Governor Pat McCrory's gubernatorial campaign stood firmly on the platform that as governor he would be a proponent of vocational education. With the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 14, McCrory signed the bill into law on on Feb. 18. The law directs the State Board of Education to develop career and college endorsements for high school diplomas, increase access to career and technical education teachers in public schools, and to work with the State Board of Community Colleges to increase the number of students enrolling in career and technical education in high need employment areas.
“North Carolina needs today’s students and tomorrow’s skilled workers to be able to compete in a national and global market. The new law that I signed this morning, will provide multiple choices and equal pathways to success,” McCrory said.
Under the new law, the State Board of Education will develop curriculums with increased emphasis on career and technical courses with the intentions of increasing the number of students pursuing vocational programs such as auto repair, welding, and health care technology. When students graduate they will have an endorsement of career ready, college ready, or both. Licensing requirements will also be reduced for the teachers of these courses.
State Superintendent June Atkinson gave praise to the new law and the governing body who voted in favor of it.
"This new law adds value to the hard work of students who choose to focus their high school studies in a technical field. These students often go above and beyond the current high school graduation requirements in order to prepare for a technical career,” said Atkinson. “The new law, by providing diploma endorsements, gives students options and an incentive to pursue more than one track to graduation, as they can focus on preparing for a career in a technical field as well as college. Research shows that the combination of college prep and career technical education has served many students' career goals. I am pleased that this legislation will encourage more students to move forward after high school graduation to enter the workforce or to continue their studies in a technical field at the community college level."
The Career Technical Education law will not go into effect immediately, but will begin with the 2014-2015 school year. Aside from the new diploma requirements, the law also requires that the State Board of Education submit a report detailing the impact of awarding students with a career designation, college designation or both on outcomes such as high school graduation, college acceptance and remediation, and post-high school employment rates by Sept. 1, 2016 and each year after which will give a clearer picture of how the legislation is working.
“I don't have any problems with designating certain types of diplomas, I would just hope that the requirements for high schoolers who want to enter college and to enter the work force isn't too easy,” said Interim Superintendent, Dr. Jim Duncan. “There has got to be some rigor about it.”
Duncan expressed concern about the effects the new educational approach could possibly have on the Macon County School system.
“I don't see a lot of changes for us. Of course we've got Nantahala and Highlands, who are limited in terms of the vocational types of classes they can offer because of the small number of students,” said Duncan. “In Macon County you just have to think about what directions students might go to get gainful employment. We have a great automotive program here, the kids learn a lot and like it, but are there jobs out there with those skills?”