State Board of Education members said Wednesday it would take $92 million to get the vocational-technical schools the equipment and building repairs needed to bring the schools into the 21st Century–but in a challenging budget year, the prospects for state funding remain uncertain.
“The ability to secure capital funding has become even more challenging,” Pat Ciccone, superintendent of the state’s vocational-technical high schools that have nearly 11,000 students enrolled statewide, told the State Board of Education Wednesday. This “results in the trades not having access to the latest technology used in today’s workplace.”
Officials at the vocational-technical schools have routinely pleaded that they are struggling to get and maintain modern equipment for students to learn on. Legislators on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee are recommending the state spend $56 million for new equipment, technology and buses over the next two years.
But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who controls the State Bonding Commission’s agenda. is recommending spending $10 million over the next two years, well short of the amount school officials say is needed.
Gian-Carl Casa, undersecretary of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget office, said the administration is open to expanding the original $10 million they proposed spending on new equipment.
“We’re more then willing to talk to them about the proposal,” he said, but could make no promises that it would become a reality. “We want to talk about the bond package in a comprehensive way. …We have to look at the range of proposals.”
Of the $56 million request by the SDOE for the vo-tech schools for new equipment, Casa said Malloy’s budget office “reviewed the requests and did not feel the level was justified” given the state will also need to make renovations to the schools.
As mayor of Stamford, Malloy was critical of how the state financed his local vo-tech school, J.M. Wright Technical High School.
“I watched the state literally destroy one of those vocational schools,” Malloy told an audience in Torrington earlier this year on his proposed state budget.
The state faces historic deficits this year, so education officials said they were not holding out much hope that help was on the way this year. But the current tight budget follows years of underfunding by the state, board members said.
“Rarely are they funded,” said Joseph J. Vrabely Jr., chair of the BOE’s Vocational-Technical High School Committee.
During the last two fiscal years, the vocational-technical high schools got none of the $24 million requested for specific projects and equipment. The four fiscal years before that just half of the $56 million requested by the SBOE was funded, reports education officials.
“There seems to be a disconnect of what we need,” said Patricia B. Luke, a longstanding member of the SBOE. State lawmakers “decide the fate of those schools… When the damage is done, everyone says ‘I just don’t understand what went wrong… We are telling them now.”