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Ed commissioner 'optimistic' lawmakers will fund career, technical programs

A Board of Regents plan to allow students to use career, technical or arts assessments toward graduation comes with a caveat. State education officials acknowledge it will take more money for schools to further develop sequences of courses that can lead up to that type of intensive exam.

They plan to ask the state Legislature and governor for more state aid in the upcoming budget. But what happens if the money doesn't come through?

"I'm actually optimistic around those additional resources," Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said during a conference call Tuesday with The Buffalo News Editorial Board. "Certainly, there are key leaders in the Legislature who have been very supportive of career and technical education. The governor really took the lead on the expansion of P-Tech, so I'm optimistic about the additional resources."

Specifically, King said, the Education Department plans to make three budget requests connected with the expansion of career and technical education programs:

- Increase the long-standing cap on BOCES aid for teacher salaries, which he said has been capped at $30,000 since 1990. The proposal would ask to increase the cap over time so that the state is supporting a larger share of career and technical education programs.

- Ask for a commensurate increase in special services aid, which goes to the state's five largest school districts, including Buffalo Public Schools, for career and technical education programs.

- Propose investments in "21st Century" career and technical education programs.

King left wiggle room if lawmakers fail to fund the requests.

"We also think there's some opportunity to redirect some existing resources to create programs for students that really match their needs," King said.

Another option, King said, would be to encourage schools that currently offer isolated electives in career-focused courses to turn them into a course sequence that could culminate in an arts assessment or career and technical education assessment.

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