Linda Denver Protests Possible Decrease in State Funding for CTE (ROP) programs

A retired educator and Menifee community activist has voiced her opposition to proposed changes in t...

linda denverA retired educator and Menifee community activist has voiced her opposition to proposed changes in the state budget that could negatively affect high school career educational programs.

Linda Denver, wife of Menifee Mayor John Denver, recently sent out a plea for local support of her efforts to oppose the consolidation of "categorical" programs into a single general fund available to K-12 school districts. In a recent email sent to some Menifee residents, Denver urged others to join her in sending letters of protest to local legislators.

An email sent to Menifee 24/7 included a copy of a letter dated Feb. 29 and addressed to State Assembly Member Paul Cook of the 65th District. In the letter, Denver expresses opposition "to the Governor's proposal to eliminate Regional Occupational Centers and Programs (ROCPs) and other Career Technical Education (CTE) programs at the state level, and to consolidate the dedicated funding for ROCPs into a discretionary allocation that would be redistributed throughout the state."

CTE programs, previously known as ROP, are operated by school districts to provide career training not taught in the traditional classroom setting. Training in these specialized programs help students prepare for the work force by developing skills in areas such as computer technology, retail sales and agricultural sciences.

Denver's letter refers to a portion of Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. Under the heading "greater flexibility and accountability" of K-12 school funding, the state budget proposal reads, in part:

...the Budget proposes a weighted pupil funding formula that
will provide significant and permanent additional flexibility to local districts by consolidating the vast majority of categorical programs (excluding federally required programs such as special education) and revenue limit funding into a single source of funding.


Matt Knox, director of the Assembly 65th District, confirmed that the proposal would increase the flexibility of school districts in determining how to spend state funds, in part by eliminating many separate funding categories such as the fund designated for CTE programs.

"This is something a lot of districts are complaining about -- that there's not a lot of discretion allowed on what they can and can't fund," Knox said.

Denver believes that even though school district administrators would have more freedom to distribute the funds the way they see fit, many would decide that in this era of tight budgets, career technical education programs would be among the first things cut.

"They are proposing to include categorical funds under the whole general fund umbrella," Denver said. "Districts emphasize basic academics such as math and science because kids need to know how to read and write, but that alone doesn't help them learn how to apply those skills to a career path.

"It's very possible that districts might emphasize funding intended to produce higher test scores without continuing to provide career technical education. It's likely those funds will diminish."

According to information provided by the Perris Union High School District, the district is offering 39 CTE courses this semester. The student count for enrollment in those courses is 2,581. The most popular courses this semester include plant and animal science (318 students enrolled), agricultural biology (294), computer applications (291) and agricultural earth and physical sciences (194).

Dian Martin, teacher on assignment to coordinate the district's state and federal funding for programs, said she believes that even if the proposal is included in the final state budget, CTE programs in the PUHSD will not be in danger of elimination.

"We don't anticipate that happening in our district," she said. "Our focus remains providing students with an array of educational opportunities. I believe districts would still be able to support existing programs and start new programs statewide, but obviously those are district decisions."

Martin said her belief stems in part from the fact the PUHSD also receives federal funding from programs such as the Perkins Act, which allocates federal funds for vocational-technical education programs.

Denver isn't willing to gamble that most districts will decide to retain state funding for CTE programs.

"If I were in the district, I would like to have that kind of control, too," she said. "But you have to remember that the goal is to get kids to go to college.

"When I was a teacher, I wanted to make my credential relevant to the students by helping them develop career skills. Now, if I'm an English teacher, I have to make sure that XYZ is taught so it shows on the state test scores."

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