The increased funding aims to advance the careers of Montana students
Leaders of organizations focused on career-focused opportunities for students appeared before lawmakers Friday to ask for more funding for their statewide efforts.
The groups, known as Trades and Technology Student Organisations, or CTSOs, focus on a wide range of sectors including agriculture, hospitality, construction and health. Since 2013, the state has allocated approximately $550,000 annually to support the work of these organizations to prepare K-12 public school students to enter Montana’s workforce. Now those seven CTSOs are calling for a $1.5 billion increase in state funding through House Bill 382, an investment they confirm will help address the state’s ongoing labor shortage.
In presenting his proposal to the House Appropriations Committee on Friday, Rep. Greg Oblander, R-Billings, said the added dollars would help CTSOs expand to students outside of public schools. According to A fiscal note prepared for the invoiceEach CTSO would receive $75,000 to fund a state director position, and the remaining dollars would be split equally among all seven existing CTSOs.
“We have not asked for a raise [since 2013]” Oblander said. “And we’re here today to discuss trying to get additional funding to expand into non-public programs, internet and home school, so more students can experience what CTSO has to offer.”
HB 382, which includes new reporting requirements to track how CTSO money is spent, first appeared before the House Education Committee last month. At the time, nearly two dozen past and present CTSO members testified in support of the bill, saying their participation provided them with valuable learning opportunities, competitive events and job-like opportunities. Aspyn Bowman, a senior at Billings West High School, said through her membership in Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) she was able to shadow professionals from 12 different health care disciplines and see four surgeries, including a hip replacement and a lower including a leg amputation
“I’m so grateful to have experienced this at such a young age,” Bowman told lawmakers. “After studying medicine and anatomy through diagrams and books all through high school, it was amazing to see it become a reality in front of me.”
Other supporters of HB 382 last month included the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Montana Hospital Association, Montana Contractors Association, Montana Public Employees Federation and Montana School Boards Association. No one testified in opposition. The bill passed the House Education Committee unanimously, and received strong bipartisan support in a House vote last week, advancing 89-11 on an initial vote and before the House Appropriations Committee on Friday.
Advocates from HOSA, SkillsUSA Montana, Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) and other CTSOs focused Friday’s testimony largely on the fiscal impact HB 382 would have on career education in the state, arguing that the Legislature’s return on investment would be “a.” qualified workers”. DECA State Director John Stiles calculated for committee members that based on a CTSO enrollment of 10,754 students in the 2021-22 school year, the $1.5 million allocation in HB 382 would be roughly $0.93 per student per week.
“We’re funding the first chapter of their success story after they graduate and enter the workforce,” Stiles said. “We see that success in the 21st century economy requires more than skills. It requires ethics, leadership, global awareness, and that’s what our students are learning.”
Sen. Barry Usher, R-Laurel, also rose to the occasion in what he casually referred to as the “underfunded little sister” of career and technical education. And Brody Romano, a senior at Helena’s Capital High School and member of SkillsUSA Montana, offered lawmakers some specific examples of how his group hopes to use the additional funds, including funding a summer leadership conference and covering membership fees for students who might not otherwise be able to. do not participate
Appropriations committee members focused many questions on the level of industry funding directed at CTSOs and the proposed equal distribution of state dollars to organizations. Organization leaders assured lawmakers that local hospitals and other private sector entities invest money and resources in CTSO efforts, in part because of the skilled local workforce those efforts will create. However, HOSA State Director Katie Meier emphasized that schools in smaller, rural communities may not have access to outside support, making state dollars a critical resource.
“Small fire departments and ambulance departments don’t have the capacity to put that money in to help these kids,” Meier said, adding that those departments struggle with EMT and other staffing shortages. “And so in those rural areas where we really need to target some of these services, that big donor isn’t sitting there.”
With the proposed funding divided among the CTSOs, Rep. Bill Mercer, R-Billings, asked why those allocations were not based on an individual organization’s annual performance. CTSOs are already scored by the Office of Public Instruction based on several metrics, including membership growth. In response, Stiles informed the committee that the CTSOs had jointly agreed to split the money equally between them, in part to avoid getting “stuck in the weeds” on how to resolve whether or not OPI had met certain goals. HOSA Vice President Kali Wicks argued that organizations have struggled in the past to get adequate scores and funding.
“We’ve had problems getting information on how the scoring was done,” Wicks said. “We’ve had cases where people haven’t gotten the right funding [and] It has been recognized based on some unexpected mistakes. In this way we thought this is it.’
The House Appropriations Committee will take action on HB 382 later, at which point it will move to the House floor for a final vote before being sent to the Senate.
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