Career-Technical Education Certifications: The Wildest Money-Funneling Scheme in Texas Public Education that Steals from Texas Children

Career-Technical Education Certifications: The Wildest Money-Funneling Scheme in Texas Public Education that Steals from Texas Children

The key players? Texas school boards, teachers’ unions and Microsoft.

AUSTIN, TEXAS— You’ve heard the story before. Children are funneled through Texas public schools into state universities, where they rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and then they drop out of higher education with no degree to show for their investment. 

Still, other teenagers in Texas lack either the means or the desire to pursue college. These students graduate grade school and enter the workforce with no marketable skills and limited means to achieve gainful employment. 

Such are the two fates of the vast majority of young Texas adults. In the Lone Star State, those who migrate to Texas, or net domestic migrants, are more likely to have a Bachelor’s degree or higher than native Texans.

Additionally, net domestic migrants are significantly higher earners than native Texans, according to the 2022 U.S. Census Bureau. These new residents now occupy countless positions and careers that were once worked by those born in this state. 

Clearly, Texas is doing something terribly wrong— and through a greed-driven scheme, public high schools across the state are responsible for much of the blame. 

Perhaps you’ve heard of “vocational education,” or what is now known as Career and Technical Education (CTE). Throughout the past century, CTE programs have developed and evolved to— ideally— provide students with specific training and skills for a wide range of careers that don’t require a traditional, 4-year college degree.

These programs are supposed to prepare students for excellent alternative paths to careers that would require a college degree. For example, through CTE, high school students should be able to learn and become certified in skilled trade jobs, health and medical technician work, managerial positions, and so on. 

What CTE programs in Texas have deteriorated into today is an absolute scam, embarrassment and mass thievery of the tax dollar. Worse, school districts across Texas will continue to bold-facedly defend their actions as they ruin the futures of countless Texas youth. 

The new trend in Texas CTE is for schools to offer cheap programs with quick, low-effort certifications for students that will offer zero benefits to them in the job market after they graduate. Every school district in Texas is currently offering certification programs that are absolutely useless in industries that are utterly jobless, such as floral design

In Texas, floral design is a niche field where there are almost no job openings, and the maximum annual salary is some $30-40 thousand. Why would schools encourage tens of thousands of students across the state, annually, to become certified in this?

The short answer: the College, Career or Military Readiness Outcomes Bonus (CCMR)

The CCMR bonus is an incentivization bonus for schools to prepare each student for college, career or military upon high school graduation. 

In essence, this bill, which was signed by Gov. Abbott in 2019, offers schools a bonus of $2 to $5 thousand per student if they, upon graduation, meet the following requirements of one category below;

College ready:

  • Earn an associate degree, or
  • Meet Texas Success Initiative (TSI) criteria and enroll at a postsecondary institution immediately following high school.

Career ready:

  • Meet Texas Success Initiative (TSI) criteria, and
  • Earn an industry-based certification (IBC); or earn a level I or level II certificate.

Military ready:

  • Enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Entranced by the CCMR bonus, schools in Texas have trended toward offering cheap CTE certification programs, which cost next to nothing to provide, rather than funding programs that will give benefits to students. 

The CCMR bonus was originally offered to fund certification programs for lucrative careers, like welding, where students could make six figure salaries within a few years. Instead, schools have opted to create useless programs for cheap, and pocket the remaining CCMR dollars as a means for fundraising. 

The following documents provide the 2021-2022 data for CTE certifications offered by schools statewide, along with the annual salary certified students can expect to earn if hired in each profession.

Key Takeaways:

  • Nearly a quarter of students in Texas CTE programs graduate with a certification in Microsoft Software, such as Word, Excel or Windows. A Microsoft Software certification is a glorified resume filler, and the certification alone is highly unlikely to land anybody a successful career in any industry.
  • Over ten percent of students in Texas CTE programs graduate with a certification in floral design, where job openings are scarce, and the average median salary is $31 thousand.
  • Only 2,351 students, or 1.1%, graduated with “labor shortage IBCs,” or certifications in lucrative fields with open positions.
  • For the vast majority of profitable field certifications, such as property management, sales, electrician, logistics, carpentry, welding, manufacturing and so on; either zero or nearly zero CTE programs were offered. 

Note: The data above was obtained from Open Records, which requested information about CTE programs from every school district in Texas.

While CTE programs may not be beneficial for Texas students, it’s a big money business for Texas schools. In the 2020-2021 school year, high schools across the state earned some $216 million in CCMR bonuses. In 2021-2022, the bonus amount was around $213 million.

