Public hearing held for bill to require vocational preparation training

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - A public hearing was held in Augusta Tuesday on a bill that aims to teach students basic life skills before they graduate.

The bill would require all students in elementary, middle, and high schools receive vocational preparation and life skills training.

For many people who grew up in decades past, Home Ec was always part of the curriculum, but as time went on, most schools in the state have cut Home Ec for other programs.

Legislators in Augusta are looking at bringing it back.

"It's meant to promote the introduction of those courses and skills that we learned back when I was going through school, and others, that look like home economics and industrial arts -- basic life skills," said bill sponsor Rep. Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade.

Some of the skills that would be taught range from sewing to cooking to budgeting.

"It's important because I have talked to so many younger kids who just haven't got these skills," said Keschl. "They don't know how to sew a button on, or they don't know how to do shopping."

"Do we need vocational preparation and practical life skills?" said retired teacher Stephanie Knight, who spoke in support of the bill. "I say yes, absolutely. We have a real opportunity to turn this around and choose a new direction for career education."

Opponents say it adds another mandate to already busy school days and Maine doesn't have enough trained Home Ec teachers.

"We will be consistent here and oppose this curricular mandate because there's only so much time in an already overloaded school day," said Ilene King, Deputy Executive Director of the Maine School Management Association. "We're also concerned that this bill, like others we have reviewed, attempts to do an end run around the process already in statute to amend the learning results."

The bill faces further discussion in committee before a vote.