Lawmakers are hoping that higher education and public education will utilize a joint committee to resolve their differences over governance of vocational education.

If they don't, the option of creating a third board to deal with vocational technical matters remains open.Three state senators discussed vocational education issues with the Utah Council on Vocational-Technical Education during an annual workshop session Monday.

Sen. Haven Barlow, R-Layton, said, "We have never had a stronger leadership approach for vocational education. I think the liaison committee will work. If it doesn't, we will establish a third board."

Barlow referred to a joint committee of higher and public education that has attempted to resolve governance issues. The committee is a major element of a state master plan recently approved by the State Board of Regents and the State Board of Education.

Sen. Arnold Christensen, R-Sandy, said vocational education has been a stepchild to both boards, whose only interest is in the money allocated to vocational programs. Christensen expressed confidence that the liaison committee will be able to resolve differences between the two boards.

Sen. Dix McMullin, R-South Jordan, explained to the vocational council the impetus behind two bills he sponsored this past session that will encourage students to graduate at the end of the 11th grade. The main bill represents a "major philosophy change," McMullin said.

It addresses the needs of both accelerated students who want to get into college early and potential dropouts, he said.

To be effective, the 11th-grade graduation provision should involve individual student planning beginning in ninth grade. McMullin said the bill also will address the "wasted 12th year" in public education.

The financial implications of losing students early will be incentive for schools to create better 12th-grade programs, the senator said.

McMullin said a companion bill gives both the educational system and students incentive for 11th-grade graduation. The measure allows 25 percent of the basic student funding to stay with the district for what would have been the student's 12th year, while the student individually can obtain a second 25 percent (approximately $310) as a scholarship for higher education.

The senator also said a successful 11th-grade graduation program in the state will "require some give and take on graduation requirements."

Vocational education will continue to suffer as long as there is a perception that it is a second-class option, said Max Lowe, of the State Board of Regents staff.

The potential for creating a separate "track" to channel some students directly into vocational pursuits, possibly with a lesser academic requirement, would exacerbate existing problems, he said.