REAL Coalition joins Summit in supporting career tech education in the state budget

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The REAL Coalition, one of the largest coalitions of business and economic development leaders in the state, joined the California Economic Summit on Friday in urging the Legislature to adopt a proposed new $200-million workforce training program in the state budget—and to allocate as much of the funding as possible through new regional collaboratives for distribution to individual colleges.

The Summit shared a similar message last week ahead of this week’s expected deliberations of the Budget Conference Committee. Both groups have outlined their support for the Senate and Governor’s proposal to send 60 percent of this funding directly to individual colleges and 40 percent to regional groups of college, business, and civic leaders for allocation to career technical education programs that meet labor market needs. The Assembly has adopted a formula with a much lower regional allocation.

“It is important to recognize that the $200 million in the Strong Workforce Program is relatively small in comparison to the $2 billion spent each year on career technical education,” says the letter from the REAL Coalition, a network of 23 influential business groups, from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and Silicon Valley Leadership Group to the East Bay Leadership Council and Inland Empire Economic Partnership.

The coalition gives credit to last year’s Strong Workforce Task Force for highlighting the importance of increased investment in career technical education—and for pushing for a new approach to workforce training that emphasizes regional collaboration between colleges and the labor markets for which they are preparing their students.

“While students would benefit from increasing CTE funding by $200 million, the Strong Workforce Task Force made it very clear that the colleges needed to do much more to make sure they were offering the right programs, coordinated across campuses, and continuously aligning programs and curriculum to the needs of students and employers,” says the REAL Coalition letter.

The Task Force’s solution was to distribute funds through new regional “collaboratives” involving college, business, and civic leaders—viewing these regional entities as the best way to encourage colleges to coordinate their activities, serve students attending more than one college, and meet labor market needs in the most fiscally sustainable way.

“Linking the additional revenue with the regional planning and allocation process was the central innovative feature of the proposal,” as the REAL Coalition letter puts it. While the Task Force pushed the state to distribute these resources at the regional scale, this year’s amount has been shrinking during budget negotiations, with many advocates for the colleges pushing for more dollars to go directly to the campuses themselves.

The Summit and its partners, however, view regional funding as a much more effective use of these funds.

“Eroding this link—and directing these funds to individual colleges, instead of to regional collaborations of these institutions—will diminish the transformative value of the Strong Workforce Program,” says the REAL Coalition letter.

The Budget Conference Committee is expected to take up this issue early this week, with the full Legislature voting on the final budget before a June 15 deadline.

To view the full REAL Coalition letter, please click here.


Justin Ewers

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