State CareerTech Board Rejects Project Stitt Budget | Education

The Oklahoma CareerTech board of directors on Thursday refused to approve the budget for a dropout prevention initiative it inherited from another agency in 2021, effectively ending the program.

Jobs for America’s Graduates Oklahoma, or JAG-OK, was launched in October 2020 by Governor Kevin Stitt in conjunction with a national nonprofit and initially operated by the Oklahoma Office of Educational Quality and Accountability under Ryan’s supervision. Walters. He placed state employees in various high schools across the state in an effort to connect at-risk students with real work experiences to prevent them from dropping out.

As presented to the Oklahoma City Board of Trustees Thursday morning, the initiative would have received $388,440 from the CareerTech General Trust Fund for the upcoming fiscal year, plus an additional $45,000 from the Revolving Fund through a donation. private intended for a specific secondary school to participate.

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In turn, those funds would have been sent to six east Oklahoma high schools through a memorandum of understanding to cover 12-month contracts for a teacher at each site to work with up to 60 students deemed to be at high risk of dropping out.

Broken Arrow, Durant, Glenpool, Watts and Wewoka would have received funding through the General Credit Application. Broken Bow High School reportedly received revolving funds through a donation from Weyerhaeuser, a lumber company headquartered in Seattle and operating in southeast Oklahoma and southwest Arkansas.

A spokesperson for Oklahoma CareerTech confirmed Thursday morning that under state law, at least five of the nine board members would have to vote yes for the budget to pass.

Council members Brian Bobek, Randy Gilbert and Estela Hernandez were absent Thursday morning, and the council currently has a vacant seat representing the state’s 2nd congressional district.

The budget received a majority of votes cast among the five members present, with yes votes from Michael Brown, Peter Dillingham and Edward Hilliary.

However, citing concerns about duplication of existing programs and the number of students served by the program, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who is challenging Stitt as a gubernatorial candidate, and – after a long hiatus – Shaelynn Haning voted no.

As elected state superintendent, Hofmeister chairs the board of directors. The other eight members are appointed by the Governor and are subject to confirmation by the State Senate.

“The need is immense,” Hofmeister said. “But it serves 360 students at most. Every year we have 42,000 to 43,000 students who are ready to graduate. When you see quite large resources – over half a million (dollars) last year and easily $425,000 this year – on such a small number of students on such a big problem, I wonder if it’s is a good use of funds. ”

In an emailed statement, Stitt’s spokeswoman Kate Vesper called the decision disappointing and accused Hofmeister of playing politics.

“Unlike the superintendent, Governor Stitt believes Jobs for America’s Graduates, which accounts for less than half a percent of CareerTech’s budget for a cause that affects 1 in 4 students in Oklahoma, is a successful program and he appreciates the CareerTech’s commitment to Oklahoma students,” she wrote.

The CareerTech system has had a dropout recovery program in place for more than two decades, with seven campuses across the state offering a combination of credit recovery courses and vocational training.

CareerTech Deputy State Director Justin Lockwood informed the council that enrollment in this program among these seven sites ranges from 30 students to approximately 250, with plans underway to add up to four additional sites to meet Requirement.

By comparison, JAG-OK principal HL Baird told the board that about 200 students from across the state participated in the JAG-OK program during the 2021-22 school year, at a cost budgeted at $3,000 per student. The per-student cost of the program is expected to drop to about $1,150 per student in ’22-’23.

The five schools that would have received money through the general appropriations fund were selected on a first-come, first-served basis, Baird said, and 10 other districts have expressed interest.

“It’s not a cheap program,” Baird said. “But if we do it right, we will reach the most vulnerable students. In my experience in education, you spend 80% of your time on 20% of your students.

JAG-OK transferred to CareerTech in July 2021, but no funding came with it. The ministry had already approved its budget for this fiscal year, prompting it to use some of its carryover funds to maintain it until June 30.

“I want everyone to understand that this is a directive that came down to us,” said Lee Denney, acting director of CareerTech. “We did not imagine this. However, when we are asked to do something, we show up.

At its June meeting, the board of directors failed to fund JAG-OK during the vote on the CareerTech system’s overall budget for fiscal year 2023 due to unanswered questions about the bidding process followed. for the program and how it even ended up being under the CareerTech umbrella.

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CareerTech officials said after the June meeting that a $25,000 affiliate dues paid to the Jobs for America’s Graduates national organization was not put out to tender due to a change in state law in 2020.

The JAG-OK program was transferred to CareerTech from the Office of Education Quality and Accountability as part of an interagency transition that was not mandated by law, according to CareerTech officials, and the board was informed of the move in June 2021 and the following month by the agency’s former director.

With the board rejecting JAG-OK’s budget, Denney told Thurdsay’s meeting that the $45,000 earmarked for Broken Bow High School’s participation will be returned to the donor and that districts that have already incurred costs to train and prepare staff for the implementation of the program will be reimbursed.

A spokesperson for the CareerTech system confirmed Thursday afternoon that the reimbursement will come from funds carried over from the department from the previous fiscal year and that there are no plans to bring the program back before the board for reconsideration.

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