Career and Technology Education – An Alternative to College

The nexus between education and employment has never been more complex.

Some political leaders and candidates say a college education is so vital in today’s job market that taxpayers should provide it as a free entitlement.  Most high schools view anything short of college admission as a failure.  But many college graduates, despite racking up huge student loan debt, have such a hard time finding jobs that they end up tending bar or waiting tables.  Meanwhile employers contend that they can’t find employees with adequate skills for entry level or more advanced positions.  And foreign students dominate advanced-study courses at our universities, casting doubt on the rigor and subject matter of our traditional high school classes.

Clearly something is out of sync in the school-to-career formula.

School choice is widely embraced as the primary vehicle for improved educational outcomes.  There is no longer any question that schools who compete for students and have the freedom to try innovative methods deliver better results than traditional schools.  Still, many “choice” schools offer the same college-prep curriculum, but in a different building or perhaps using alternative methods.

Recognizing the disconnect between education and jobs, some states and school districts are now focusing more on Career and Technology Education (CTE).

While my home state of South Carolina does not specifically address school choice on a state-wide basis, the department of education’s Career and Technology Education division offers significant profile-of-the-south-carolina-graduatesupport to designated “choice” districts.  Many of these districts now offer alternative education options to their resident families, including CTE centers.  Greenville County Public Schools, for example, enrolls 15% of its students in non-traditional “choice” schools.

The South Carolina Dept. of Education provides standards-based curricular and instructor support for both traditional and specialized schools.  The department hosts training workshops and seminars, administers standards, and tracks performance through a highly organized program funded by a combination of federal grants and state education money.

Suggested and supported course offerings are organized into “career clusters”, and the list is impressive:

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Arts, AV Technology and Communications
  • Business Management and Administration
  • Education and Training Careers
  • Finance
  • Health Sciences
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
  • Transportation, Distribution and Logistics

The Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center in York, SC shares a campus with a traditional high school, and provides career and technology education for students in the county who apply and are accepted.  Ron Roveri, Director of Career and Technology Education for the state, headed the Tech Center for fourteen years prior to accepting the top state CTE post.

I asked Roveri if South Carolina held the same strong bias toward college prep that I find in other states and districts.  “Not at all,” he replied.  Our program is designed to work seamlessly for students who are preparing to enter college, the work force, or the military after high school.”

As college graduates find it increasingly difficult to land good jobs, and employers struggle to find good employees, the pressure is on our school systems to make students career-ready – even those who don’t attend or graduate from college.  Career and Technology Education choice schools are a solution whose time has come.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideEvery morning about this time
She get me out of my bed
A-crying get a job.
After breakfast, every day,
She throws the want ads right my way
And never fails to say,
Get a job!

Get A Job – the Silhouettes

 

South Carolina Tells Nikki Haley “No Refugees”

photo by WLTXPresident Obama’s accelerated plan to resettle up to 200,000 Syrian refugees in the United States over the next two years faces a tsunami of opposition from American citizens, and their security concerns over the program have pressed elected officials at every level into action.

Senator Jeff Sessions conducted an oversight hearing on the resettlement plan, and today House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for a task force to find a way to put the program on hold until their security concerns could be addressed and resolved.  A number of congressmen have made statements in opposition, and some have proposed bills prohibiting the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S.

Last night the Dept. of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the State Department held a classified briefing in an attempt to assuage the concerns of members of Congress.  South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney said the briefing did not offer much new information but added he has done his own research and determined that the vetting process amounts to little more than a question on a form asking, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”  Mulvaney expects a House vote today which would require the agencies to specifically vet each refugee in detail prior to approval for resettlement.  “That would be the ‘pause’ some have referred to,” he said.

Pressure is being applied at the state level as well, and as of this writing over 30 governors have stated opposition to Syrian refugee resettlement in their respective states.  South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was an early advocate of the program, but acquiesced to calls for tighter security and wrote a letter to the State Department requesting a hold on Syrian refugees headed for her state.  South Carolina state representative Chip Limehouse plans to file a bill that would prevent the state from funding refugee relocation.

At the local level, county councils in South Carolina, supported by fervid testimony from constituents at council meetings, are passing resolutions that they hope would prevent Governor Haley from placing refugees in their counties.  Greenville County’s resolution stated, in part: “…the Greenville County Council will not approve or proceed with the United States Refugee Resettlement Program and rejects the expenditure of state funds to assist the United States Refugee Resettlement Program in Greenville County.”

