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N.C. Opinions: Winston-Salem

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Bill promoting vocational education is long overdue

From an editorial Thursday in the Winston-Salem Journal:

Sometimes when the legislature passes a bill, we just have to ask: What took them so long?

North Carolina’s “Career Ready Education” bill isn’t law yet, but after unanimous state Senate approval and Gov. Pat McCrory’s endorsement, it appears on the fast track. The bill would direct school districts to develop curricula for students more interested in technical and trade jobs after graduation.

Better vocational education has been on the state’s political agenda since at least the 1950s, when the state’s community college system was created to meet the need.

But North Carolina has never followed other states that developed either vocational high schools or rigorous vocational programs in regular high schools.

If there’s been so much discussion but so little action, there must be a reason.

That reason is money.

North Carolina legislators brag about the community college system but also starve it of the money it needs to fully meet the state’s workforce development needs. Instructors of highly technical skills aren’t easy to find, so better salaries are needed, and expensive equipment must be kept current.

There are now 80 Early College programs operating in the state, programs where the community colleges and high schools join resources. They are extremely popular and successful. So the path to success in a broader program is now visible.

Now legislators must provide the cash, not just hearty endorsements. And they must get freshmen and sophomores, not just upper classmen, into introductory portions of these programs, preferably on their own high school campuses. Students need to be engaged in these pursuits early so they see the value of an education.

Not every child wants a four-year degree, and there are many college graduates, including a few editorialists, who wish they knew a bit about programming, carpentry or car repair. This is a good turn for the state’s schools, but it needs money to work.

The views in N.C. Opinions are not necessarily those of the Observer’s editorial board.
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