DECA to require concurrent CTE enrollment

Lynbrook DECA expects about a 200 member drop after implementing their concurrent CTE enrollment policy next year.

used under fair use from DECA Inc.

Lynbrook DECA expects about a 200 member drop after implementing their concurrent CTE enrollment policy next year.

Elena Williams

The business of joining Lynbrook’s largest business club has just gotten harder. Starting next school year, DECA will require that all competing members be concurrently enrolled in a Career Technical Education (CTE) class in the Business Department. 

Though previous officer teams have chosen to only enforce the requirement for one year of CTE that could be completed concurrently or previously in high school, the national DECA organization has always required concurrent enrollment. DECA’s national charter identifies the organization as a co-curricular club rather than an extracurricular activity, meaning that its activities are meant to be supplemental to CTE. DECA clubs aim not to provide members with business education, but rather to create a complementary forum that allows students to apply the skills they learn in class.

In the past few years, the Department of Education has begun pushing California DECA to hold its chapters to that standard. Noticing the trend toward more stringent enforcement, DECA adviser Brad Fulk and the officer team chose to adopt the policy in its entirety in the 2020-21 academic year.

“It was my decision to push to be proactive and get ahead of [the regulation],” Fulk said. “I felt like the longer we waited, the bigger the chapter got, the more people it would impact.”

This is not the first time DECA has changed its policies in response to pressure from above. Four years ago, Lynbrook DECA began enforcing the requirement for one year of CTE for the first time; before then, members were allowed to join without any business classes whatsoever. 

“When we first heard about the CTE rule four years ago, I was really upset and totally did not understand the purpose behind it,” Fulk said. “I thought that it was going to absolutely harm the chapter, in so many ways. And then, over the course of the three years that followed, our chapter grew bigger and bigger and got really strong. I realized that the fallout wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Because of that experience, I don’t really know what to anticipate.”

Officers hope that increased exposure to business education will help members develop relevant skills, enriching their experiences and improving performance in competitions. While most students who only take one CTE course opt for Principles of Business, the most popular business class, students who take multiple years of CTE will gain more advanced skills through courses such as Accounting and Economics & Virtual Enterprise. Furthermore, officers foresee that those who do remain will be more dedicated to the club, since they will have invested more time into business education. 

“I think that it will focus the club more, since people who take more than one CTE course usually have more dedication or are more willing to put time and effort into the club,” said Cindy Xu, DECA vice president. “Part of the reason why we thought we would be able to implement this policy was also because of how many CTE courses Lynbrook offers. It’s very unique for our school to have so many business teachers and different types of business classes, because some schools only have one or two CTE courses.”

Many also anticipate a decline in membership, though, as the prerequisites for competition could discourage many students from joining or cause current members to drop out.

“This year, we have almost 400 [members],” said DECA president Rachana Muvvala. “Of those members, about 370 have a CTE course. Considering the volume of people the CTE courses can handle, we’re expecting about a 200-member drop, so we will probably have about 170 [competing] members.”

Students considering the club may opt to join FBLA instead, which only requires one year of CTE, or no business club at all. Additionally, students may request a business class but fail to get one in their schedule, and current members who had not planned on taking further CTE classes may choose not to alter their course plans to continue with the club.

For these reasons, current DECA members have mixed feelings about the new policy.

“I really enjoy doing DECA, and it’s something that I want to do all four years [of high school],” said freshman member Jeffrey Su. “But knowing that I might not be able to do it next year is worrisome, since the chance of me getting another business course as a sophomore is pretty low. If I don’t get a business class next year, I will probably join FBLA instead.”

Others, including sophomore Marissa Dai, do not plan to request a business class in the upcoming school year.

“I was really disappointed when I found out,” Dai said. “A lot of people were frustrated because they had a plan for their four years that’s now been thrown out the window. I would not have joined DECA if I had known [about the requirement]; I was already surprised at the one year [requirement], because I think as an after school club it should not be interfering with school.”

The increase in demand for CTE classes from DECA members may affect the Business Department in the coming years. Because the number of class periods — or sections — the department supports will likely remain the same at 10 classes, the number of students who can enroll in these classes will not change greatly. However, some, including Business Department head Andrea Badger, predict that the department may offer fewer sections of Principles of Business in favor of more advanced classes.

Not all DECA members may feel compelled to request CTE courses, however. Though students who wish to compete in nationally and state affiliated DECA events must be taking one of these classes at the same time, members who only want to participate in school events do not need to fulfill any course requirement. Lynbrook DECA offers several opportunities at the school level for non-CTE members, including Lynbrook Incubator, which is open to all students, and mock conferences. Still, members may not find these incentives sufficient to remain in DECA without the ability to compete.

“I don’t think it would be very worthwhile because DECA is, at its core, a competition club,” Dai said. “Without the competition aspect, I don’t see much point in being there.”

While no change in the number of available spots is expected in the short term, Lynbrook could consider adapting to a higher demand for CTE courses by expanding the Business Department if the number of requests increases significantly.

“We have talked about opportunities for dual enrollment with community colleges and grants that could help secure more sections,” Badger said. “I hope that this situation challenges us as a school or a district to find a way to make more opportunities accessible to students.”