Superintendents in Texas are major beneficiaries of the CCMR-CTE scam. In order for a superintendent to advance up the career ladder and move to a bigger school district, they have to prove that they raised and/or saved more money for their current school— which can be achieved through pocketing excess CCMR bonus money.

Additionally, a school’s A-F Accountability Rating, which is a method of evaluating the academic performance of public schools across the state, is impacted by the number of CTE certifications issued. Every certification issued increases the school’s A-F rating.

The foundational flaw in this evaluation system is that every certification is weighted the same. For instance, a thousand students receiving IBCs for floral design is just as impactful to a school’s A-F as a thousand students earning electrician certifications. 

Thus, schools are incentivized to offer IBCs, but there is zero incentive for these IBCs to be of quality. 

Kids, too, by nature prefer the easy route. If one is offered, most teenagers are going to opt for a do-nothing course. 

Microsoft Word, for example, is a tool suite most are proficient in by entrance into high school, as it’s used commonly in projects and test papers throughout the public education experience. By the time someone is a high school senior, they can flip through Microsoft programs in their sleep— yet this is offered as an IBC. 

Interestingly, Microsoft is one of the biggest sellers of useless degrees, as the top CTE program pushed onto high school students in Texas. This is yet another layer of the scheme: from Fort Bend ISD alone, key-player Microsoft earns tens of thousands of dollars per year, and thus, is a heavy proponent of keeping the CTE and CCMR system broken. 

Nothing is really about the kids, but rather, about the money.

Last legislative session, Texas Rep. Gary Gates (R-HD 28) worked to author solution bill Texas HB 2615, which would have altered the current CTE system at schools to improve the structure of the program itself and the certifications offered. 

The goal of HB 2615 was to end the CTE-CCMR money making scheme by schools and instead offer clear, achievable pathways to students for excellent careers in labor shortage industries. 

Gates’ bill was met with opposition from the teachers’ unions, superintendents and school boards alike— and surprisingly, by some technical schools and associations.


HB 2615


Public Education Committee

April 20, 2023 – 8:00 AM


Feinstein, Jonathan (The Education Trust)

Franklin, Ryan (Educate Texas)

Kemgang, Steve (Self; Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA))

Pieniazek, Ray (Self; Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas)


Arnold, Joe (Texas State Technical College)

Bosher, Mark (Career and Technical Association of Texas)

Registering, but not testifying:


Albright, Steven (AGC of Texas- Highway, Heavy, Utilities and Industrial Branch)

Baldovinos, Brittney (Texas Chemical Council)

Bates, Tray (Texas REALTORS)

Brophey, Patrick (North Texas Commission)

Carney, Dee (Texas School Alliance)

Castaneda Jr, Tristan (Texans for Reasonable Solutions)

Crow, Tisha (Self)

Hale, J.D. (Texas Association of Builders)

Joyce, Shana (Texas Oil & Gas Association)

Juergens, Seth (Texas REALTORS)

Lux, Carolyn (Self)

Mayer, Jean (Pflugerville ISD)

Meroney, Mike (Texas Association of Manufacturers (TAM))

Meyer, Melissa (Self)

Mintz, David (Texas Apartment Association)

Moore, Julie (Occidental)

Rodriguez, Jennifer (Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of Texas


Spilman, Annie (NFIB)


Corpus, Kasey (Self; Young Invincibles)

Eaton, Holly (Texas classroom Teachers Association)

Greer, Kate (Commit Partnership)

Griffith, Carrie (Texas state teachers association)

Haenisch, Barry (Texas Association of Community Schools)

Jones, Garry (Democrats for Education Reform TX)

Kling, Kelsey (Self; Texas AFT)

Krogman, Travis (The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce)

Long, Diana (Self)

Matthews, Stephanie (Texas Association of Business)

Pruneda, Mary Lynn (Texas 2036)

Puente, Jaime (Self; Every Texan)

Saenz, Jennifer (E3 Alliance)

Wittenburg, Michelle (Good Reason Houston)

Zavala, Gilbert (Opportunity Austin)


Marin, Eric (TEA)

Martinez, Monica (Texas Education Agency)

The reason technical schools oppose HB 2615 is because they, too, profit from the workforce unreadiness of recent high school graduates. When non-college bound kids aren’t prepared for the job market, many are forced to pursue technical schools and enter apprenticeship programs. 

Many technical schools would lose money if recent high school graduates were already accredited in the trade fields of their choice and ready to begin their careers. 

The bill had many proponents as well, including Christina Etri, the Director of Institutional Improvement for ScholarShot, a postsecondary degree completion program in Dallas.

“According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, our ability to transfer Texas High school students from a diploma to a sustainable wage has declined over the last decade. In 2019, only 46% of all high school students attempted a postsecondary credential, and only 26% succeeded, essentially 1 in 4 students,” Etri wrote to the House of Representatives as a public comment for HB 2615.

