Paul Baumbach on the Shortage of Trade School Grads

Filed in National by on November 21, 2017

Put the Vocational and Technical back into Vo-Tech. In my district, the Vo-tech school is treated by many parents as another college prep charter school.

Part of the problem, nationally and in Delaware, is that the Congress expanded their definition of what a vo-tech school can teach, and as a result some (nationally and in Delaware) provide college-pathways. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that. However, this reduces the number of slots in our vo-techs for students seeking trade-pathways, this has led some of our vo-techs to use past grades as an enrollment preference, the superior funding of our vo-techs make it harder for trade-pathways to be offered in our traditional high schools, and the fact that the creation of our vo-tech system has sharply reduced the trades-pathways in our traditional high schools. Thus, in Delaware we, too, need more tradespeople. Just as critically, we have more high school dropouts than I believe we should have, due to the artificially-low number of trade pathway seats in Delaware public schools. Delaware’s laser-focus on SAT for all students is also not helping our state recognize that trade-pathways are as important as college-pathways. – Paul Baumbach Via Facebook

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Jason330 is a deep cover double agent working for the GOP. Don't tell anybody.

Comments (19)

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  1. Alby says:

    I’ve been railing about this for 20 years. Blame it on high-stakes testing, which treats vo-tech schools exactly the same as traditional ones.

  2. SussexWatcher says:

    With respect, Rep. Baumbach should spend some time in the four vo-tech schools and talking to parents of 7th and 8th graders. The definition of a “trade” has grown far beyond the traditional union-shop meaning.

    Studying a trade does not mean a student will not go to college. To restrict the vo-tech schools to non-college-bound students is ridiculous. You are asking students and parents to make a life-changing decision in 8th grade. What about the late bloomers who find that spark and flourish in 9th or 10th grades? And surely college students and grads can benefit from hands-on, practical experience in HVAC, auto repair, early childhood education and graphic design?

    I have friends who went there for technology programs. They all went to college to hone their skills and get that required BA, and are now all working in the fields they studied in high school – and making damn good money. Are they less worthy of a vo-tech slot than a student who does construction or auto mechanics or welding? That’s what Rep. Baumbach seems to suggest.

    Parents and students are seeking out the vo-tech schools because they

    – are better funded
    – have better technology and incorporate it better into the curriculum
    – have generally newer buildings
    – have a community of students who are interested in learning a topic and not just there to pass the time
    – are hands-on and don’t just fill classes with busywork and paper-pushing, helping students learn who are not traditionally academic-oriented or have attention issues

    They also seek them out in some cases because their neighborhood schools blow giant monkey balls. Ask the western Sussex districts where their top students have gone – it’s to Sussex Tech. That’s what you get when you have school choice. Rep. Baumbach’s constituents can apply to a shitload of choice, charter, private and parochial schools above the canal. In Kent and Sussex counties, there are a tiny handful of slots outside of the tech schools. There is a reason that Delmarva Christian High School in Georgetown has been booming, even among parents who aren’t particularly religious. They want options outside of the schools they went to 20 years ago.

    If a traditional public school wants to offer a trade pathway, there’s nothing stopping it, by my understanding. If the problem is funding, Rep. Baumbach can work on creating a school funding system that actually makes sense and gives all schools the resources that they need.

    But don’t blame parents of college-bound students for taking advantage of what the vo-tech schools are offering and “reducing the number of slots” for trade pathways, aka the non-college-bound kids. The General Assembly created this half-assed patchwork system and have not had the testicular fortitude to raise taxes to properly fund it. Now it’s on them to fix it.

  3. Paul says:

    In Sussex County, Sussex Tech went from being a ½ time vocational school, that offered nothing but an array of trade skills. Students who attended their home districts ½ day to get academic instruction. When George Frunzi took the reins as super, he used marketing techniques to “raid” home districts, scrapped some of the trade programs, such as welding, and tried to turn the school into a regional academic high school, or more to the point, his own personal fiefdom. The result was creation of a new set of programs around quasi-technical skills such as criminal justice. Gone were staples of the school, such as the multi-trade-discipinary building of a house with framing, roofing, hvac, electrical, masonry and plumping specialties all contributing their talent. ST never had a mandate to become a regional academic high school. They were supposed to remain a trade school. And they were supposed to be overseen by the legislature. Directly. The legislature was asleep at the wheel during all of this, the the subsequent money scandals that followed in later years. From my perspective as a teacher in a home district in the county, it was a dismal abuse of power by all involved. And, the upshot is that they are not training tradespeople in Sussex County.

  4. Paul says:

    Sussex Watcher: The problem with your rosey scenario is that the window that had been open for kids who would never go to college was closed. Kids with learning disabilities were passed over for other kids for these “new” programs you chortle about. What about the dyslexic kid who is a whiz at auto repair but for whom reading a sonnet was torture? Your perspective is from the point of view of a kid growing up in the “system”, not of a trained adult. I can forgive your lack of perspective, but your “view” is limited. BTW, a plumber makes damn good money too, as does an electrician. Who will wire or plumb your house now in SC?

