The United Federation of Teachers hosted its annual professional development day in New York City for career and technical education teachers on Feb. 1. It was a chance for large numbers of teachers, administrators and business partners to talk about the great strides that CTE has made in garnering national recognition and how to sustain and scale up these programs.
AFT President Randi Weingarten welcomed the participants by noting that New York City has long been a beacon for CTE programs, even during times when it was out of favor in education circles. That is no longer the case now: CTE is "cool again," boasting solid evidence that it engages students, helping them map out their future and providing a solid grounding for both college and careers, and giving them marketable skills for good middle-class jobs.
Underscoring the event's importance, a wide range of influential speakers participated in the event and expressed their appreciation for the work of New York's CTE teachers. Weingarten, UFT President and AFT Vice President Michael Mulgrew, and UFT Vice President for Career and Technical Education High Schools Sterling Roberson were joined at the event by New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña; New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia; Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City; Chauncy Lennon, managing director and head of Workforce Initiatives for JP Morgan Chase; and Angel Piñeiro, senior vice president of ASI System Integration.
Weingarten pointed to both the UFT's and the AFT's commitment to CTE. The UFT has been central to New York's embrace of high-quality CTE programs, aligning the curriculum with the needs of local employers and bringing in business partners to support both teachers and students.
For its part, the AFT has invested some $500,000 from its Innovation Fund to support affiliates' work with their local partners to expand CTE opportunities. In Illinois, an AFT Innovation Fund grant to the Peoria Federation of Teachers will support student internships with local businesses. A grant to the AFT's Pittsburgh affiliate has leveraged funding to start an Emergency Response Technology Academy, where high school students earn college-level credit while preparing them for careers in law enforcement, firefighting and emergency medical technology. In Florida, an Innovation Fund grant is helping build a partnership between AFT members in the Miami-Dade public schools and Miami Dade College that focuses on digital media.
These are vital efforts, but both the AFT and the UFT understand that unions cannot do the work alone, Weingarten stressed. CTE brings together elements of education policy and funding, as well as workforce development, and this is why it is so important to get federal legislation right. The relevant federal bills constitute a triad of CTE policy: the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that was reauthorized in 2014, the Every Student Succeeds Act that replaced No Child Left Behind late last year, and the yet-to-be reauthorized Carl D. Perkins Act. The AFT and our affiliates are working to promote high-quality CTE programs in the Perkins reauthorization, calling for adequate funding to ensure all students have access to these promising pathways.