House Education Committee advances legislation to improve access to career & tech ed programs in Pa.

HARRISBURG, April 18 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, today announced a bipartisan package of legislation that would enhance the quality of career and technical education programs throughout Pennsylvania. This nine-bill package aligns with House Democrats’ Plan4PA to give students throughout the commonwealth a quality education that would jumpstart their careers in vocational and technical job fields.      

“As Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, I am committed to improving the delivery of Career and Technical Education programs to those who need them most,” Roebuck said. “Just last year, more than 67,000 Pennsylvania high school students were able to participate in CTE programs. This bipartisan package of legislation – especially my two bills – would build upon the success we have already achieved, while also giving stakeholders a voice to make much-needed changes.” 

In 2015, the House unanimously adopted H.R. 102 to establish the Select Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness. The subcommittee, co-chaired by state Rep. Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, made several recommendations that resulted in this package of legislation.

“I’m encouraged by our bipartisan package of bills that would enhance secondary and post-secondary career training and technical education resources for young Pennsylvanians preparing to enter the workforce,” Harkins said. “I’m also hopeful that my bill – which would call on the state departments of Education, Labor and Industry, and Agriculture to centralize all of their CTE resources in one online clearinghouse – would make accessing all of this information easier.”

During the subcommittee’s series of public hearings, state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, said it was noted that efforts shouldn’t be focused on reinventing the wheel by creating new programs. Rather, the state should focus on encouraging the expansion of quality programs into other parts of the state and even statewide.

"Before we can accomplish that goal -- we must gather a complete accounting of existing CTE programs and use those programs as a model to build and foster local cooperation across the spectrum of stakeholders to improve career opportunities for students in their local communities," he said.

On Monday, the House Education Committee unanimously advanced the following bills to the full House without amendments:

House Bill 2155 would amend the Public School Code of 1949 to provide for new vocational instructional certification requirements; sponsored by Rep. Steve Bloom, R-Cumberland. 

House Bill 2156 would create the Career and Technical Education Partnership Tax Credit Program. Tax credits would be available to business firms that contribute to career and technical partnership organizations. The available tax credits would be capped at $15 million in a fiscal year; The state would increase the aggregate tax credit amount by $5 million if 90 percent of the tax credit amount were used during the prior fiscal year; sponsored by Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill/Dauphin. 

House Bill 2157 would amend the Public School Code of 1949 to require the Commission for Agriculture Education Excellence to issue guidelines and the state Department of Education to issue guidelines and expedite the approval process for schools to initiate new CTE programs; sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove, R-York. 

House Bill 2158 would require a school entity to seek representatives of career presenters and considered all career presenters equally. In addition, the Department of Education, in collaboration with the Department of Labor and Industry, would develop and annually update standard career informational materials; sponsored by Rep. Zack Mako, R-Lehigh/Northampton. 

House Bill 2159 would amend the Public School Code of 1949 to expand an online database of articulation agreements; sponsored by Rep. Craig Staats, R-Bucks. 

House Bill 2203 would require the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Labor and Industry and the Department of Agriculture, to create and annually update an easily assessable online career resource center; sponsored by Harkins. 

House Bill 2204 would require the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Labor and Industry, to create a workforce development program clearinghouse. The Department of Education would report its findings and actions to the Senate and House chairmen and minority chairmen of the Appropriations and Education committees; sponsored by Mullery. 

House Bill 2205 would amend the Public School Code of 1949 to allow CTE programs to establish an occupational advisory committee at the intermediate unit level; sponsored by Roebuck. 

House Bill 2206 would amend the Workforce Development Act by adding at least one member to each workforce development board; sponsored by Roebuck.