The Fresno Unified School District is falling behind on its promise to provide more career technical programs, some trustees say.
On Wednesday, district career-tech administrators recommended the school board approve more than $600,000 to enhance programs next year, aiming to graduate students with trade skills that can land them well-paying jobs.
About 38 percent of the district’s students are enrolled in Career Technical Education courses, up from 32 percent last year.
Those gains aren’t enough, Fresno Unified Trustee Brooke Ashjian said.
“People are screaming for CTE. The three candidates who are running for mayor are talking about CTE,” Ashjian said at Wednesday’s school board meeting. “The Valley is underutilized in the service industry and we are poised here at Fresno Unified to be the facilitator of a great CTE program, but it seems like we’re missing a little bit of the mark.”
Next year, the district plans to add three teachers and some support staff members, in addition to a bus route to Duncan Polytechnical High School. Currently, Duncan students have to walk or take the city bus.
The district also plans to add more career-tech courses that would focus on welding, law and social justice, and media and design.
People are screaming for CTE.
Fresno Unified Trustee Brooke Ashjian
Ashjian pointed to a meeting last April, when school officials met with several city officials to commit more to career-tech programs, hoping it would curb homelessness and poverty in the area. Nearly 90 percent of the district’s students come from low-income homes.
But Ashjian said the district has fallen short.
“I don’t want to create hobbies. I want to create jobs,” he said. “I think we’re getting closer to that, but, in my opinion, we’re missing the mark and we’re not putting enough investments in the right areas.”
Trustee Cal Johnson’s outlook on the potential of career-tech programs was less positive. Johnson said the reason most people are homeless is that they have “psychological problems.”
“We can do all the training, but when you hire people, everyone is not ready to go to work. I don’t care what kind of program you have,” he said.
Trustee Carol Mills also voiced concerns, pointing out that Fresno High’s career-tech options are lacking. There, only about 25 percent of students are enrolled in the courses. About 48 percent of those students are college-bound.
“That means 27 percent aren’t heading to college and haven’t been able to develop some skills (through CTE). Basically, when they graduate, they aren’t looking at many options. That gap has to be filled,” Mills said. “I’ve been asking for 10 years to increase real career technical education. There needs to be more options that put students into something other than a minimum-wage job.”
Also at Wednesday’s board meeting, trustees approved an agreement with the city that will open up 14 school campuses to public use on the weekends. The goal is to offer more green space and parks for Fresnans.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the percentage of Fresno Unified students that come from low-income homes.