CBIA supports the concept of establishing the Connecticut Technical High School System as an independent agency.
HB 7271 is a good idea because it recognizes that teaching young professionals skills in trades and the latest manufacturing technologies requires a level of administrative flexibility that’s not always available under the state Department of Education.
CBIA recommended some changes to help ensure the bill does not create a new education bureaucracy that becomes more expensive and less efficient and effective over time—as bureaucracies are prone to do.
Improving the state’s technical high school system is paramount to Connecticut manufacturers, who are facing a skills gap created with the retirement of baby boomers.
Manufacturers are relying on technical high schools and community colleges to attract, train, graduate, and place more students from diverse backgrounds in the manufacturing industry.
Still, some manufacturers are concerned that HB 7271 creates another educational bureaucracy whose appetite for tax dollars would grow as it grows.
CBIA Senior Counsel Eric Brown, in March 20 testimony before the legislature’s Education Committee, noted the bill talks of organizing the system into “bureaus, divisions, and other units” as its governing board sees fit.
“While such divisions on a small, strategic scale may be necessary, the current language may certainly convey that this legislation is paving the way for a new, large and expensive bureaucracy with less than maximally efficient operations,” Brown said.
Brown suggested the legislation include more specific direction to the new agency– possibly in the form of a mission statement clarifying that the agency’s goal is to cost-effectively attract, train, graduate, and place increasing numbers of students from a broad range of geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The bill also calls for six new political appointments to the governing board overseeing the system.
Brown suggested the legislation include specific criteria for those appointees.
That ensures appointees come from different areas of Connecticut, representing small, midsize, and large manufacturers, or organizations with statewide experience working with technical high schools.
He also asked committee members to consider giving the system greater flexibility in hiring and replacing teachers, with greater emphasis on ability and performance over teaching credentials.