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What can we do to create more high-quality vocational education in Massachusetts?

In a previous article, I wrote that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should establish a new grant program to look at innovative ways for vocational districts and non-vocational districts to work together to create additional capacity. Further, I suggested that the state needs to reassign staff to quickly review applications for new Chapter 74 programs.

Those are relatively short-term solutions. What else can we do?

Here are three additional ideas:

o Speed up Large Building Projects. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) needs to lead in this area. It needs to advance discussions with the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), legislative leaders, and other stakeholders to develop a strategy to increase the ease by which building expansions are approved at regional vocational technical high schools which need to increase seating capacity to meet student demand. As veteran vocational leaders have repeatedly pointed out, the vast majority of regional vocational schools in Massachusetts are 40 years old. They need repair. In some cases, they need replacement. Because some of these districts have up to 19 member communities, up to 19 individual approvals are required to get a project started. With some communities facing significant fiscal stress already, it is very difficult to argue for even more funding. The state needs to put on its thinking cap and solve this problem.

o Create Stand-Alone Buildings. The state needs to convene talks with the MSBA about funding stand-alone buildings on the campuses of regional vocational technical schools which need to expeditiously increase seating capacity to meet student demand. To do this, the Legislature will likely need to empower the MSBA to dramatically increase the percentage of funding it provides on such projects.

o Create Additional Financial Incentives. As previously stated, the state needs to work to create financial incentives to support vocational school expansion. In addition, it needs to consider giving a financial incentive to regional vocational school districts that add members and to regional vocational school districts that realign their membership to make them more contiguous geographically.

These three ideas are far more complicated than creating a new grant program or hiring a new staff member. They surely won't be easy. And they won't solve the problem overnight.

But if we are serious about solving the problem - not just acknowledging it - we need to start somewhere.

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What can we do to create more high-quality vocational education in Massachusetts?

In a previous article, I wrote that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should establish a new grant program to look at innovative ways for vocational districts and non-vocational districts to work together to create additional capacity. Further, I suggested that the state needs to reassign staff to quickly review applications for new Chapter 74 programs.

Those are relatively short-term solutions. What else can we do?

Here are three additional ideas:

o Speed up Large Building Projects. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) needs to lead in this area. It needs to advance discussions with the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), legislative leaders, and other stakeholders to develop a strategy to increase the ease by which building expansions are approved at regional vocational technical high schools which need to increase seating capacity to meet student demand. As veteran vocational leaders have repeatedly pointed out, the vast majority of regional vocational schools in Massachusetts are 40 years old. They need repair. In some cases, they need replacement. Because some of these districts have up to 19 member communities, up to 19 individual approvals are required to get a project started. With some communities facing significant fiscal stress already, it is very difficult to argue for even more funding. The state needs to put on its thinking cap and solve this problem.

o Create Stand-Alone Buildings. The state needs to convene talks with the MSBA about funding stand-alone buildings on the campuses of regional vocational technical schools which need to expeditiously increase seating capacity to meet student demand. To do this, the Legislature will likely need to empower the MSBA to dramatically increase the percentage of funding it provides on such projects.

o Create Additional Financial Incentives. As previously stated, the state needs to work to create financial incentives to support vocational school expansion. In addition, it needs to consider giving a financial incentive to regional vocational school districts that add members and to regional vocational school districts that realign their membership to make them more contiguous geographically.

These three ideas are far more complicated than creating a new grant program or hiring a new staff member. They surely won't be easy. And they won't solve the problem overnight.

But if we are serious about solving the problem - not just acknowledging it - we need to start somewhere.