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Area vocational-technical schools will continue getting major federal funding source

Reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act means that the largest source of federal funding will continue flowing to vocational-technical schools across the country.

Top administrators at vocational-technical schools across the country — including those in Bucks and Eastern Montgomery counties — got a good piece of financial news recently.

Congressional reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act means that the largest source of federal funding for such institutions will continue.

Named for the late Kentucky congressman who championed career and technical education throughout his career, the act has reauthorized increases in total funding for the nation’s vocational schools by about $75 million, from the $1.125 billion of last school year to $1.2 billion for the 2018-19 school year that started July 1.

“It’s a great victory for us,” said Leon Poeske, administrative director at Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township.

The school draws students from the Bensalem, Bristol Borough, Bristol Township, Morrisville, Neshaminy and Pennsbury school districts.

“It’s huge for us because we use most of the money from it for our facilitators who aid students who are struggling and need extra help that’s crucial for their continued success,” Poeske added.

While he was on vacation and didn’t have access to exact numbers, Poeske said he anticipated a slight increase from the $410,000 BCTHS got from the Perkins Act last school year.

Middle Bucks Institute of Technology Administrative Director Kathryn Strouse said the Warwick school will get a $17,955 increase in Perkins Act money this school year, from $265,000 to $282,995. It will be used for a special education teacher, half the expenses for a school counselor and 12 instructional assistants, Strouse said.

“The fact we have this money and can employ these people with their particular areas of expertise helps kids be successful in their chosen careers,” said Strouse, whose school draws students from the Centennial, Central Bucks, Council Rock and New Hope-Solebury school districts.

At Upper Bucks County Technical School in Bedminister — which draws students from the Palisades, Pennridge and Quakertown Community school districts — Executive Director Jeff Sweda also applauded the action on Perkins.

“Everyone knows that in today’s economy there is a tremendous shortage of skilled workers in various trades throughout the state and country,” Sweda said. “Vocational education is coming to the forefront, and federal legislators realize how important it is to help in the training of these young people to become trades people.”

Perkins funding for Upper Bucks Technical will increase by $7,000 this school year, from $116,000 to $123,000, Sweda said. The money will be used for instructional facilitators, professional development for teachers to help them become better at their crafts and equipment for the health careers, plumbing and auto collision programs, he added.

“Without this Perkins funding, we’ve have to try to get the money for those things from our sending districts or some other source,” Sweda said.

Eastern Center for Arts and Technology Executive Director Thomas Allen said he was gratified by the support of technical education at the federal level.

“This (Perkins Grant reauthorization) was a truly bipartisan bill that was passed at a time when it’s tough to find agreement on anything,” he said. “It communicated to everyone there is a huge support for career and technical education.”

Allen said the $260,000 Eastern will get from the Perkins Act this school year — a $10,000 increase from 2017-18 — will go toward instructional assistants and professional development for teachers. The Upper Moreland school draws students from the Abington, Cheltenham, Jenkintown, Hatboro-Horsham, Lower Moreland, Springfield, Upper Dublin and Upper Moreland school districts.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., who said he was the primary Democratic author of the bipartisan legislation that reauthorized the Perkins Act, said in a news release it will help “update education and job training to meet the needs of the local economies, ensuring students have the skills needed to remain competitive.”

Credit: Bucks County Courier Times

By Chris English 

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