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Budget Cut: Wrong Approach

Editorial for March 18, 2004

The Bush administration's planned cuts in the 2005 budget for career and technical education (vocational programs) at the nation's schools is misguided.

Under the proposed budget, federal funding for vocational education, which has been in place in its current form since 1984, would be cut from $1.34 billion to $1 billion. It would also shift more responsibility for funding the programs from the federal government to the states.

This plan would directly impact schools right here in White Salmon. Many students who are learning a trade in welding, or computer graphic design, for example, may well not have that option much longer. That's because the federal funds have been used to pay for relatively expensive welding equipment or computer hardware and other tools of a variety of vocational trades. In order to give students the best chance to get a job, teachers generally try to use the latest equipment so high school graduates will be experienced in what most businesses are using.

Take away the federal money and it's conceivable the programs will go with it, since our schools are already facing intense budget constraints and will not be able to make up the loss.

It is unfortunate that these cuts are being considered. The vocational programs in our schools provide direct work force training, and approximately half of the students involved in these courses go on to work in their respective fields after leaving high school.

It is even more amazing that President Bush would propose a cut in this particular area, given that the nation has endured the loss of at least 2.2 million jobs since he took office. If our students are not provided sufficient funding to train and gain experience in their chosen vocational fields, they will be less able to compete in the marketplace when they get out of school.

The bottom line is, these cuts are only likely to exacerbate the dismal unemployment situation for our young people. This is an area that ought to get added funding, not a slashed budget.

It's clear that this administration is hostile to vocational training. Some of the language from the White House Office of Management & Budget in justifying the cuts is far from supportive for technical and vocational training: "Career and technical training in our nation;s high schools has largely been an outdated relic, suitable for the classroom realities of the 1950s," read an excerpt.

We have to wonder what the many CHS students who have earned jobs as a direct result of vocational training learned at the school think about this assessment of the value of their schooling.

Maybe this administration really does believe that losing jobs in America has helpful economic benefits, as one of Bush's top economic advisers tried to explain recently.

Remember that from a few weeks ago? President Bush's chief economic adviser, Greg Mankiw, explained that "outsourcing" of American jobs to other countries would turn out to be "a plus for the economy in the long run," adding that it was simply "a new way of doing international trade."

The fact that Mankiw was not fired for his statements tells us a lot about the direction of this administration's economic policy.

JB

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