A draft bill being circulated in the Senate would incorporate federal vocational education, job training, and adult education programs, but keep funding for the three programs separate.
The Senate is expected to move quickly on an omnibus bill that would reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act. The Labor and Human Resources Committee plans to hold a hearing on the bill this month.
Unlike its House counterpart--HR 1853--the Senate draft also would link vocational education with other adult education programs in one piece of legislation.
A memo from Senate staff aides said the “important interrelationships among these activities have too often been ignored.” Aides are circulating the draft among members of the committee and other interested parties. The bill is likely to be introduced this month.
While the Washington-based National Association of State Directors of Vocational Technical Education would have preferred separate legislation for vocational education, the group was pleased that vocational education would have block-grant funding earmarked for it, said Executive Director Kim Kubiak.
But Phyllis Schlafly, the president of the Eagle Forum, a conservative group that has been critical of federal school-to-work policies, said it was a mistake to try to combine the programs in one piece of legislation. Job training programs have proved in the past to be unsuccessful, she said. The Eagle Forum, based in St. Louis, was influential in derailing last year’s efforts to reauthorize the law.
The Senate version contains several House provisions designed to appease conservative critics. Schools, for example, could not force students to choose career majors and could not use federal vocational education funds for programs for students below 7th grade, the draft says.
The bill also would raise the minimum grant to school districts for secondary vocational education programs from $15,000 to $25,000. While the increase is likely a move to counter the House bill, which would decrease the grant to $10,000, the Senate’s provision would reduce the number of grants available and hurt rural and small school districts, Ms. Kubiak said.