The debate over a proposed master plan for vocational education in Utah - a document that purports to resolve historic governance issues - sounded much like a replay of the original wars.
The plan, which has been prepared over a period of months by a task force representing the broad interests of vocational/technical education, was studied Thursday and Friday by the State Board of Education.A major bone of contention in the proposed plan is the Salt Lake Skills Center, a program that provides work training primarily for the disadvantaged. Though the center is under the direction of the State Board of Education, it is operated by Salt Lake Community College. State funding, which supplements federal funding, has come at various times through higher education and public education. Currently, it is a line item in the public education appropriations.
The proposed master plan would have moved governance of the Skills Center to the State Board of Regents, which also oversees the college.
School board members, however, objected strenuously to losing control of the center and voted to remove that provision from the master plan for at least a year while an in-depth study is conducted.
"Higher education has never supported training programs for the disadvantaged," said board member Neola Brown. "They have never been involved in remediation. I don't want the state board to give up control."
Max Lowe of the higher education staff and former director of the Skills Center said the program has existed in a shady area between public and higher education and that its "neither fish nor fowl" nature has created problems.
Bruce Griffin, associate state superintendent and a member of the task force that has developed the master plan, said the Skills Center issue is not one of the main points of the plan and he anticipated that the regents would be amenable to a year's study of the issue before a decision is made.
The state board also asked for an addition to the master plan that would recognize the need for an overall state philosophy and direction for vocational/technical education. The two education boards should respond to recognized state needs and not try to shape programs without that guidance, said Board Member Jay Liechty.
Board Member Darlene C. Hutchi-son also expressed reservations about the scope of powers that the proposed plan grants to a joint liaison committee. The committee would receive plans developed at a regional level and funnel them through to the two state boards. The committee should not be allowed to usurp policy-making functions and overall direction that belongs to the education boards, she said.
The plan gives public education responsibility for receiving and disbursing all federal funds related to vocational/technical education. Governance of the state's area vocational centers also would rest with public education.