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Congress Sends Career-Technical Education Bill to President Trump

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 25, 2018 3 min read
Keaton Turner, a junior at Warren County High School, welds a during an advanced manufacturing class in McMinnville.
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Congress passed a bipartisan overhaul of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act on Wednesday and sent it for signature to President Donald Trump, who has made career and technical education, or CTE, a priority for his administration.

The $1.1 billion program, last reauthorized in 2006, provides funding for job training and related programs for high school students, many of whom may be seeking postsecondary options other than a four-year college degree, as well as for students in higher education. The Senate bill to revamp Perkins was co-authored by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and is called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The House, which passed its own version of a Perkins reauthorization last year, approved CTE reauthorization as amended by the Senate version. The legislation passed via voice vote.

Momentum behind the Perkins legislation has grown in recent weeks, after a lobbying effort by the Trump administration on Capitol Hill that included presidential senior adviser Ivanka Trump, who is Trump’s daughter. The legislation sailed through the Senate education committee last month and was lavished with praise by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Here are a few highlights of the legislation that we mentioned last month when the bill was introduced:

  • The secretary of education would be barred from dictating states’ CTE assessments or standards. States would also set their own goals under the legislation.
  • States would have to make “meaningful progress” toward meeting their own goals under the proposed bill.
  • The legislation creates “core indicators” for the performance of students concentrating in CTE, including their graduation rate and the percentage who continue on to either postsecondary education or advanced training within a certain time frame.
  • It also requires schools to align career and technical education programs with the needs of the state or local communities.

Trump on Tuesday urged lawmakers to send him the bill:

And U.S. Secretary of Betsy DeVos also chimed in Monday to support the Perkins push:

Calling the Perkins reauthorization “long overdue,” Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., who worked on the House version of CTE legislation, said on the House floor Wednesday before the vote that, “It will restore rungs on the ladder of opportunity.”

The business community lobbied for Congress to reauthorize Perkins. And education groups like the American Federation of Teachers and the Council of Chief State School Officers praised the legislation’s progress. (AFT President Randi Weingarten also called for lawmakers to increase spending on CTE, something that both House and Senate lawmakers who oversee education spending seem interested in doing based on their proposals for fiscal 2019.)

However, other groups have concerns. The Association for Career and Technical Education and Advance CTE, for example, say they worry the legislation could lead to states setting “unambitious” performance targets for students focusing on CTE, as well as create a heavy administrative burden for schools.

Although Perkins is a popular program, Congress failed to get a reauthorization over the finish line in the last Congress, after squabbling in the Senate in late 2016 over the proper role of the education secretary killed its chances.