05.29.14

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls on President Obama to Establish Career and Technical Scholars Program

Career and Technical Scholars Program Would Be Part of U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has joined her colleagues U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, to urge President Obama to establish a Presidential Career and Technical Scholars Award program to better recognize and value the efforts of American students who have chosen CTE pathways.

“We urge you to create, by Executive Order, a Presidential Career and Technical Scholars program,” the Senators wrote. “Career and technical education (CTE) programs are a proven method to prepare secondary and postsecondary students with the rigorous academic and technical skills needed to compete in today’s global economy and to further their education. It is in our national interest to not only provide all students access to rigorous CTE programs of study, but to also encourage high attainment by CTE students.” 

The current U.S. Presidential Scholars program, which was created by President Lyndon B. Johnson by Executive Order in 1964, honors graduating high school seniors for academic excellence, artistic accomplishments, and civic contributions but does not recognize excellence in career and technical education programs. Baldwin is a strong supporter of expanding CTE programs and recognizing the importance of better equipping students with the skills needed to succeed in today’s 21st century workforce. Her Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation (GREEN) Act allocates competitive grant funding for clean energy career and technical training programs so that students are better trained for post-secondary education and better equipped for the high-skilled jobs of the future. In addition, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) honored Baldwin with their 2014 Policymaker of the Year Award for her work on behalf of CTE and her continued support of career and technical education.

Full text of the letter is below:

May 23, 2014

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write today regarding the U.S. Presidential Scholars program, and career and technical education.   

The U.S. Presidential Scholars program celebrated its 50th class of scholars this month.  President Johnson created this outstanding program by Executive Order in 1964.  It honors graduating high school seniors for academic excellence, artistic accomplishments, and civic contributions.  High school students apply based on their scores on college entrance assessments (the SAT or ACT).  Further evaluation occurs based on school transcripts, leadership, and contributions to the community. 

This program also has a component for students in the arts.  Each year, up to 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts are also selected, based on nominations by the National Young Arts Foundation through their YoungArts program.  These Scholars in the Arts are chosen for their accomplishments in the visual, literary and performing arts, as well as for their scholarship, leadership and public service. 

The existence of the Presidential Scholars in the Arts program demonstrates a commitment to recognizing excellence in our high school students in multiple ways.  We urge you to create, by Executive Order, a Presidential Career and Technical Scholars program.    

Career and technical education (CTE) programs are a proven method to prepare secondary and postsecondary students with the rigorous academic and technical skills needed to compete in today’s global economy and to further their education.  It is in our national interest to not only provide all students access to rigorous CTE programs of study, but to also encourage high attainment by CTE students.

Over the past two decades, CTE programs around the country have responded to the growing skills gap by increasing the rigor of their programs through secondary-postsecondary links, dual enrollment and alignment with business and industry needs.  Today’s CTE programs are aligned with the needs of the 21st century workforce in career fields such as engineering, information technology, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing. In response to the increased rigor in programs, CTE student performance has risen to the challenge in dramatic fashion.

The Department of Education recently announced that the average U.S. high school graduation rate was 80 percent and Secretary Duncan pledged to push forward to close the gap to 90 percent.  CTE is playing an important role in achieving this goal, with the average graduation rate for CTE concentrators already above 90 percent. Moreover, secondary CTE students are more likely to pursue postsecondary education than their non-CTE counterparts. And CTE students are competing in world class competitions to test their knowledge in ways no standardized test could.  For example, the Skills USA WorldTeam earned a silver medal in the 2013 World Skills competition in Leipzig, Germany.

Your administration has called for an emphasis on college- and career-ready standards in our schools. In your most recent State of the Union address, you highlighted the importance of students obtaining some form of postsecondary training.

As you prepare to deliver the commencement address at Worcester Technical High School on June 11, 2014, we urge you to support rigorous CTE programs around the country and to recognize high-performing CTE students.  It is time we recognize and value the efforts of our students who have chosen CTE pathways. 

As cofounders of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus, we urge you to issue an Executive Order to establish a Presidential Career and Technical Scholars Award in line with other presidential awards for student achievement in academics and the creative arts.

                                                            Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine

U.S. Senator Rob Portman

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin