Federal Funding: The 105th Congress could still reauthorize vocational education funding before it wraps up its business, but the prospects do not look good.
House and Senate conferees have not yet met to reconcile their versions of legislation that would reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education and Applied Technology Act of 1990. Congress is expected to adjourn Oct. 9.
The bill is being stalled because the two chambers can't agree on what percentage of federal vocational education aid should go to local agencies rather than the states, according to a conference aide who asked not to be named.
The Senate conferees offered to direct as much as 85 percent of the funding to local agencies, but the House insisted on 90 percent, the aide said.
"There's a disagreement in the formula--this is traditionally a sticking point," confirmed Joe Karpinski, the communications director for the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, whose members are negotiating with members of the House Education and Workforce Committee on the bill.
Mr. Karpinski didn't rule out the chance that the bill still might get passed, saying that staff members haven't met recently because some of them are tied up with the Higher Education Amendments of 1998.
If the bill isn't passed, funding will continue to be given out according to the existing Perkins Act, which vocational education groups feel is outdated.
School-to-Work: On a different front, the House and the Senate must also work out differences over federal school-to-work funding.
The House appropriations bill includes $150 million for school-to-work programs in fiscal 1999, while the Senate's spending bill includes $250 million, the same amount requested by President Clinton.
No lobbying group is pressuring Congress on school-to-work issues, according to Glenda Partee, a co-director for the Washington-based American Youth Policy Forum, which monitors legislation affecting young people.
Ms. Partee noted that the school-to-work movement is not well-defined. "It's a little bit of vocational education, school reform, and tech-prep," she said.
"Our big focus is on the Perkins Act," agreed Nancy J. O'Brien, the director of legislative affairs for the American Vocational Association. "School-to-work money has been helpful [to vocational education], and the concept was very widely supported. It is having political difficulties right now."
--MARY ANN ZEHR [email protected]
Vol. 18, Issue 3, Page 7