Analysis of the 2007-08 Budget Bill: Education

Career Technical Education

The Governor’s budget proposes $52 million for grants to strengthen secondary and post-secondary vocational education programs.

The 2007-08 proposed community college budget includes $52 million for the career technical education (CTE) improvement grant program created by Chapter 352, Statutes of 2005 (SB 70, Scott). The program was funded at a $20 million annual level during the first two years of operation (2005-06 and 2006-07). Chapter 751, Statutes of 2006 (SB 1133, Torlakson), includes additional funding for the SB 70 program as part of the recent CTA v Schwarzenegger lawsuit. Specifically, Chapter 751 appropriates $32 million in 2007-08 and $38 million annually from 2008-09 through 2013-14 for the CTE improvement program. Thus, Chapter 751 funds increase the amount available for the program to $52 million in 2007-08 and $58 million annually for the next six years.

Senate Bill 70 establishes a program to “improve linkages and career-technical education pathways between high schools and community colleges.” These “pathways” are designed to help high school students develop vocational skills needed by employers in the area while also preparing students for more-advanced academic or vocational coursework in a community college or university.

Partnership academies represent one type of pathway in which academic and vocational subjects are integrated into a unified curriculum that focuses on an industry or occupational area. Academies usually operate as a “school-within-a-school,” and students in grades 10 through 12 take all or most of their core courses in the academy. “Tech-prep” sequences are a second type of pathway that help high school students reach advanced community college courses. The distinctive characteristic of tech-prep is that the pathways span the K-12/community college divide by coordinating regular academic and vocational classes beginning in high school and continuing on to community college.

To improve CTE, SB 70 authorizes several types of activities:

The Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges and the California Department of Education (CDE) jointly administer the act. Funds are allocated through a competitive grant process in which all community colleges are invited to apply. Local projects are jointly developed by community colleges and K-12 entities (high schools and Regional Occupational Centers or Programs [ROC/Ps]). Most local projects also are required to involve local business. Grants typically provide short-term improvement funding to develop or strengthen CTE programs, rather than ongoing operational support.

First-Year Grants—2005-06

In the program’s first year, $15.3 million of the $20 million annual appropriation was targeted at creating new or improving existing CTE programs ($13.8 million) or developing middle school career exploration and counseling programs ($1.5 million). To better understand the SB 70 program, we reviewed most of approved grants for these two activities.

The approved grants illustrate the promise of the SB 70 program. Several of the grants build on strong existing relationships among businesses and educators to develop regional approaches to improving vocational education programs. Other grants propose to coordinate the California Community College (CCC) and K-12 programs so closely that students can earn college credits for high-level CTE courses taken in high school.

Coordination Problems at All Levels

Most of the first-year grants attempt to address a similar problem—a lack of coordination between the many local interests involved in CTE. Like other parts of the education system, CTE and related courses need to be coordinated in order to work most effectively. Traditionally, introductory vocational courses and career exploration began in middle school. In high school, more advanced courses build on the middle school preparation. The ROC/P courses provide the “capstone” secondary training as a gateway to employment or continued study at the community college. The first-year SB 70 grants show that coordination is a problem at all levels—middle school, high school, community college, and California State University (CSU). In fact, we think coordination—or the lack of it—lies at the root of many of the current problems in CTE.

Middle School Foundation Skills. Middle school provides the foundation for many CTE programs. One part of this foundation is a program of career exploration and counseling that helps students think about careers and the options available to them in high school and college. The second component to the foundation is pre-requisite academic or vocational skills that are needed for high school CTE programs.

District applications for SB 70 funds often acknowledged that one or both of these foundational elements is missing in their middle schools. For instance, several of the applications noted the absence of any counseling program for their middle school students. One large urban district provided college counseling, but not career counseling. Several applications also noted the lack of vocational or academic preparation needed to participate in high-level high school CTE programs. For instance, a biotech pathway project noted that science programs in middle school were inadequate to prepare students for the program. Another project cited the need for introductory middle school vocational classes that would help students “understand and experience the personal connection between what is taught in the classroom and its relation to the real world.”

