by Hans D. Stroo on September 9, 2016

“Given that 70% of jobs in Washington do not require a 4-year degree, what is your vision to ensure CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION (CTE) classes are strongly supported in every high school in Washington to create career-connected learning that prepares kids for future opportunities in the workforce?”

That was the question put before the candidates for Governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction during a lively forum held at the Davenport Grand in Spokane which closed off the annual conference of WA-ACTE (the Washington State Association for Career & Technical Education). Over 800 CTE teachers and administrators attended and underwent 5 days of professional development.

Career Tech Education (CTE) is a part of Washington State’s K-12 program that focuses on hands-on, career-connected learning. Every CTE class in Washington falls into one of 16 “career clusters” that include agriculture, construction, health sciences, manufacturing, and transportation. CTE provides applied learning experiences by embedding academic subjects (math, science, English) into a real-life context. Through CTE, Washington students develop leadership skills and explore careers while in middle and high school. Studies show it improves student performance in high school, college, and career.

The 2016 election is less than two months away, and the 2017 legislature is expected to reach landmark agreements around education funding. That being the case, the outcome of the race for OSPI and Governor are going to be important in regard to the future of Career Tech Education in Washington State.

So what did the candidates have to say?

superintendent of public instruction

Erin Jones

Erin Jones is an award-winning educator who just left an administrative position in the Tacoma school district in order to focus on her campaign. Previously she served in administration in the Federal Way school district and as OSPI’s Assistant Superintendent of Student Achievement. Her campaigns core values are 1) advocating for students and educators before the state and federal governments, 2) applying an educator’s lens to the executive leadership of OSPI, 3) providing opportunity for input and feedback on policy and practice, and 4) putting in place a strategic plan to ensure systems alignment.

Jones was orphaned at birth because of her multi-racial ancestry. She was adopted by two educators. Her father was a math teacher and her mother was a CTE teacher for the last 20 years of her career. “I watched my mom… have to fight for her program,” Jones recounted. “The math teachers were the ‘real teachers.’ And CTE teachers were the ‘other.’ I watched my mom fight for her spot… Now my high school has an entire wing devoted to CTE. And it’s powerful to see that transformation. That’s what I hope for every kid.”

Though she was born in Minnesota, Jones was raised in the Netherlands. “I had the gift of attending a school where CTE was a critical piece of [the curriculum,]” Jones told the audience of CTE teachers. “I got to weld as a 7th grader. And when I got into high school we all had to do a CTE class.”