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|New law creates career diploma pathway|
Governor signs companion bills in West Ouachita ceremony
Gov. Bobby Jindal signed legislation Thursday that will create a career diploma pathway for high school students currently at risk of dropping out.
Jindal signed legislation at the West Ouachita High School new agricultural sciences building.
Jindal signed Senate Bill 259 by Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, and House Bill 612 by Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, which are companion bills to create the career diploma plan.
According to Jindal, the new legislation will help enhance the state's workforce training and economic development systems so "Louisiana can continue to attract business investment and create jobs as well as ensure that Louisianians do not have to leave home to pursue a career."
Approximately 13,500 Louisiana students drop out of high school each year, Jindal said. That number climbs to 16,000 if middle school students are included.
"This legislation will help to reduce the number of dropouts we see in our schools today. This program will help identify those students most at risk of dropping out and give them a pathway to success and a good career.
"This legislation gives us an opportunity to reach students that might otherwise slip through the cracks of our education system. Now – with these bills – we can cultivate these students' interests and skills and help align them with a successful career path.
Kostelka said the intent of the legislation is to keep young people in school.
"Every four years we have enough drop outs to nearly fill Tiger Stadium. These kids are dropping out because they don't find the things they are studying relevant – and worse yet – they are dropping out of school without any type of technical training. With this program, we're giving all of our kids an opportunity to succeed."
Kostelka was ecstatic Jindal signed the bills at West Ouachita and got the chance to see the new agricultural sciences building and what it offers local students.
"I wanted him to see this building and see what technical education could do and how good it's working out here at West Ouachita High School. I would love to have this at every school. Ouachita Parish (High School) is building one just like it, so we will have at least two here in Ouachita Parish," Kostelka said.
Students who pursue a career major will be required to earn many of the same credits required in the state's college preparatory curriculum, including, four English and math credits, and three science and social studies credits.
The career diploma program also allows for students to take applied courses related to their chosen career focus.
The program also requires students to take seven BESE-approved career and technical education courses, including a career readiness course.
Students in the program must also have a record of good attendance, good behavior and meet a minimum GPA requirement. They must also participate in a dropout prevention and mentoring program.
West Ouachita High School's program allows for all students – non-college bound and college bound – to pursue vocational training.
"This is not just for college-bound kids," Kostelka said. "It's relevant to them, and they want to come. And, for those who have trouble with the core-four classes and Leap, this keeps them in school and it teaches them a trade, so it helps everybody."
West Ouachita's program has various vocational classes available, including wood-crafting, carpentry and welding. Roughly one-quarter of students at West Ouachita High School have opted to take the program. Ouachita High School's program should begin next year.