Coordination Between K-12, CCC, and CSU. A number of projects cited a lack of coordination between K-12 and CCC vocational programs. Interestingly, sometimes the high school and ROC/P had an exemplary program for which no complementary CCC program existed to help take students to higher skill levels. In other cases, the community college operated a high-level program that lacked a quality secondary “feeder” program from the high school and ROC/P.

Grant applications suggest a similar lack of coordination can occur among community colleges and CSU campuses. At least two proposals included a CSU campus as part of the grant participants—but the CSU was located 100 miles from the high schools and community college that were leading the project. In each case, another CSU campus was located nearer the high school and community college but did not participate in the project. Clearly, involving the local CSU campus would seem a better arrangement for students.

Education-Business Coordination. Failure to fulfill the manpower needs of business represents another coordination problem, one between education agencies and the local employer communities. In several grants, the local Workforce Investment Board (WIB) played a major role in assessing the needs of local employers and convening the business and education communities to address those needs. Local WIBs administer job training programs under the federal Workforce Investment Act. Since both community colleges and ROC/Ps are required to maintain employer advisory boards, the role played by the local WIB suggests these boards are not always effective in communicating the needs and interests of a broad range of employers in the region.

Program Needs a Long-Term Foundation

The Chancellor’s Office and the California Department of Education have not identified the long-term goals of the program. In addition, the competitive grant approach incorrectly assumes that the state can “fine tune” the program on a statewide basis. These problems raise significant questions about the two agencies’ approach to implementing SB 70 and the budget-year plan.

In our view, the problems identified in the first-year grant applications—communication and coordination—define the core objective of SB 70: building the local relationships that are needed to connect all levels of education in a way that meet the needs of students and business. Clearly, the grant funds also pay for other inputs to the improvement process, such as curriculum development, equipment, and other materials. A review of the proposals, however, shows that SB 70 grants mostly pay for people’s time—primarily K-12 teachers, CCC faculty, and local administrators of both education agencies—to sit down and work together to create programs that are more responsive to industry needs and student interests.

The question facing the Legislature in its review of the 2007-08 budget, therefore, is whether the proposed SB 70 spending plan allocates funds in a way that maximizes the opportunities for this local coordination process to unfold. Figure 1 displays how the SB 70 appropriations were spent in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and the proposed uses of funds in the budget year. In 2005-06, funds were concentrated in four areas—strengthening or creating local career technical pathways, developing middle-school exploration course curricula, supporting region-wide course articulation, and funding teacher/faculty in-service activities. In 2006-07, the emphasis on local pathways was reduced and new grants were available for other types of “system development” activities, such as establishing a vocational education teacher “pipeline,” articulation between community colleges and four-year universities, and linking CCC economic development programs to CTE programs.


Figure 1

Career Technical Education
Grant Program

2005-06 Through 2007-08
(In Millions)




Proposed 2007‑08

Local improvement grants


New or existing pathways




“Career advancement” academy


Expand partnership academy program


Teacher preparation pipeline



High technology pathways


Middle school exploration




Health careers pathways


Articulation with universities


Preapprenticeship programs


Entrepreneur centers


Student organizations


CCC economic development


Regional articulation



K-12/CCC summer internships


K-12/CCC inservice




New teacher workshop


On-line curriculum resources


Other (six programs)


Evaluation/other research








In 2007-08, the budget proposes a wide variety of new programs. Most significantly, the budget would distribute on a formula basis $20 million for local improvement grants. According to the Chancellor’s office, funds would be distributed to each of the 72 community college districts. Funds would be available for a wide variety of local activities, including aligning curriculum with the state’s CTE standards, planning and implementing new partnership academies, and sequencing secondary and post-secondary vocational education courses.

The budget also proposes a significant number of new grant programs. The budget would establish 16 new programs. All told, the proposal would fund 239 separate contracts, according to the Chancellor’s Office. In 2005-06, only 69 contracts were proposed under SB 70. Thus, the large budget-year increase in funding appears to be generating an even larger increase in the number of contracts that are proposed.

We were unable to review the budget-year plan in any depth as we were able to obtain very limited information on these new programs. A cursory examination of the proposals, however, suggests several issues. Most striking is the significant overlap among the programs. The $20 million local improvement grant, for example, could be used to increase the number of local partnership academies. The budget plan also proposes to spend $4 million on a separate grant program to expand the number of the academies. No rationale is provided on the need for the separate program. We identified several other instances of overlap among elements of the plan. The Department of Finance advises that additional detail will be available before the beginning of budget hearings.

