When Southern Westchester BOCES counselor Kevin McAllister visits area schools for recruitment events, he gets really frustrated.
It’s not that he has any problem finding students interested in Career and Technical Education — it’s just the opposite.
“It’s heart-breaking,” McAllister said. “I have to tell them they might not be able to get a spot.”
Just this week, he attended a small high school recruiting event and more than 100 kids expressed interest in everything from culinary programs to electrical engineering. “But I have to tell those 100 kids that their school district will only send about 15 of them.”
McAllister shared that story in meetings with state legislators throughout the day to illustrate how important it is to boost state aid and change the funding formula so more students have access to CTE. He was among nearly 100 educators, students, and administrators who took part in this week’s BOCES Advocacy Day.
NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said that while the need and interest in CTE is great, the state’s outdated funding formula discourages school districts from sending students for BOCES CTE programs. NYSUT is advocating for a change in law that would require the state to cover more than $30,000 in salary for BOCES instructors, a cap that has not been updated in more than 30 years. The salary cap shifts more of the cost to local school districts and discourages participation.
In addition, Special Services Aid is capped for the Big Five and other districts that do not belong to BOCES. This cap, too, reduces state support for CTE programs by shifting the costs to local schools.
As part of Advocacy Day, McAllister was joined by two students who told lawmakers how lucky they feel to be in BOCES CTE programs. John Cross, who is in the TV/Video Production program, said he has been exposed to practical hands-on learning and field trips that opened his eyes to many future career options. “I never would have had access to all the equipment in our state-of-the-art studio in my home district,” he said.
Ariel Novominski told lawmakers she only found out about the advanced engineering program because her sister attended an Emergency Medical Services program at BOCES. “I’ve been able to continue my AP courses in my home district and attend the BOCES program, too,” she said. “I found that not many of my friends knew much about what BOCES has to offer.”
“It’s a well-kept secret,” McAllister said. “We need to change that — expand opportunities and get the word out.”
NYSUT is urging the Legislature to:
- Approve S.5024, introduced by Senate Education Chair Shelley Mayer, to expand high-quality BOCES programs throughout the state; increase the Special Services Aid per pupil formula cap; and include ninth grade in Special Services Aid in the Big Five districts;
- Enact legislation to address severe staffing shortages in CTE by establishing scholarship and loan forgiveness programs for teachers, school-related professionals and mental health professionals who commit to work in public schools and BOCES; and
- Support the executive budget proposal to establish a new $10 million High School College Workforce Transformation grants program.