State lawmakers are considering legislation that could alter funding and thus change the dynamics of programming offered at vocational education centers like Anderson’s D26 Career Center.
Among the more than 100 bills affecting schools and students that have been introduced in the current session of the General Assembly, one — House Bill 1002, authored by Rep. Chuck Goodrich, R-Noblesville — is drawing attention from educators seeking to expand programming and partnerships with employers in their areas.
It would permit the creation of career scholarship accounts, which would let students more directly interact with employers to secure internships and other opportunities for on-the-job experience.
In Anderson, applications for D26’s career pathways programming are being accepted for the 2023-24 academic year. Officials were quick to point out that their partnerships with area employers — including one with Nardco that is letting the school’s HVAC program expand this year — are robust, so concerns about losing funding should the bill pass are minimal.
“We have really great partnerships with our employer partners that help us prepare students for growing into productive citizens,” said Jason Neal, director of the D26 Career Center.
Concerns exist, however, that funding CSAs would funnel money away from career and technical education programs, especially those in districts in more rural areas.
“I think it’s another way to inch toward universal vouchers and privatization,” said Melanie Wright, a music teacher at Daleville Elementary School and a former state representative.
“We’re still funding public education, we’re funding public charters, and then we’re funding vouchers that go to private schools, and now we’re stretching that money to go to employers.”
Neal noted that, since the D26 Career Center draws students from throughout Madison County, they’re exposed to diverse ideas and able to gain understanding in fields that will make their resumes more attractive to prospective employers.
“They’re in programs together for careers that they’re interested in pursuing,” Neal said. “It makes a very productive and achievement-driven focus for our students to excel and work with one another.”
D26 offers career pathways in fields including nursing, advanced manufacturing, construction trades, culinary arts and others. Neal said course offerings are frequently reviewed and adjusted according to several criteria.
“When we look to expand programming at D26, we mostly look at local and regional demand and high-demand and high-wage career fields,” he said.
“We have several (programs) that are already well-developed such as welding, manufacturing, health science with our CNA (certified nursing assistant) program.”
Neal said offerings for 2023-24 could vary depending on student interest. Applications are being accepted through March 3.