Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt wants to invest more in career and technical education programs — a strategy that could aid a changing state economy craving more skilled workers.
Laxalt, Nevada’s attorney general, released a plan Tuesday focused on bolstering CTE programs through additional funding, business community partnerships and policy changes that would remove barriers.
“My top priority as Governor will be improving education, and I know these schools will give Nevada’s kids a head start,” Laxalt said in a statement. “They help students to get good jobs and grow families of their own. As Governor, I’m committed to investing more in these teachers and students, getting businesses engaged in improving our workforce, and getting bureaucracy out of the way to help these schools succeed.”
His campaign says the CTE plan comes after months spent studying the issue, talking to education and business leaders, attending working group meetings and visiting schools with existing programs. Nevada lawmakers already have been working on the issue, including approving $25 million in grants for CTE programs during the 2017 session.
It’s part of Laxalt’s broader plan to invest $500 million worth of new funds in schools, although his team hasn’t specified where it’s getting that revenue and whether that figure assumes Commerce Tax revenue will still be in place over the next two years. A campaign spokesman didn’t immediately return a call or email with an answer to that question, and Laxalt didn’t take questions from the press during a campaign event on Tuesday.
Aides to Gov. Brian Sandoval, who’s developing a budget so whoever is the next governor is will have a relatively complete proposal to work from, said nearly five months ago that the budget will be as much as $500 million above current spending levels because of projected growth in existing revenue streams.
Laxalt’s plan states that the gubernatorial hopeful would support a “significant increase” to the state’s investment in CTE programs. The increased funding — he didn’t give an exact dollar amount — could help expand course offerings and cut waitlists for the programs, he said.
“Being able to visit these schools and see 9th and 10th graders that are on computer programs and designing skyscrapers with all of the diagrams and metrics it takes to build things, building robots, being prepared to be machinists, construction workers, all this stuff is very exciting,” Laxalt told attendees at the Southern Hills Republican Women’s Club on Tuesday. “Because these schools are on waiting lists — kids are dying to get in there and guess what — they graduate at nearly 100 percent when they go to these schools.”
Other tenets of his plan include:
- Offering financial incentives such as a dollar-for-dollar tax credit to Nevada businesses when they invest in CTE programs.
- Aligning the CTE curricula with the needs of the state’s industries and forging partnerships with the technology sector to boost computer science instruction.
- Expanding dual-credit courses and making advanced certifications as well as associate degrees available to more K-12 students.
- Removing bureaucratic obstacles that may be preventing instructors from receiving licenses to teach CTE courses.
- Updating the state’s star-based ranking system for public schools so that it recognizes dual-credit for CTE courses and doesn’t penalize schools preparing students for those professions.
- Allowing students to take either the WorkKeys Assessment Test, which is the career-ready version of the ACT, or the ACT.
“I have no doubt that Nevada is poised for a major economic boom if we can produce the workforce we need,” Laxalt wrote in the plan. “Providing our students with a clear pathway to success and creating a new generation of career-ready Nevadans will help make Nevada’s next chapter our best yet.”
Laxalt’s detailed plan for CTE programs doesn’t come out of the blue. In his K-12 education plan, released in April, the attorney general indicated a desire to expand funding for programs that would prepare students for in-demand jobs that don’t necessarily require a four-year college degree.
His opponent, Democrat Steve Sisolak, also has identified the issue as a priority.
Disclosure: Steve Sisolak has donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.