In larger urban districts, the current credential rate is even lower— 1 out of 5. Texas has over one million open jobs because graduating students lack the necessary skills or certifications to fill them, Etri said.

Additionally, nearly three quarters of Texas students fail to earn a postsecondary credential, representing a $40 billion annual loss in Texas investment in poverty wages and low employability, Etri said. 

“Not all students are college-bound… Robust vocational training in high schools and employer partnerships throughout the state provides a clear path to career readiness and employability. We can improve outcomes for all Texas students by fully funding and implementing this bill. ScholarShot supports the passage of HB 2615.”

Still, HB 2615 and the voice it would have provided for Texas youth that wasn’t corrupted by money died in the chamber. 

Texas may have one more shot at getting HB 2615 passed for its youth and for the financial wellness of the state. In an exclusive interview with Katy Christian Magazine, Rep. Gates revealed that he plans to reintroduce the bill next legislative session.

“I’m continuing to modify [HB 2615]. There are those who want to keep the current system, [like schools], and they will tell you that they’re all about kids and education,” Rep. Gates said.

“Which is hypocrisy because a top program is floral design. A bonus is given for every certificate issued, so schools learned, ‘Hey, this will get us the greatest participation. This is the easiest certification to earn. Let’s use kids to get the $5 thousand bonus.’ Of course, they don’t tell the kids or mom and dad why.”

Schools encourage student registration for CTE programs for floral design and Microsoft Word, which are dirt cheap to host, Gates continued.

“When I checked, there were only twenty-five flower shops in all of Fort Bend County. Of those, I found only one job opening for $30 thousand a year. Yet the county [Fort Bend County] produced over 1500 of these certificates a year for bonus money!”

On the other hand, certifications in electric or plumbing, throughout the entirety of Texas, were less than 1% of the IBCs issued, because these programs are costly to host. 

Gates’ plan is to create certifications for careers like master plumber, welders, manager, electrician, carpenter, drone pilot, power plant and anything else that doesn’t require a college degree but can earn a great salary, he described.

Students would participate in [under Gates Bill] the program full time in the 11th and 12th grades. As many opponents of the original plan, HB 2615, pointed out, this would reduce the amount of traditional academic courses a student is required to complete to graduate high school.

“Sure, three math courses goes to two, but you’re taking applicable math for what you’re going to do,” Gates explained. “Like water pressure math for a plumber, and so on. These are the kinds of things you won’t learn in typical math class.” 

Similarly, the amount of required English classes would be reduced from four to two, but students would take courses that are applicable to the profession they’d become accredited in. 

Other critics of HB 2615 argued that students in CTE programs are less prepared for college, should they decide to pursue that path instead. This claim, according to Gates, is nonsense.

“An entire industry has been built upon keeping kids in a classroom. [For instance], teachers and the teachers’ union hate the bill because if 10 to 20% of students take CTE courses, this would mean a reduction of 10, 20% of teachers.”

“But what is wrong with trying to give the kid who wants these certificates that ability? We’re not writing [this bill] for the kids who want to be an attorney or a doctor, but for the ones who want to do something else, who were never going to college to begin with.”

Additionally, Gates said, HB 2615 already contained a clause that CTE students’ graduation certificates would be a good enough standard to be accepted into any Texas public university. 

In Texas, fifty percent of students don’t attend college and are not learning anything for the job market. 

Fifty percent of those who do attend college do not earn a degree within five years, or learn marketable skills, but they do exit with a mountain of debt. 

Fifteen percent of college students actually earn a degree and land a job that applies to the degree they earned. 

The Lone Star State is beginning to understand how this growing trend is harming productivity in society, as one cannot be a productive member of society without a skillset. 

“There is this misconception that skill trade is inferior to college education,” Gates said. “College is a business that sells degrees; a mill that sells diplomas. Kids spend years racking up debt and getting no degree or one that isn’t even useful.”

“I’ve nicknamed my bill the ‘Millionaire Next Door Bill.’ The millionaire next door is the guy who has a little company with three to four vans and a dozen or so employees. That is the heart and foundation of our society.”

“Right now, the average age of a master plumber in Texas is 59 or 60 years old. There is a severe shortage of skilled labor. It’s not until there’s a flood or a hurricane that people begin scrambling and realize just how short the labor supply is.”

Gates’ bill, which would also educate students in entrepreneurship and topics like how to get a bank loan, will encourage growth in skilled labor positions and growth in entrepreneurship in Texas.

“This is to create the millionaire next door, that person with a small business. That’s the American dream, building a robust business.”

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