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House Members Introduce Bill to Overhaul Career and Technical Education

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 28, 2016 3 min read
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A bipartisan bill to overhaul the law governing career and technical education was formally introduced by congressional lawmakers Tuesday, and aims to grant states more flexibility over federal funds and allow them to better align programs with current economic needs.

Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act was introduced by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa. It’s the proposed rewrite of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which was last reauthorized in 2006.

Much of the bill’s substance focuses on reducing bureaucracy, increasing flexibility, and trying to ensure that the programs governed by the law at the middle school, high school, and postsecondary levels are better aligned with workforce demands and produce results. According to a press release sent out by House Democrats on the committee, the bill includes provisions to, among other things:

  • Ensure that more traditionally disadvantaged and vulnerable students are served by career and technical education programs;
  • Increase a focus on skills that translate more directly into employable skills;
  • Make it easier for states to apply for federal funds under the Perkins Act;
  • Allow for unique needs of states’ local areas to be factors when states are deciding how to spend Perkins money;
  • Measure the performance of the programs in terms of how the money is spent, and outcomes for various subgroups of students, as defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act, which requries data disaggregation for a larger number of student subgroups than in the past. (See page 47 of the CTE bill from Clark and Thompson for this language);
  • Replicate promising practices by directing an increasing slice of federal resources to programs proving to work.

“This well-engineered and robust reauthorization aims to close our nation’s skills gap by creating clear pathways to education and training for students eager to pursue careers in vital technical fields,” Thompson said in a statement.

Reps. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Rick Nolan, D-Minn., also helped craft the legislation.

Support at the Top

On Monday, we flagged a Perkins reauthorization as one of the issues with at least some chance of getting traction in Congress this year. Some sort of revamp for career and technical education programs has been backed publicly by U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee, among others.

The top two members of the House education committee, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the committee chairman, and Rep. Bobby Scott, R-Va., the ranking minority member, both praised the legislation from Clark and Thompson.

“Career and technical education can provide incredible opportunities for Americans—particularly younger Americans—to pursue good-paying jobs in industries critical to our economy. This bipartisan legislation will help more individuals seize those opportunities and achieve a lifetime of success,” Kline said in a statement accompanying the introduction of the legislation.

And Scott praised the “true bipartisan effort” in his own statement, adding, “This bipartisan bill prioritizes equity of opportunity for all students to participate in, and benefit from, high-quality CTE programs and will prepare them for high-skill, high-wage jobs that lead to economic self-sufficiency in the 21st century workforce.”

Read the entire legislation.

Photos: Rep. Katherine Clark (AP-File); Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., during a news conference on Capitol Hill in 2010 in Washington (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP-File).

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