Elizabeth Lauber wants people to know that, when Gov. Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 620 on Monday, it represented more than two years of hard work by countless people who were interested in establishing a technical education certificate for Missouri high schools.
“There were a lot of people interested in making this happen,” said Lauber, a lobbyist with her own legislative consulting firm. “These people worked tirelessly, they really did.”
It began with Lauber and the not-for-profit JG Foundation for whom she has been a lobbyist for over the past two legislative sessions. The JG Foundation helps disadvantaged students go on to become self sufficient.
As the foundation cultivated the idea of establishing minimum requirements for a CTE certificate that students can earn in addition to a high school diploma, many folks weighed in, Lauber said. Jeff Aboussie with the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council was an early sounding board. Otto Fajen with the Missouri NEA was another.
The JG Foundation, through Lauber, then brought the issue to the attention of lawmakers. It was taken to Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, the vice chair of the Senate Education Committee and later Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, who was then chairwoman of the House education committee that oversees elementary and secondary education.Lauber said that Romine and Swan worked hard to push the idea of a the CTE certificate through their respective chambers. Both said after the governor signed the bill that they worked hard because they believed in it.
Romine said that a CTE certificate in Missouri high school provides students who aren’t college bound or immediately college bound with another pathway to gain viable employment post-high school.
“I taught shop in the Branson and Farmington school districts and worked with students who took pride in achieving my DECA program,” Romine said. “With this law, students can now pursue a vocation with the full support of their high school behind them.”
About 35 percent of Missouri students age 18 to 24 are enrolled in college, according to statistics from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the NCEHMS Information Center.
Swan said such a certificate signifies that those who achieve one have employable skills and empowers students who don’t choose to go to college or want the opportunity to get a job and earn their way there.
“A CTE Certificate recognizes that all Missouri students have a chance to choose the pathway that’s right for them,” Swan said.
According to Careertech.org, 11 states offered CTEs in high schools in 2015 and more than 150 CTE bills passed in state legislatures across the country last year.
After the bill was introduced into the legislature, Lauber said many other groups testified in favor of it, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the CTE Association and school administrators.
Other Missouri legislators, Lauber said, have also been quietly chipping away to get education issues passed that are designed to help all students, regardless of income or demographic. Rep. Mike Cierpiot, the majority floor leader from Springfield, Mo., was in favor of CTE, she said.
Laubers said it had so much support because it made so much sense. For the economically disadvantaged student, it gives them an immediate opportunity for jobs. But more broadly, it also helps any student who wants a career outside of college or before college.
“This helps all students across Missouri,” Lauber said.
Senate Bill 620 authorizes the State Board of Education, in consultation with the newly formed CTE Advisory Council, to establish minimum requirements for a CTE certificate.
“It brings these skills front and center,” Lauber said. “It brings dignity to vocational pursuits and it validates a student who may want to pursue this type of career.”