While the Greenville County resolution won unanimous approval, as did similar bills in Berkeley and Pickens counties, York County’s motion by councilman Bruce Henderson failed for lack of a second.  Councilman Robert Winkler told me he is completely opposed to any program that might bring a terrorist to our shores.  When asked why he wouldn’t second the motion, he said, “We just didn’t have enough time to know exactly what we were voting for.  But I don’t really think there is anything we can do about it anyway – if Governor Haley wants to put refugees in our county, she can just do it, no matter what we say.”  Winkler pointed out that not much county money is spent directly on refugees other than the cost of police, fire departments, and schools.  Benefits such as food stamps, cash welfare, health care and housing are funded by the state and federal governments, so the county does not have any control over expenditures for refugees.

It’s not clear exactly who, if anyone, has the authority to stop the Obama administration from proceeding with the resettlement of Syrian refugees, or, for that matter, any other refugees.

Governor Haley contends that no Syrian refugees have been resettled in South Carolina to date.  If the predominantly conservative local and state officials prevail, that status will not change any time soon.

This article is sponsored by Watchdog Arena.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

And if she should tell you “come closer”
And if she tempts you with her charms
Tell her no no no no no-no-no-no
No no no no no-no-no-no
No no no no no
Don’t hurt me now for her love belongs to me

Tell Her No – the Zombies

They song may be from 1965.  But the Zombies are still alive!

Refugees Knockin’ At the Door – Don’t Let ‘Em In

(AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

(AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

Someone’s knockin’ at the door! Somebody’s ringing the bell!

President Obama sings, “Open the door, and let ’em in.”

Never mind that public opinion weighs heavily against allowing Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States. Or that one of the ISIS thugs who brutally murdered Parisians this week is thought to have used a fake Syrian passport, throwing question on whether refugees can be vetted. Or that thirty-one governors (at last count) are opposed to to importing Syrian refugees.

Other governors, like Republican Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Democrat Steve Bullock of Montana are doing the Kabuki dance on the refugee issue. They were for it before they were against it, and then for it again, kinda, but maybe against it. That kind of Charlie Brown leadership does not enhance political resumes.

Republican presidential candidates? Lock the door. Democrats? Let ’em in.

Refugee resettlement advocates would have us believe that this is not such a big deal – it’s only about a relatively small number of Syrians, most of whom are abused Christians, who are seeking refuge in the United States. If only that were true – any of it.

In the first six weeks of this year 98% of all Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. were Sunni Muslim. At least 75% of the immigrants flooding into Europe every day through doors specifically swung open for Syrians are not Syrian, and are not refugees. They are opportunists from third-world countries all over Africa and the Middle East, seeking economic benefits. Why shouldn’t we expect the same in the U.S., especially since nearly all refugees here are on food stamps, cash welfare, and other government benefits, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement?

Not mentioned by the refugee advocates are all the others who are arriving here – the unvetted non-Syrian refugees, the fake asylum seekers, or the illegals who overstayed visas or walked across our porous borders. The recent election of a refugee-happy prime minister to our north doesn’t brighten the situation.

Don’t fall for the crocodile tears. This is not a question of charity – those who clamor for more immigration and refugee resettlement are taking food from the mouths of our own hungry, jobs from our own unemployed, and the hope for a safe nation with traditional American values from our own children. There is no comparing today’s immigration and refugee situation with Ellis Island. This is nothing short of an invasion of our home by people who want to replace us, not join us.

If altruism demands that we help those truly in need, let’s help them in their home countries.  Let’s help them defeat their oppressors, if that’s the cause of their misery.  But if they won’t defend their own homes and families, and come knocking at our door demanding our food, shelter, and safety, we have no choice.

Close the door. Don’t let ’em in.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Someone’s knockin’ at the door,
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell,
Someone’s knockin’ at the door,
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell,
Do me a favor, open the door
And let ’em in!

Let ‘Em In – Paul McCartney

Liberal Comedy – You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

So there we were, my wife and I, patiently waiting for the York County (SC) council meeting to start.  I was one of several constituents there to make a statement in support of our councilman’s resolution to prevent the Refugee Relocation program from dumping third-world citizens in our county.  I wanted to point out that bringing in needy refugees does not benefit our nation or citizens in any way, so it can only be viewed as charity.  And taking money from taxpayers to give to a foreign charity without our consent is unconstitutional and illegal.

Next to my wife sat a 40-something guy – longish hair with a balding spot, rimless glasses, Mister Rogers sweater, 20-year old Birkenstock sandals.  A slight lisp.  I’m pretty sure that was his Prius in the parking lot, the one with the “Bernie Sanders Works For Me” sticker next to the faded “Hope and Change” decal.

