For all this, though, tremendous challenges remain. Statewide, there is a shortage of trained vocational instructors and, despite the governor's enthusiasm and the bevy of bills being considered, not enough money in the pipeline. School standards need to be revamped so that students (and teachers) are judged on reaching milestones in career education, as well as academic achievement.
Locally, Jackson and his team must strike the right balance between centrally organizing LAUSD's fragmented vocational operations and not suffocating them inside the bureaucracy.
The district may also need to allow for more flexible hiring rules to attract people with strong business backgrounds to its faculty -- something that may not sit well with the teachers' union. Jon Lauritzen, the biggest advocate for career education on the school board, could be a key to making this happen. "Everybody says Jon is a tool of the union," notes his chief of staff, Ed Burke. But he says that Lauritzen has opposed the union in the past and is determined to "lead the way" on this.
More, too, needs to be done to involve local businesses. "I don't think we've reached out" nearly enough, Jackson acknowledges.
And all of this must be moved on quickly. At present, about 45,000 LAUSD high school students are on a career-education path. That's far too few in a district with more than 207,000 high school students and a dropout rate that hovers between 33% and 50% (depending on who's doing the counting).