BIDDEFORD — A local lawmaker has proposed a bill that would allow voters to approve a bond referendum to pay for improvements to Maine’s 27 career and technical education, or CTE, schools.

Ryan Fecteau, a firstterm Democratic representative serving part of Biddeford, proposed the bill, which the Legislative Council approved by a 6-4 vote in an appeal hearing earlier this month. The council had previously denied the bill by a 5-5 vote.

“We haven’t had a bond for Maine’s vocational schools since 1998,” Fecteau said in a statement released Nov. 19. “This bill will make sure Maine’s students are learning the skills employers are looking for and training on modern, up-to-date equipment. Supporting our technical schools is a great way to grow Maine jobs, secure better wages and give our kids a chance to stay in Maine when they graduate.”

Both Biddeford and Sanford are home to CTE schools that serve students from both cities as well as several neighboring communities. In emails Monday, the directors of both schools emphasized the need for funding at CTE schools statewide.

“In order for (CTE schools) to continue to stay in the forefront of workforce development, we need to have the space and equipment to provide our students with the necessary skills and knowledge to be successful in the 21st century,” said Paulette Bonneau, director of the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology, or BRCOT.

Bonneau said currently, there are programs BRCOT would like to offer but can’t because of financial limitations, and passing the bill could allow for more programs, equipment and other improvements at the school as well as the state’s other CTE schools.

“Industry always moves faster than education and we need to stay current and plan for the future so we can sustain a viable workforce in our community,” she said.

The Sanford Regional Technical Center, or SRCT, is in a unique position compared to other CTE schools, as Sanford secured about $92 million in state school construction funds to build a new high school and technical center, which are slated to open in the fall of 2018. But Kathy Sargent, the technical center’s director, said that most CTE schools are not in the same position and would benefit greatly from more funding.

“In CTE, we are training students who will ultimately seek either further training or career placement in their field,” she said. “It is imperative that these students are exposed to the current technology found in industry. … Continued growth and modernization are essential for CTE schools to meet the growing demands of the workforce and the current funding does not allow for schools to make these upgrades.”

For example, SRCT will be adding an automotive collision program, Sargent said, and that would not have been possible without the state funding the school received.

The size of the bond the bill proposes has yet to be determined, according to the Nov. 19 statement.

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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