Gov. Butch Otter’s proposal for a significant expansion in career-technical education – formerly called professional-technical education, and including capacity expansions for industry areas that are high-wage, high-skill and high-demand – has won unanimous support from JFAC this morning. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee voted 20-0 in favor of a CTE budget for next year that includes the $3.79 million expansion at Idaho’s six technical colleges, the College of Southern Idaho, North Idaho College, College of Western Idaho, Lewis-Clark State College, Idaho State University and Eastern Idaho Technical College. The new funding includes the equivalent of 38 new state employees.
The initiative is designed to reduce backlogs for in-demand tech programs by 50 percent. The programs include dental hygiene, pharmacy tech, nursing programs including LPN and RN, surgical technology, software and web design development, heath information technology, network systems and security, aerospace technology, aircraft maintenance, food processing, welding technology, and diesel technology.
“I think that large increase due to expanded post-secondary capacity is being responsive to the workforce needs and what we’re hearing from industry, so I think that’s strategically a good move,” said Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, who proposed the budget.
Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, said he and a group of other JFAC members worked on a plan to also include funding in the budget for teacher recruitment and retention for the programs, tying $500,000 of the increase to that, but decided to wait for legislation from germane committees. “This last year we lost 13 of our CTE programs because we could not find the people to fill these positions,” Mortimer said. “This is an issue that I’m committed to continuing to address even this year.” Mortimer, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said, “We have the equipment, we have the classrooms, and if we can’t find a teacher and we lose these programs we’re in trouble.”
The budget that JFAC approved for the Division of Career-Technical Education reflects a 10.4 percent increase in state general funds, largely because of the $3.8 million expansion; it matches the governor’s recommendation. It still needs approval from both the House and Senate and the governor’s signature to become law, but budget bills rarely change once they’re set by the joint committee.