In January 2015, during a “Spotlight on Excellence” inaugural event at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, the newly sworn in Governor Charlie Baker told the Valley Tech student body that his administration would “work really hard to make sure every kid has the opportunities you’ve had.”
One year later, the Baker-Polito Administration has followed through on those words in a big way by proposing an $83.5 million dollar investment in career vocational technical education.
“With too many good-paying jobs going unfilled, we are pleased to announce this critical investment in our career and technical schools,” Governor Baker said in a press release. “Our proposal will make it possible for more students to explore a pathway to success through stronger partnerships with our schools and local businesses in the Commonwealth.”
Shared between Gov. Baker’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) budget and economic development bill, the $83.5 million proposal calls for boosting the $9.2 million Skills Capital grant program with an additional $75 million in equipment grants to expand and improve career technical education programs. Work-based learning grants totaling $7.5 million will nearly double support for school-to-career connecting activities and Dual Enrollment, and $1 million in Career Technical Partnership grants will support stronger relationships between vocational schools, comprehensive high schools, and employers.
Governor Baker’s proposed investment in quality and rigorous career technical education will provide a budgetary boost for vocational technical schools and their district-communities, according to Valley Tech Superintendent-Director Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick.
“One-time infusion of state funding for capital items and industry connectivity will enable vocational technical systems to access state-of-the-art equipment and advance labor-linked learning without burdening municipal partners,” Fitzpatrick commented. “The potential reduction in regional vocational technical districts’ FY17 budget requests could provide much-needed relief for member communities dealing with multiple other financial challenges, including healthcare, pension obligations, and special education costs.”
Fitzpatrick added that his early review of the Governor’s “New Deal” styled economic development blueprint suggests that Governor Baker will seek legislative authorization to increase the Commonwealth’s debt capacity.
“Access to new bonded revenues would distinguish funds for vocational technical schools from basic Chapter 70 education revenues,” Fitzpatrick explained. “I’m hopeful that if state revenues increase, basic aid to schools will also benefit.”
Fitzpatrick applauded Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito for developing the proposal in harmony with Secretary of Education James Peyser, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald Walker II, and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash. By crafting and announcing the proposed investment in unison, Fitzpatrick believes the leaders of the Baker-Polito Administration have strongly endorsed vocational technical schools as key contributors to the state’s economic future.
“This momentous investment will empower vocational technical systems with proven track records of integrating academics and industry-relevant training to expand accessibility to their programs, place more students on pathways to success, and contribute to Massachusetts’ burgeoning high-skill workforce.”