Program Needs to Define Long-Term Goals

From a broader perspective, however, we think the administration’s approach reflects two major problems. First, the agencies have not identified specific long-term goals for the program. Without such goals, there is no framework for determining annual spending priorities or for evaluating the impact of chosen strategies. Instead, the budget presents a long list of programs that are based on unclear goals and priorities and no expectation of what statewide outcomes the programs will produce. While we understand the logic and relevance of most of the proposed uses of funds, we do not see how these pieces fit into a broader plan for the revitalization of the state’s CTE programs.

Most significantly, the agencies have not described what a “good” CTE program looks like at the local level. This would help define the long-term objectives of SB 70. How many pathways should be available to high school students? What are the state’s goals for the pathways—higher wages for those students who work, greater numbers enrolling in community college CTE programs, more students enrolling in four-year programs? Without this long-term foundation, it is difficult to evaluate the rationale for the various programs proposed in the budget. Perhaps more critically, without an idea of where the program should be headed, it is unlikely to reach that goal.

Competitive Grants Pose Problems

The second problem with the current approach is the heavy use of competitive grants to support the local improvement process. The competitive grant process implicitly assumes that the Chancellor’s Office and CDE have enough information and insight to fine tune the improvement process from Sacramento. The budget plan for 2007-08, with its many small grant programs, seems to suggest the two agencies know exactly what types of improvements are needed around the state. Because the agencies are working without a clear statement of goals, however, it is unclear whether the list of proposed programs represents a reasonable implementation plan.

Using competitive grants to promote statewide reform of CTE also suggests that deep involvement of the state agencies is necessary for the local improvement process to succeed. We suggest the contrary—that improving CTE is mostly a local process that needs strong local commitment to succeed. As discussed above, improving CTE involves coordinating education, business, and labor to ensure all elements needed for successful programs are in place. From this perspective, therefore, competitive grants represent the wrong approach to building these local relationships. Below, we discuss some of the problems that result from the heavy reliance on competitive grants.

Limited Scope of the Projects. Revitalizing CTE through the development of pathways will require a major effort by employers and educators to develop and implement new vocational options. A significant number of the approved projects, however, propose programs that will involve only a few students in specialized occupational areas. These projects typically involve one or two high schools, one community college, and one or two employers. If there were already a robust system of vocational options in all parts of the state, adding these small pathways would make sense as a way to meet the particular needs of local employers and further expand student choices. Given the desire to make high quality vocational options available to most high school students, however, we think the state would be better served by focusing SB 70 funding on larger regional projects that would expand CTE options for a greater number of students.

Similarly, the grants also frequently limit the scope of participating groups. Despite the fact that each grant has a community college and K-12 sponsor, many grants do not include major local K-12 entities that are crucial to the success of the project. Many grants, for instance, do not include either high schools or ROC/Ps as direct participants. Many grants also exclude middle schools as participants. Given the importance of each level of education in creating successful CTE programs, we think the state should encourage local improvement projects to include all of these entities.

Competitive Grants Help Only the Winners. Competitive grants are useful in creating competition that helps the state obtain the highest value for its dollar. For SB 70, however, we don’t see the value of pitting parts of the state against another. Improving CTE is a statewide goal—all parts of the state should participate. In addition, competitive grants tend to favor areas that can afford talented grant writers who develop high-scoring projects. As a consequence, the competitive grant process may make it difficult for some regions to win grants to improve local programs.

Similarly, friction between local community colleges and K-12 entities may make agreement on joint projects difficult to reach. While the competitive grant approach may, in some cases, create sufficient financial incentives for these agencies to work together, it also allows areas of the state to opt out of the improvement process. It is our view that SB 70 should be a tool to help reduce friction between these agencies. The program should provide the business community, parents, and other local officials and community members with leverage to get the educational agencies to work cooperatively to meet the needs of students. The competitive grant process doesn’t provide much standing for these other groups to generate the local pressure needed to break through such obstacles. Thus, we think the Legislature should consider a different approach to strengthening local CTE programs.

