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Bill to Revamp Career and Technical Education Law Introduced in House

By Andrew Ujifusa — May 04, 2017 4 min read
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Legislation to overhaul the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act was introduced on Thursday in the House of Representatives. The bill is similar in several respects to legislation the House passed last year that grants states more flexibility over spending and priorities.

The prospects for the bill, called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, could be strong, given the success the 2016 version enjoyed last year, and how lawmakers and advocacy groups are pushing hard to make CTE a priority in Washington. (More on that below.)

The legislation was introduced by Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., a long-time advocate for CTE issues, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., who’s in his first term in Congress. Other authors include Reps. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., Jim Langevin, D-R.I., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., and Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Pa.

Go here to read coverage of the 2016 Perkins CTE bill. That legislation gave states more control over how to spend money obtained through Perkins, increases the allowable state set-aside of federal money from 10 percent under current law to 15 percent, emphasizes local needs when states are deciding how to distribute Perkins funding, and measures new subgroups of students that match those required in the Every Student Succeeds Act when assessing CTE program performance.

And here are a few key differences between that 2016 bill and the legislation introduced Thursday:

  • States have to set performance targets based on the process in their state plans.
  • The bill says that two accountability indicators in the bill, those for “nontraditional” students and for program quality, now only apply to CTE “concentrators” who have taken two sequential CTE courses of study. In general, the bill defines CTE concentrators as those students who have “completed three or more career and technical education courses, or completed at least two courses in [a] single career and technical education program or program of study.” Last year, advocates expressed concern that this definition of a concentrator wouldn’t accurately measure CTE programs’ effectiveness.
  • Maintenance-of-effort language has been changed that would now allow states to decrease their CTE funding by up to 10 percent in the year immediately following implementation of the new Perkins law.
  • The U.S. secretary of education now has 120 days to review the plans, not 90 as in last year’s bill. Under the legislation passed last year, in fact, a state CTE plan would have been deemed approved if the education secretary had not responded to it within 90 days of its submission.

In a statement, Thompson said the legislation was “a well-engineered, bipartisan reauthorization aimed at permanently closing our nation’s skills gap.” And Krishnamoorthi said the training programs funded under the bill “will help hardworking families pursue more fulfilling futures while also supporting our nation’s continued leadership in a global economy.” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairwoman of the House education committee, and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the committee’s top Democrat, also praised the bill.

A House GOP aide said the bill introduced Thursday has four key principles from a Republican perspective: empowering local leaders, improving alignment with in-demand jobs, increasing transparency and accountability, and ensuring a limited federal role.

“We want to make sure that if a student is going through a CTE program, that they come out of that program with the skills and education they need to be successful in the workforce,” the aide said. “The critical way to do that is to empower state and local leaders.”

Although the House passed a Perkins bill last year, the reauthorization push got bogged down in the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on how much to limit the authority of the education secretary in any new Perkins Act. It’s unclear whether President Donald Trump’s election and his appointment of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will make this bill easier or harder to pass in the Senate.

The Perkins Act hasn’t been reauthorized since 2006. However, since Trump took office, many advocates have been hoping that his administration will put a new emphasis on CTE issues, as we’ve previously reported.

In February, for example, a coalition of groups urged the Trump administration to pay attention to CTE, as well as federal funding for CTE, arguing that it will work well with his plans to reorient federal priorities on the economy. Two authors of this new Perkins bill, Langevin and Thompson, also wrote to Trump earlier this year asking him to put a focus on CTE.

The GOP aide said the hope is that there will be action on the bill in the coming weeks. You can read a text of the new Perkins CTE bill.