cut on its budget towards the program.
The potential weakness of the study is found in its assumptions. The major weakness is that its overemphasis on only the budget cut as the sole factor behind the ineffectiveness of the vocational training may make the vocational directors and other stakeholders to avoid looking at other factors that would equally have contributed to the experienced deterioration of the state’s vocational and career trainings. Additionally, its overemphasis on the federal government as the ultimate source of funds for the vocational training in high schools may make the directors to abandon new viable programs such as that of the High School Intervention Initiative.
In its scope, the study will be conducted throughout, but within the boundaries of Michigan State. The respondents shall be limited to only the Michigan Vocational Directors, who deal directly with the program and therefore have a good understanding of the ways in which the federal budget cut on vocational and career education has affected its performance The study will also consider reviewing the information available from the relevant secondary sources.
In the summary, this section makes it clear that reduced funding has been a major factor in the deterioration of the effectiveness of vocational and career education which has been witnessed over the years. However, much of the facts and the assumptions mentioned here will be tested against the actual field research and the findings of the relevant sources will be presented in the next section.