My wife is a chatty sort of person, and of course she had to strike up a conversation with her next-seat neighbor.  “Are you here to talk about the Refugee problem?” she chirped.  I thought Mr. Birkenstock’s eyes were going to pop out of their sockets.

“What do you have against those poor people?” he said, revving up.  “We should be helping them!  It’s our duty as a society!  What about the CHILLdrennnn?”

Yep, I had heard that sound before, on PBS.  “The CHILLdrennnn.”  I’ve always wondered why the Hope and Change crowd doesn’t seem to have any problem dumping $20 trillion of debt on the CHILLdrennnn.  But I digress.

My wife is chatty, all right.  But get on her wrong side and she is chatty like a Rottweiler.  She lit into Mr. Birkenstock with a scorched-earth monologue detailing the many reasons why moving throngs of hostile, unemployable, non-English-speaking, permanent welfare recipients to York County at a time when we can’t even take care of our own underachievers, is a bad idea.  “Why don’t you donate YOUR money to the refugees, instead of trying to take mine?” she asked.

Mr. Birkenstock shook his head at us, his face dripping with a condescending mix of pity and disgust.

The meeting began, and we all sat through hours of the mostly boring and often icky sausage-making of low-level politics.  Then the agenda turned to how the county will manage the rapid growth we are currently experiencing.  It was Mr. Birkenstock’s time to take the microphone.

“I am opposed to all this growth!” he wailed.  “We don’t want any more of these big apartment buildings going up in our nice, peaceful neighborhood! The traffic is getting terrible.  And what about the CHILLdrennnnnn! They can’t play safely in the street any more!”

We laughed out loud.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideLaugh, laugh, I thought I’d die
It seemed so funny to me
Laugh, laugh you met a guy who taught you how it feels to be
Lonely, oh so lonely

Laugh, Laugh – the Beau Brummels

 

Police Body-Cameras – A Good Idea Seeking Funds

On April 4, 2015, Walter Scott was stopped in North Charleston, SC by officer Michael Slater because his brake lights weren’t working. While the officer was on his car radio, learning that Scott had some outstanding warrants, Scott took off on the run.  Slater pursued him, and they scuffled; Scott was tasered at least once, and ran off again.  Officer Slater fired eight shots at Scott, hitting him five times, once fatally in the heart.  The officer’s initial report said he “feared for his life” because Scott had taken his taser, even though Scott was unarmed.

An eyewitness, Feiden Santana, recorded the incident on his smart phone.  He released his video recording when police reports contradicted what he saw.  According to Santana, Scott never took the taser, and was in fact fleeing to avoid being tasered again.

The shooting received considerable national publicity in the wake of allegations of police excesses in Missouri and New York. The Charleston Police Dept. fired Scott four days later, and the community rallied to prevent what could have been an ugly backlash. Officer Slate was subsequently charged with murder.

This ugly incident was quickly and appropriately dealt with by local officials, but the South Carolina legislature took the matter a step further, passing the “Walter Scott” bill – a law that requires all South Carolina law enforcement officers to wear body cameras.   Governor Nikki Haley said, “This is going to strengthen the people of South Carolina. This is going to strengthen law enforcement, and this is going to make sure Walter Scott did not die without us realizing that we have a problem.”

We do, however, still have a problem: coming up with the funds to pay for the newly-required technology, estimated at $23 million over the first two years.  The South Carolina legislature has yet to fully fund the plan.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials across the country are ready to make the move to body cameras, should a source of funding become available.  The Reporters Committee has compiled a list and map of states showing their status on the body-camera issue.

Congressman Tim Scott (R-SC) hopes to provide federal funding for that purpose, proposing his “Safer Officers and Safer Citizens Act”, which would allocate $500 million federal dollars over five years to help local agencies acquire body-camera technology.  Scott said,

“Across our nation, too often we are seeing a lack of trust between communities and law enforcement lead to tragedy. While rebuilding that sense of trust will take time, I believe that providing law enforcement agencies with the resources they need to equip officers with body-worn cameras is an important step. We have seen that body-worn cameras can keep both officers and citizens safer, and that video can help provide clarity following an altercation. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures.”

Congressman Scott’s bill offers what many call a common-sense solution to a nagging problem:  how to balance the effectiveness of police officers with the rights and safety of citizens.  Like all federal solutions, its fate lies in the ability to muster enough support to win an appropriation of funds.

This article can be seen in its entirety at Watchdog Arena.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

 

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind

Eye In the Sky – Alan Parson Project

 

With a smart phone in every pocket, the “Eye In the Sky” is inescapable.  I can’t explain why I have always loved this song.  As a musician, there are just a lot of things going on here that excel.