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Bill to Reauthorize Career and Technical Ed. Law Approved by House Committee

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 07, 2016 3 min read
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A bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act was approved unanimously by the House education committee on Thursday.

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, introduced by Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., received 37 votes in favor and no votes against during a hearing. Lawmakers praised the bill for its efforts to better align CTE programs with the economy, focus more program efforts on disadvantaged students, and for increasing both transparency and accountability of these programs.

As we’ve reported, the proposed legislation would be the first Perkins reauthorization since 2006. It’s designed to decrease bureaucracy for CTE programs and curtail the secretary of education’s role in setting performance levels for these programs, and would create a new “innovation” grant program and increase the share of federal funds states can set aside for their own discretionary CTE funding (with some requirements), among other changes.

Thompson introduced a substitute version of the bill at the committee hearing that included a few changes—this substitute version was adopted. These changes included a priority for grants to CTE programs that focus on serving low-income students, and a requirement for states to maintain their prior-year spending on CTE in order to gain access to federal funds.

“We have an opportunity to start treating career and technical education like a close cousin, instead of a distant relative,” Thompson said in his committee remarks.

And Clark noted that the bill is backed by more than 200 groups that focus on career and technical education. She also said the bill would help people looking to enter a variety of careers, from child care and advanced manufacturing to computer science: “It will make sure the program is flexible enough to adapt to the needs of new industries.”

Praise and Amendments

Various members highlighted the benefits and strong academic outcomes associated with CTE programs. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., for example, noted that the graduation rate for CTE programs nationwide is 93 percent, compared to the overall high school graduation rate of 80 percent.

The top members of the committee, Rep. John Kline, D-Minn., (the committee chairman), and ranking member Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., both had high praise for the bill—in fact, there was virtually no opposition expressed in the hearing.

Kline said the legislation would result in “better aligning programs with in-demand jobs.” And Scott said it “increases alignment between career and technical education and careers, and ensures opportunities for underserved students to participate in high-quality career and technical education programs.”

There were a few amendments approved by the committee, including those by:

  • Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., to require that states receive at least 90 percent of their prior-year federal CTE funding, to take effect in the fourth year of the reauthorization. Heck said this would create a more equitable funding scheme for states, and that the current hold-harmless provision for funding under Perkins has meant that some states are being unfairly shortchanged. Scott spoke in favor of this amendment, saying, “I’d like to increase the size of the pie.”
  • Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to allow arts and design education to be integrated into state leadership activities and local uses of funds under Perkins. Both Stefanik and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., spoke in favor of the amendment and emphasized the importance of arts and design in CTE programs.
  • Takano, involving “maker spaces.” These are facilities designed to encourage hands-on experimentation and activity.

Takano also said he hoped that the committee’s action on the bill would spur the Senate to act. However, there’s no comprehensive Perkins reauthorization proposal that’s been laid out in the Senate. After July 15, Congress is slated to be on break until early September, leaving little time for lawmakers to move the bill forward before the presidential election season enters its final stretch. And at least one policy advocate, Sasha Pudelski of AASA, the School Superintendents Association, indicated further movement on the bill might not happen this month:

Read the full legislation as approved by the House committee.