Column: Beauty can be worth a lot to some

September 25, 2018

From time to time, the State of Texas updates things, nomás porque si.

That’s a good thing, because we all need to shake things up a bit from time to time. It keeps us fresh-faced. Thing is, sometimes Texas messes with things that are OK the way they are.

In July, for example, the state gave a mini-makeover to legislation over high school career and technical education programs. One of the changes specified that federal dollars need to go to programs that prepare students for high-demand, high-wage careers. The Texas Education Agency then set out to figure out what qualifies as “high wage” and, segun ellos, they came up with a target salary of $35,339.

In that light, high school cosmetology programs don’t look so good because, according to reports the TEA considered, students who study those careers can expect to earn between $21,000 and $30,000 annually. As a result, the TEA is looking at re-shaping the career and technical programs curriculum, perhaps without cosmetology.

That could be a mistake. Not a huge one, but something like going blonde and forgetting to lighten the brows.

High school cosmetology courses give students a skill that can put them to work right away. It isn’t just piling hair on big Styrofoam heads. The lab work required to test for certification often gives students real-world experience. Instructors don’t just teach skills and technique, they teach communication, business management and science. How do you talk to clients? How do you know how much to charge? What do you do if you find a piojito? When you think about all of the details we don’t want to worry about because someone else does when we sit in the barber chair or when we pay to get our nails done, it’s a lot.

Of course, it’s not the work but the paycheck that is putting the training into question, but that’s not quite fair either. Hairdressers and barbers earn tips and, more important, can use their skills on the weekends to create a good side gig. If you’ve ever had your hair cut in a garage or a carport, you know que el que no le tiene miedo al trabajo can make a lot of money.

Change is good. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change for the better and wanting to steer students toward a higher salary. And at this point, the TEA is just trying to figure out what to recommend next. But you don’t take away something that works when it’s working as a lifeline for kids who might not be able to graduate, much less go on to pay tuition at places like Aveda Institute or the Ogle School of Hair, Skin and Nails.

It’s just not flattering.


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