  5. SussexWatcher says:

    If you want to blame Frunzi for anticipating the evolution of the trades and adding technology, go ahead. If you want to use a 1980s educational model for the 2020s, feel free. But don’t punish parents for seeking out options that are best for their kids. If you want academic achievers to remain in their home districts and succeed, then the districts need more resources. If you want students to seek out charter and choice options, then you have to provide them. Rep. Baumbach’s voters can send their high-achieving kids to Cab or Wilmington Charter or Newark Charter. Kent and Sussex parents can’t do that. Don’t just look at this from your position of privilege.

  6. SussexWatcher says:

    “What about the dyslexic kid who is a whiz at auto repair but for whom reading a sonnet was torture?”

    That’s what IEPs are for. Students just have to be passing to get into the vo-tech lotteries, not have superior grades.

    You want to do the opposite of what you condemn by making the vo-tech schools only accessible for lower-achieving students who can declare at age 13 that they don’t want to go to college.

    It all comes down to funding. Raise taxes on the rich and pour it into all schools. Problem solved.

  7. Alby says:

    @SW: Vo-techs have all the wonderful things you mention because they spend 50% more per student than traditional schools. That’s not why I’m paying my taxes to them.

    We should not have full-time trade schools. Most states don’t. This is an inefficient system that exists outside the normal referendum process so they never have to ask for money, they just take it. It perpetuates because it is a political dumping ground and job-of-last-resort (if DelTech doesn’t have anything open).

    The schools may be all you say they are. That doesn’t make them right, unless you suggest we boost spending 50% per student on all schools. Let me know.

  8. SussexWatcher says:

    Alby: I agree 100 percent that the referendum system is broken and out of whack and that the VTs have an advantage. So fix the system.

    “That doesn’t make them right, unless you suggest we boost spending 50% per student on all schools. Let me know.

    I do. See above.

  9. jason330 says:

    SussexWatcher’s long rationalization and defense of a parent’s rights to send their kids to “newer” better equipped schools that don’t “blow giant monkey balls” (unlike their neighborhood schools) doesn’t refute the premise that Vo-tech is being treated as a charter and thereby crowding out legitimate vo-tech students – it proves it.


  10. SussexWatcher says:

    Speaking of Del-Tech: The vast, vast majority of young people who go there have to take remedial coursework in that first year because their traditional public schools fucked them over and didn’t educate them. A Del-Tech associate’s degree has become a de facto high school diploma in many parts of Kent and Sussex. But Del-Tech gets whatever it wants, while schools have to go begging to voters just to fix buildings or install Internet cables or buy enough supplies. Fucked up, it is.

  11. Alby says:

    So in other words, it’s a non-starter.

    We’re not going to boost student spending $5,000 per student — that would cost the state $500 million a year. So your vo-tech, like the rest, has become essentially a white flight school — look it up. That’s worth fighting against, not for.

  12. SussexWatcher says:

    “legitimate vo-tech students”

    Hey, Jason and Paul and Alby, riddle me this: How do you determine who is a legit vo-tech student or not? Let’s see your criteria out on the table. Poor grades? Low income? An interest in working with their hands? What is it, exactly?

  13. jason330 says:

    The construction industry alone is experiencing a mass retirement of skilled professionals. For the biggest bang of the buck, I’d start with students interested in certification that makes they workforce ready electricians, plumbers, carpenters, or machinist. And I’d seek out students interested in skilled services trades medical/dental/automotive.

  14. Alby says:

    @SW: As noted, I am in favor of getting rid of separate schools. But if we’re going to keep the current system, you don’t have to select the students. Stop offering college courses and the parents will do the selecting. The problem is that every college-bound student — and I’ve seen some SuxVT students go to medical school — takes a seat from someone who’s actually interested in a trade.

    I’m puzzled by your belief that if someone doesn’t learn something in 10th grade he never will. If you’re in trade school to learn bricklaying but you want to go to college, there’s nothing stopping you.

    Your beliefs are clearly colored by your low opinion of the traditional schools. That’s not a valid reason to set up a parallel system at 50% higher cost.

  15. Paul says:

    SW It is a desire to make a living using their hands and their superior spatial/3D brains. Stop thinking of this as merely a pissing contest and listen, to yourself and the rest of us.

  16. Paul Baumbach says:

    Please recognize that the Paul posting in this thread is not me.

  17. waterpirate says:

    Sussex tech is a hive of corruption, hill billy welfare, and worse since the conversion to a charter school in vo tech clothing. No real vocational training goes on their anymore. Job applicants who present with Sussex tech diplomas are the most ill prepared applicants to hire into the trades.

    Don’t believe me? Ask any business owner in the county what goes on at tech. The resounding response will be they are good at holding the dumb end of the tape measure.