Addressing Special Needs of Rural Areas. Issues faced by rural areas illustrate another problem with using a competitive grant process for the local improvement process. Only 5 of the 35 approved projects for expanding or improving existing pathways were located in rural parts of the state. We think there are several possible reasons for this. First, some areas of the state have no local community college within a reasonable distance. Since proposals could be submitted only by community colleges, the process made it difficult for some rural areas to apply.

Second, while the emphasis on connections with employers is a critical factor in successful CTE programs, rural areas often have few major employers to work with. In these cases, it is hard to see how rural areas can compete for grants with parts of the state where large employers are located.

The lack of community colleges and major employers illustrate the types of problems facing rural areas as they attempt to upgrade local CTE programs. As a result, a traditional pathway approach may not work in many rural communities. Rather than create a grant program specifically for rural areas, however, we think it makes more sense to encourage each area to develop local solutions to upgrading local CTE programs. These solutions may require some “out of the box” thinking. Are there innovative solutions that allow high schools and ROC/Ps to work with community colleges that are 100 miles away? Should the state authorize ROC/Ps to provide community college courses in areas that would otherwise be underserved? We think SB 70 should work under the assumption that improving CTE programs in different parts of the state may require different solutions than are offered in the existing grant programs.

Is Coordination a One-Time Activity? Although SB 70 grants provide one-time funding, a number of projects use the grants for ongoing operational costs. One grant, for example, used funds to support a summer program for middle and high school students. The project acknowledged that this component was not sustainable without new funds. In our view, this did not seem to represent a prudent use of SB 70 funds.

Sustainability is an important issue, but in another sense. The “one-time” costs of virtually all the SB 70 projects are not really one-time activities. Instead, coordination is needed on an ongoing basis to update programs as business practices change, modernize equipment, align courses, and train teachers and faculty. Viewing them as one-time activities suggests that the updating done by SB 70 will erode in effectiveness over time—leaving future CTE programs with the same problems SB 70 is addressing. If the core of SB 70 is building relationships, maintaining these relationships as people and programs change over time represents part of the ongoing process of maintaining CTE programs.

$400 Million Is Enough to Upgrade CTE Statewide

We recommend the Legislature enact legislation directing most of the $52 million proposed for SB 70 to pay for the first year of a seven-year grant program that would support a comprehensive program of improvement at the county or regional level.

Achieving the long-term goals of SB 70 requires a broader, long-term strategy based on the needs of each region in the state. The strategy should provide a clear statement of the goals and objectives of the program. It also should move away from a reliance on competitive grants to fund the local improvement process and, instead, establish a local process that focuses on building the needed relationships on a regional level.

As discussed above, the Governor’s budget would provide $20 million for noncompetitive local improvement grants. The proposal, however, does not specify clear priorities for the use of these funds, which local entities should participate in planning, or how the state would evaluate local uses of funding. The funds also would be distributed to each community college district, which would shape the development of CTE around the 72 districts rather than the needs of the regions. Thus, while the proposal heads in the right direction, it needs a solid foundation to work most effectively.

There is another reason to think strategically about the long-term goals of SB 70—over the next seven years, the state will spend $400 million on the program. During the first two years of operation, the program was funded at $20 million each year. Under the Governor’s budget, funds from the CTA settlement would increase CTE funding to $52 million. This amount would then increase to $58 million annually in 2008-09 through 2013-14. Absent other legislative action, annual funding for the program would return to $20 million beginning in 2014-15.

Thinking of SB 70 as a $400 million program, however, changes one’s perspective on what the program could accomplish. It is a lot of money. In addition, because the settlement funds are appropriated for a limited number of years, the program’s funding structure encourages a defined multiyear approach to the improvement process. To state it another way, the limited-term settlement funding raises the question: “What should CTE look like at the end of the seven years?”

Indeed, we think $400 million provides sufficient funding to support a substantial statewide improvement process for CTE. This change in perspective would also allow the state to adopt a different approach to the local improvement process. Specifically, rather than provide a variety of grant programs for isolated components of CTE programs, the state could focus on laying the foundations for all the essential components throughout each county or region. By determining regional grants on a formula basis (such as the number of high school students), the state would ensure funding for all parts of the state. Finally, the $20 million base appropriation could provide permanent support for the regional partnerships after the end of the seven-year program.

