4 Models States Use to Fund Secondary CTE

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Written by: Lauren Bloomquist
Sept. 13, 2023
As secondary career and technical education programs continue to grow in states, we updated our 50-State Comparison to provide a comprehensive overview of state policies. This is the first post in a series highlighting insights and state policy examples from our research. 

Secondary career and technical education programs support a wide range of initiatives to ensure students succeed in postsecondary education and the workforce. CTE programs rely on various funding sources including federal, state and local governments to meet the high costs of providing programming for students.  

In our 50-State Comparison on Secondary Career and Technical Education, we identified the primary mechanism used by each state to fund this type of instruction. We found that states use a range of federal, state and local funding sources.  

State allocations for secondary CTE funds vary depending on the approach and complexity. We identified four general ways states distribute funds to districts:

  • Student-based.
  • Resource-based.
  • Cost-based.
  • Hybrid model.


Under student-based funding, districts receive a base amount of funding per student. Additional money or weights are added to support students from low-income backgrounds or students from rural areas. At least 28 states distribute funds through a student-based formula. Formulas generally consider the additional resource needs of a CTE program by adding a weight for all enrolled students.  

Alaska applies a single weight of 1.015 to assist districts in providing vocational and technical instruction to students in secondary schools. The weight is applied to the districts’ adjusted average daily membership.  

Tennessee overhauled its statewide funding formula beginning in the 2023-24 school year by transitioning to a student-based funding model that includes additional allocation amounts for CTE students. Amounts are based on the level and the progression of the coursework in the program. The new allocation estimates that per-student funding will be $5,000. 

Texas applies differential weights in allocating funds to CTE students based on program type, course level and whether a course is approved by the state. The state provides a list of approved courses and the funding tier to establish the funding weight for each student’s courseload.   


Resource-based funding ensures all districts receive a minimum base amount of resources such as staffing, services or programs. These resources are often determined by the size of student populations and an established student-to-staff ratio.  

We identified two states that use a resource-based funding approach. Illinois allocates funding based on the number of specialist instructors employed by a district. North Carolina allocates funds to the state administration of CTE programs first and then allocates the remaining amount equitably to local education agencies. 


Some states allocate funding based on the cost of CTE programs. Cost-based districts receive a reimbursement for the costs of providing services from the prior school year. Often, states cap or limit the rate of reimbursement, so only a portion of a local education agency’s expenditures may be covered. Our 50-State Comparison identifies at least 11 states that use a cost-based model to provide funds to districts. 

For example, Colorado reimburses education providers using appropriated funds for conducting CTE courses. Providers are reimbursed for program costs, including instruction personnel, services provided by another education agency or institution and cost of supplies and equipment approved by the board. Local education agencies may support program costs beyond the state reimbursement.  

Similarly, the  Rhode IslandDepartment of Education may distribute state and federal funds to help CTE programs cover specified costs incurred by districts. The department is required to prorate funds among eligible school districts if the total reimbursement amount exceeds the available funding. Additionally, there is a one-time grant available to cover initial costs for prospective career programs or one-time costs such as for construction or equipment. 


Hybrid models often combine aspects of student-based funding models, resource-based allocation models and various cost factors. We identified six states that use a hybrid model. For example, Iowa uses both a cost-based model and a resource-based model to equally distribute half of the available funds based on partnerships approved by the state department of education. These partnerships are designed to assist school districts in delivering effective and efficient CTE programs. The remaining funds are distributed based on the number of enrolled students using a student-based model. 

As you can see, states take a variety of approaches to fund secondary CTE programming and have opportunities to learn from different approaches. Look out for the second blog post in this series on centering student experiences in CTE program approval criteria!   

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