The recent Education and Workforce Development hearing revealed the V.I. Department of Education and the Career and Technical Education Board are not on the same page in terms of legislation and funding, considering CTE Adult program instructors in St. Croix have not been paid since February.
This is not the first time instructors of CTE on St. Croix have not received payment. As of last year, the instructors worked from October 2022 until December 2022 without payment. A lump sum payment was distributed on Dec. 28, 2022, and some believe they did not receive the full amount that is owed to them, according to an anonymous source.
“The problem is that adult program instructors in St. Croix are currently on per diem and are part-time, whereas the instructors in St. Thomas are full-time and are on payroll,” said Jo Murphy, chairwoman of the Career and Technical Education Board.
“I have sent letters and reached out to the Department of Education to try to get a seat at the table. We (CTE board) have no idea where the funding is going, and we have not been able to have any input. We must comply fully with applicable federal law, including the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act, to ensure that we are making the most of the federal funds available for CTE,” Murphy said.
The outline of the Perkins grant states the grant is to provide states with matching funds to develop, improve, and expand access to vocational and technical education. Such funding typically pays for vocational staff; the integration of academic, vocational, and technical instruction; materials for learning laboratories and curriculum development or modification; remedial classes; occupationally relevant equipment; staff development; career counseling and guidance activities; and supplemental services for special populations.
The Carl D. Perkins allotment for the territory for Fiscal Year 2022 (7/1/2022 to 9/30/24) was $1,488,523 and for Fiscal Year 2023 (July 1, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2025) is $1,734,488, a $245,925 increase.
Sen. Genevieve Whitaker, chairwoman of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development during the 34th Legislature, frequently attempted to engage with former Education Commissioner Raquel Berry Benjamin about the funding allocation of the Perkins Grant and requested updates pertaining to CTE. Whitaker, also a CTE board member, even escalated the matter to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, requesting a meeting.
In the letter to the Secretary of Education, Whitaker requested information regarding technical assistance that the U.S. Department of Education provides to the V.I. Department of Education and the allocation of the Carl D. Perkins grant to the V.I. Department of Education, as statutorily by Virgin Islands Code, CTE board is the fiduciary for all federal funds as it pertains to career and technical/vocational education.
According to Whitaker, “The issue with the U.S. DOE is the department sends the Perkins funds to the V.I. Department of Education and not the CTE Board and millions of dollars are returned to the federal government, leaving in the case of maintenance, several schools in disrepair and lacking resources such as up to date textbooks and materials for our students.”
“Due to the fact that the Virgin Islands are part of the Consolidated Grant Application process and their funds are integrated with other Federal Education formula grant funds, our office does not require them to submit final expenditure closeout reports. Thus we do not have disaggregated expenditure data for the Perkins Grant,” said Andrew Johnson, program specialist of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.
“Lip service has been given to make CTE a priority, but little else has been done. Travel funds for CTE Students to participate in National Career and Technical Student Organization events are empty! Active recruitment to fill CTE key positions has not taken place. Most of the CTE program requests for books and to place key lead instructors in ‘Programs of Study’ have gone unanswered,” Murphy said.
Also in the hot seat is the workforce development board, which is allegedly in violation of the law for neglecting the CTE board of updates. Act 8374 requires that the Workforce development board to give data to the CTE every five years, which Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory legislated in the 33rd Legislature.
The Board for CTE has the legal authority to create, implement, and promote CTE programs, but it lacks the resources to do so effectively. This lack of resources has led to a situation where CTE programs are not adequately funded, CTE instructors are not paid at competitive rates, and key requests for resources and staffing have gone unanswered with the lack of data.
Adding to the strain on CTE, the recent change in leadership at CTEC removing Principle Vincent Gordon without input from the board, DOE has appointed an academic principal rather than a CTE-trained director.
Gordon took the time to obtain an industry certification and learned the school’s history and accomplishments, and also spoke to CTE-certified administrators to understand the overall vision for the CTEC.
“The newly appointed administrator has no obligation to follow the same path. In fact, he is not CTE certified as an administrator, which in itself should disqualify that person,” Murphy said.
Reaching out to the instructors on St. Croix to ask how the nonpayment is affecting their work, core curriculum instructor Jason John spoke to the Source.
“I like to give back to the community and the experience of teaching. I learn every day as an instructor, I don’t teach obviously because of the money, but I still need the money to support myself and my family,” said John.
The Source also reached out to the V.I. Department of Education and Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory’s office for comment regarding the funding for CTE and the upcoming budget season; however, a response has yet to be received.
“Everyone is saying CTE is important but nothing is getting done. Being acknowledged by the Department of Education is hard. Make CTE strong again to provide strong pathways for our students and the community,” said Murphy.