Legislators are mulling a proposal to increase funding to Maine’s career and technical high schools.

Rob Callahan, director of the Lewiston Regional Technical Center, told lawmakers Wednesday that the state needs to do more to increase the capacity of the 27 regional centers to educate “skilled young professionals” for employers eager to hire them.

Callahan said the centers need more equipment, staffing and transportation aid to enhance their capacity to offer courses to more Maine students.

The Education and Cultural Affairs Committee is considering a bill that would require the state’s education commissioner to revise a funding formula to send more money to the technical and career centers.

Paula Gravelle, the state’s director of school finance, told the legislative panel the proposal would lead to less money for regular education “unless a significant amount of additional funding” is added by the Legislature.

Gravelle said the state provides 100% of career and technical education costs. This year, that totals $62.2 million, she said, and next year $66.4 million is allocated. That’s an increase of about $10 million annually during the past four years.


The state has also pumped millions more into the centers through Gov. Janet Mills’ jobs plan that includes $20 million for the centers to add new equipment, facilities and programs.

But Melissa Williams, director of the Foster Career and Technical Education Center in Farmington, said the yearly funding formula creates “difficulties in offering new programs” and in sustaining existing programming.

“With our advanced technologies, equipment, and our current lack of infrastructure, we cannot continue to operate even in a ‘status quo’ mode with no allocation directly affecting these areas,” Williams said.

She said it isn’t feasible to operate and maintain state-of-the-art programs without more money.

“An investment means that our students have the opportunity to learn and train on modern, industry-grade equipment, so they come out workforce-ready,” she said.

Callahan said the “core issue” for the state’s technical education centers is capacity.


He said that about 16% of Maine students are enrolled at technical centers, a percentage that “puts Maine near the bottom of the list of high school CTE participation” in the country.

“This critical bottleneck prevents” Maine’s system from turning out educated students at the rate employers want, he said.

“To renew our current aging workforce and meet the demands of a growing economy, Maine must invest in a secondary CTE system which is built for success,” Callahan said.

State records show that enrollment in career and technical education has risen by more than 10% since 2019. The 27 centers enroll more than 9,800 students in 85 programs that cover a wide range of interests, from welding to food preparation.

The committee will discuss the proposal at a workshop next Wednesday.

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