Frequently asked questions about the Kalamazoo RESA CTE Proposal
What was proposed?
Kalamazoo RESA proposed a one-mill property tax increase to be levied for 20 years. The millage will generate approximately $8.3 million in revenue from local property taxes annually to help fund a systemic redesign of K-12+ career and technical education (CTE).
What is Career and Technical Education (CTE) and why is it important?
Career and Technical Education (CTE) provides students with the academic and technical skills, knowledge and training necessary to succeed in future careers and to become lifelong learners. CTE prepares these learners for the world of work by introducing them to workplace competencies and makes academic content accessible to students by providing hands-on context. In fact, the high school graduation rate for CTE students in Kalamazoo County is 97% - 17% higher than the state average.
What will the community get now that the proposal is approved?
The quality of K-12+ CTE programming will be enhanced by developing a centrally located career center for most programs, which will 1. substantially improve equitable access for students, 2. create economies of scale and 3. open up work study, co-op and internship opportunities for students with employers. The KRESA CTE millage will be used for operational purposes, with a portion devoted to facilities and updating equipment. In addition, public/private partnership opportunities are being cultivated to assist with additional capital needs. Approval of the millage means:
More students exposed to career options at earlier ages with more career readiness coaches
Equitable access, economies of scale, and enhanced quality through a centrally located career center with a few strategic satellite locations
More CTE teachers hired to deliver high-quality learning opportunities to students at the career center
Equitable access to CTE classes through efficient transportation, resulting in less time on buses and more time learning
State-of-the-art technology and equipment to prepare students for high-demand, high-skill, high-wage careers
At-risk students and those with disabilities supported through instructional support staff
Additional training and support for students and families, particularly families in poverty
Increased career planning and work-based learning experiences to assist students with career decision-making
Increased number of students earning industry-recognized credentials/certificates that meet the needs of employers, particularly in areas with massive labor shortages such as health care, manufacturing, information technology, construction trades, and education
Expanded opportunities for work-based learning, apprenticeships and credentials
More students ready for the 21st Century job market who possess in-demand skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity and character
Expanded and strengthened partnerships with area employers and colleges to help prepare students for high-demand, high-skill, high-wage careers of the future
More young people equipped with the skills needed to earn a good living, allowing them to raise families in the area
Are there plans to establish a career center?
Yes. The CTE Millage will enhance the quality of CTE programming by developing a centrally located Career Center with smaller satellite locations to improve student access, eliminate participation barriers and create economies of scale. Funds generated by the CTE Millage will support operational objectives such as staff to work with K-12+ students on career awareness and development, CTE teachers, student transportation, state-of-the-art technology and more, with a portion of it devoted to facilities and equipment updates. We are also working on a public/private partnership to assist with additional capital needs, including the establishment of a centrally located Career Center which will host the majority of CTE courses. In the event that a public/partnership does not work out, a portion of the CTE Millage will be used to create a centrally located career center, which may include renovating an existing building. Regardless, we will not be asking voters for a separate bond issue to construct a CTE career center.
Why isn't KRESA CTE utilizing KVCC's campus & programs? Are they part of the redesign process?
Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) has been involved in, and a partner with KRESA, throughout the entire career and technical education redesign process. The KRESA Career and Technical Education (CTE) redesign recommendation identified KVCC as one of the limited sites that would continue to operate as a satellite location offering CTE programming. KVCC has indicated that it does not currently have the necessary capacity to house additional KRESA CTE programming, as such we are committed to the preservation of our close partnership with KVCC. One of the primary goals of the KRESA CTE redesign is to create more equitable access and more efficient transportation to increase the number of participating students; the western location of KVCC’s Texas Township Campus does not lend itself to supporting those goals.
Isn’t CTE only for students who aren’t prepared for college?
No! The stigma surrounding CTE as a “last-resort” for students is an outdated stereotype. CTE courses are expansive, ranging from healthcare, law enforcement and technology, to engineering, manufacturing and even the arts. Courses in CTE often serve as an opportunity for high school students to explore careers they may be interested in a hands-on, experiential setting. In fact, CTE courses often offer college credit and frequently lead to high-skill, high-wage careers.
