State government slashed the career and technical education budget by $2.2 million in the past two years, which means a cut of $1.3 million to those high school programs in North Dakota, according to North Dakota Association of Career and Technical Education's executive director Rick Ross.

Starting in 2017, CTE departments may be required to submit a budget that would hold up to another 10 percent decrease. The projections would mean another $2.4 million in cuts from secondary education programs.

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Cass County Career and Technical Education director Denise Jonas said that although K-12 schools were protected from budget cuts, statewide CTE programs were not.

"There's this point of never losing sight of why we have education for kids," Jonas said. "We want them to be successful citizens, and we want them to have a job. We want them to be employable with the job market that's available."

Ross as well as other legislators, business leaders, school administrators and even students were at the first of 11 Career and Technical Education Town Hall meetings, on Monday, Sept. 19, at West Fargo Sheyenne High School. The tour across the state is an attempt to educate the public about the potential loss to education.

Jobs and other resources have had to be cut, Ross said, and he has a funny feeling upcoming budget cuts could mean more of the same.

"That's going to have an affect, not only on our schools, but on our businesses," Ross said. "That's the main reason we wanted to go through with this tour. The steps we're taking is going to Bismarck and work with the legislature when they're there and also trying to gather support in these meetings when we do go to Bismarck."

National Association for Career and Technical Education advocacy and public affairs manager Jarrod Nagurka came to North Dakota to talk about policies and legislation that are in the works at a federal level. He reminded attendees of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which gives $4.2 million to North Dakota, including $2.17 to secondary schools and $1.67 for postsecondary schools. Those numbers have stayed the same since the act wasn't reauthorized since 2006 and expired back in 2012.

"But because of inflation, and all those sorts of things, those dollars aren't as much," Nagurka said. "If you think about it, back in 2006, that's before Facebook was open to non-college students and before the first tweet was ever sent, so this was a long time ago. It's time we update that to reflect workforce demands of the 21st century."

Nagurka believes that CTE is a good return on tax dollars, which is why he went on the tour to talk about the relations between different levels of government and industries in the CTE ecosystem. During the meeting, Nagurka was happy to see local legislators and school faculty were all at the meeting as well as business leaders so they can see how their businesses can be a part in preparing possible workers.

Ross pointed out that although there were some issues over North Dakota's Higher Learning Commission policies, no one talked down CTE or its funding.

"They hear there were no cuts made to education. Well that's not necessarily true," Ross said. "Career and technical education did experience these cuts, and now we're hoping that when the legislature goes back they can restore those cuts so the effect isn't felt across secondary and postsecondary education."

In talking with legislators at these meetings, Ross said, he's encouraged by how they stand regarding further budget cuts.

"Our thought was that this is really critical for us to continue to maintain," Jonas said, "and not cutting and losing these programs because they have an impact directly on the workforce development from career exploration to postsecondary preparation. Our goal was to make sure they're aware of the decisions they make with policy are done in light of knowing what career and technical education can do for kids."