Future of SoCal ROC uncertain
The proposed state budget deprives over 400 Redondo Union High School and Redondo Shores students of vocational training opportunities accessible to them through the Southern California Regional Occupation Center, whose financial future hangs in limbo.
The center, also known as SoCal ROC or SCROC, has been providing students with free career and technical training for 46 years. Adults attend, too, but pay a quarterly fee.
Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposes restructuring education funding, but one unintended consequence is that regional vocational training centers will lose their dedicated funding streams. If the budget passes, SoCal ROC will close in July.
“When I looked at the state budget he proposed and I saw no funding for ROCPs [Regional Occupational Center and Programs] I knew there was a problem,” SoCal ROC Superintendent Dr. Christine Hoffman said.
The situation seems dire, but Dr. Hoffman is hopeful that grassroots lobbying will make a difference.
“We have to make our local state assembly members and senators aware of this issue so that they have time to fix it before the July 1 state budget gets approved and implemented,” Hoffman said.
“I’m sure the governor didn’t intend to wipe out programs like SoCal ROC, but he needs to know that very well can happen without a funding stream.”
SoCal ROC has the support of Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and State Senator Ted Lieu, and its board has been sending representatives to Sacramento and into the community, encouraging people who benefit from SoCal ROC to write letters and spread the word about its possible closure.
SoCal ROC operates according to a joint powers agreement whereby students from the following school districts – Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Torrance, Inglewood, and Palos Verdes – can attend programs at the Torrance center free of charge. Currently about 9,000 South Bay high school students and adult students attend SoCal ROC.
The center offers courses and training high school students cannot access at their high schools, including fields such as cosmetology, biomedical engineering, video game design, veterinary science, fashion design, dental assistance, personal training, welding, and plumbing.
The courses offered are not extracurricular and provide students with both course credit and training in specific career fields of their choosing. Through SoCal ROC, many find externships and, ultimately, jobs.
“These are programs that individual high schools, for a variety of reasons, can’t offer on their high school campuses and if the center did not exist, these programs would not be available and the high school students participating would not have these opportunities to take them while in high school,” Hoffman explained.
Redondo Union High School Principal Dr. Nicole Wesley said about 80 students this semester are attending the actual SoCal ROC center after lunch and in the evenings, but hundreds more are taking SoCal ROC-sponsored courses being offered at the high school such as music theory, digital photography, and banking and finance.
“I hope when decisions like this are made, [the state] will consider the impact it’s going to have on our future workforce, on students who have the interest and simply need the skills and motivation and opportunity to explore their talents and interests,” Wesley said. “At Redondo Union, like most high schools, we do our best to offer a variety of electives and courses that will prepare students. However, SCROC certainly supplements that with a variety of courses that we cannot offer due to finances and credentialing.”
The Redondo Beach Unified School District board unanimously passed a resolution Feb. 26 opposing the proposed budget restructuring that will eliminate SoCal ROC funding.
“ROC students are more successful in school and post-secondary endeavors, more excited about future careers, better prepared to enter the workforce, better workers for their future employers, and better contributors – as citizens and taxpayers – to our community, state and country,” the resolution reads.
Funding for SoCal ROC “cannot be eliminated without creating irreparable harm to the education that we should be offering our students,” the resolution says.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Keller understands, on levels both personal and professional, the center’s value.
“I have a brother who, when I was growing up, attended SCROC and that benefited him in his professional life 30 years later so it’s certainly a gift that keeps on giving,” Keller said. “Losing that in the South Bay would be devastating.”
School Board member Drew Gamet, who sits on the SoCal ROC board, called the potential loss of SoCal ROC funding a “tragedy.”
“It may save a little bit of money but in terms of the size of the overall education budget we’re talking about a miniscule micro-fraction of the overall budget,” Gamet said. “[And] in terms of the cost to us to replace those classes – well, we haven’t done a cost analysis, but I can tell you there’s no possible way we can make up the difference.”