The U.S. Department of Education has released guidance reminding schools that all students, regardless of sex or gender, must have equal access to the full range of career and technical education programs being offered.
The “Dear Colleague” letter, dated Wednesday, says the persistent under-representation of girls and women in CTE programs can hinder their earning power in their careers, decrease the workforce’s diversity. And even when they do participate in such programs, many girls and women are enrolled in training for relatively low-paying jobs.
Although disproportionate gender enrollment alone does not constitute a violation of Federal law, recipients must conduct their admission, recruitment, and counseling practices in a nondiscriminatory manner, and respond to substantially disproportionate enrollment of individuals of one sex by reviewing their policies and practices for counseling students and, if applicable, addressing any unlawful sex discrimination and sex stereotypes in their policies and practices for counseling students. Recipients may also want to keep in mind that decisions about course offerings, when based on sex stereotypes, can contribute to disproportionate access to CTE programs that lead to high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand jobs.
The department urges states to be proactive in preventing and addressing sex- and gender-related disparities in CTE access in several areas, such as recruitment to and promotion of CTE programs, admissions, and counseling.
The guidance comes at a time when education leaders in Congress are talking up the possibility that the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the main law governing CTE programs, could be reauthorized this year. The Perkins Act was last renewed in 2006, and both Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairmen of their respective chambers’ education committees, said it’s a top priority for them this session of Congress.
Read the full letter, from Assistant Secretary Catherine E. Lhamon and Deputy Assistant Secretary Johan E. Uvin, below:
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