By providing grants to each county or region of the state, the Legislature would invite all levels of education and the business and labor communities to begin the process of coordination and communication that strong CTE programs require. In general, we think counties represent a reasonable proxy for a regional approach because it provides a scale that is sufficiently large to capture regional labor markets but also small enough to allow the development of close working relationships that are needed in CTE. Clearly, however, there will be situations that call for establishing CTE regions within counties or for multicounty regions.

A regional approach also could bring all the education agencies and a broad array of business interests to the improvement process. In some areas, these parties may have good working relationships that permit a collaborative approach to improving CTE. In other areas, relationships may need to be built or rebuilt, which will take time. In some areas, local interests—or even the state—may need to intervene to help build these relationships. Although a regional approach cannot guarantee success, it can create positive pressure that can lead to better working relationships.

The regional partnerships also would alter the state’s role in SB 70. Rather than developing and administering a wide variety of grant programs, the state’s primary role would be to monitor the progress of the regional collaboratives—providing technical assistance, sharing best practices, holding the local agencies accountable for making progress, and providing feedback to the Legislature on changes that are needed for SB 70 or other state programs. We do think that a relatively small amount of grant funds for state-level activities makes sense. This would provide the two state agencies with resources to conduct activities that provide statewide benefits, such as curriculum development.

Establish Regional CTE Improvement Grants

For these reasons, we recommend the Legislature enact legislation to create within the SB 70 program a seven-year program of county or regional grants that would address all aspects of the improvement process. Grants would be determined on a formula basis, so that all parts of the state would participate in the program. The regional partnerships would be guided by a plan that would be developed during 2007-08 that assessed the current status of career tech and described the region’s approach to improving CTE.

The plans would constitute a regional “master plan” for the improvement of career technical education. The K-12 entities, community colleges, and four-year universities in the region would participate in the development of the plan. To ensure the broad participation of business interests, we recommend including the local WIB in the collaborative. We also suggest inviting the participation of labor organizations so that apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs are included in the coordination process.

Our proposed legislation also would identify the program elements that would be included in the local plans, such as:

Our proposal would distribute funds based on the number of high school students in the region. Figure 2 illustrates the amounts that our proposal would provide to selected counties if these counties were established as regions. As the figure shows, even the grants to smaller counties accumulate to large sums over the seven-year time frame. The figure also shows that our formula distributes only $47 million of the $52 million in funds that are proposed in the budget year. Our proposal would set aside the other $5 million for state-level grants.


Figure 2

LAO Proposed Regional CTEa Grants
Selected County Allocations

(In Millions)



Seven-Year Total







Contra Costa



Los Angeles












San Diego



Santa Clara



Santa Cruz




a  Career Technical Education.


Finally, we also recommend the Legislature include in legislation performance measures for the regional partnerships that indicate the impact of the improvement process on students. Indicators could include the number of high school students (1) enrolled in a high school career pathway or other sequence of CTE courses and (2) who successfully complete a pathway or other sequence of CTE courses. We would also suggest that legislation require partnerships to collect data on the number of high school graduates who participated in a pathway or sequence (1) who attend college or a university with the goal of getting a four-year degree and (2) who enroll in community college with the goal of getting a vocational degree. Finally, data on wages earned by students who worked after high school also would be useful outcome data on the value of the pathways.


Our proposal for regional grants is similar to the Governor’s proposal to use $20 million for new or expanded pathways. The budget proposal would allocate the $20 million on a formula basis to all community college districts, and would be used for a wide variety of local CTE activities, such as developing model projects, aligning curriculum with the state’s CTE standards, planning and implementing new partnership academies, and developing advisory councils to link education with labor, business, and industry.

The budget proposal, however, provides little direction about the larger purpose of these grants or what the state expects the grants to produce. Instead, it provides a menu of possibilities. In a sense, this is our concern with the overall SB 70 proposal for 2007-08—the budget contains many solutions to a problem that is not clearly defined. We think the problems are primarily at the local level. As a result, our proposal would focus most of the funds at the regional level accompanied by a clear statement of what the state hoped to accomplish through the program and a set of performance measures. We think this system of local grants supplemented with supportive state agencies provides the Legislature with the best opportunity to make a permanent improvement to CTE throughout the state.

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