The common thread between education, economic development, quality of life and concern for all citizens have long been hallmarks of this community’s success.
With nine local school districts serving 35,000 students, we have the numbers to support offering a system of K-12+ career readiness, including a wide variety of CTE programs and work-based learning. As marked by the growth of our local business communities, this economy has great potential, but lacks trained talent in critical areas. A commitment to creating opportunities for all students could make the difference moving ahead. Even students on a current trajectory toward success need to ensure that their talents are meeting the demands of the 21st Century.
Learn more about the need for a systemic redesign of CTE in Kalamazoo County at kresaCTE.org/facts.
Why are we discussing career and technical education (CTE) now? Isn’t Education for Employment working?
Education for Employment (EFE) has worked successfully for more than 30 years, though improvements are needed to ensure equitable success for K-12+ students. As Kalamazoo County's current CTE enrollment numbers are trending down, the opposite of every other CTE program in our area, major changes to the labor market and the necessary skills that students need for a lifetime of meaningful and successful careers are creating a growing disconnect. More students should be able to explore career options starting earlier in their K-12 career, match potential jobs with their talents and interests, and gain relevant career readiness skills. The current CTE system does not provide these experiences in a comprehensive way, resulting in significant barriers to student participation such as scattered facilities and an inefficient transportation system. At the same time, many area employers are telling us that they cannot find enough qualified workers for many high-skill, high-wage jobs. These businesses are also reporting that many candidates simply do not possess the 21st Century skills needed for success in today’s workplace.
How will a new system of career and technical education (CTE) serve students? Employers?
We know that students are naturally curious about their future and especially about how their education is relevant to that future. By helping students explore career options and build 21st Century skills as early as kindergarten and then continue to build these skills and experiences throughout their K-12+ career, we equip them to make their most informed career decisions. Students will walk away from CTE courses with tangible results: on-the-job learning experience through internships and work-based learning, increased opportunities for college credentials and professional certificates and less college debt. Employers are a natural partner in this exploration and development; by engaging with schools and students, they strengthen the school-to-work pathway, add relevance to the learning and reinforce the necessary technical and 21st Century skills necessary for success in today’s job market.
Who has been involved in the discussion up to this point?
Since early 2018, educators from every local school district, along with leaders from the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (Kalamazoo RESA) have been in collaboration with business, community and higher education leaders, as well as parents and students. The resulting conversations have allowed us to gain insight into how the current system is, and isn’t, working for students and employers. In January 2019, 75 education, business and community members were recruited to create the three Design Teams. Those teams engaged in research, data review, site visits and interviews. Their work led to specific recommendations for a new, world-class system of K-12+ Career and Technical Education in Kalamazoo County.
What are "Professional/Skilled Trades?"
Professional/skilled trades are careers that require specialized training, but not a four-year degree. These fields, such as healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, construction and automotive, were once viewed as "dirty jobs" and manual labor. Today, careers in the professional/skilled trades offer a wide array of opportunities for young adults of varying social and economic backgrounds.
Will there be accountability?
Establishing and sustaining excellence at the individual and collective levels will be attained by implementing robust continuous improvement processes. Goals and metrics will be developed for the following areas:
Substantial increase in student exposure to the world of work, particularly underrepresented populations
Increase number of students who earn credentials/skills certificates
Increase graduation rates/decrease dropout rate
Increase enrollment in Career and Technical Education delineated by ethnicity and underserved populations
Recruitment and retention of outstanding CTE teachers
Increase intern/externships and work-based learning experiences
Increase participation in Early/Middle College
Good stewardship and efficiencies
What do you mean when you mention "21st Century skills," "soft skills" and "employability skills?"
Too many students are leaving school without the skills employers desire — skills that extend beyond the core academics. These "soft skills" or "employability skills" are personal attributes that enable students to interact effectively with other people. They include skills and characteristics such as leadership, motivation, responsibility, teamwork, problem solving, decisiveness, flexibility, time management, confidence and work-ethic.
21st Century skills refer to the skills and abilities educators and employers have identified as being required for success in the workplace. They include communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.