CTE Reauthorization Draws Congressional Attention

Even as Congress faces the challenge of funding the federal government for a few more months, some legislators have also turned their attention to a revamp of the law covering career and technical education (CTE). The "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act" was introduced in the House of Representatives last week, which, like other education initiatives in the last couple of years, puts the emphasis on giving states more control over spending.

The reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 was introduced by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). The reworked bill is an upgrade from a previous version that easily passed the House in 2016 but never left the Senate.

This time around the "CTE Excellence and Equity Act" (Senate Bill. 1004) was simultaneously introduced by a bi-partisan U.S. Senate caucus to expand CTE outreach to high schools. As explained in a statement from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Senate bill would amend the Perkins Act to provide federal funding through a competitive grant program "to support innovative approaches to redesigning the high school experience for students as schools develop curriculum, assess student performance and teach workplace skills through job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships." The bill has been read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

According to a summary issued by the Education and Workforce Committee, the House bill has several distinct areas of coverage, much of which is already CTE best practice:

  • The bill gives state and local leaders more say in how to use funds and streamlines the application process.
  • It increases the amount of federal funds states can set aside to assist eligible students in rural areas or areas with a sizeable number of CTE students from 10 percent to 15 percent.
  • State and local leaders are encouraged to work more closely with employers to make sure the CTE fits with their community needs.
  • The performance measures used to evaluate CTE programs will be changed to align with indicators set by states as part of their program plans in the Every Student Succeeds Act. One specific indicator, "technical skill proficiency," deemed "unreliable" by the bill's authors, will be replaced by some other state-defined measure. Those indicators will no longer be negotiated with federal agencies, such as the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
  • The bill also pushes states to reach out to education leaders, parents, students, workforce development boards and the community to determine performance goals in an "open process."
  • Each year states will be required to publish the results of how they perform against the measures. When they don't measure up, states themselves will oversee creation of their own "improvement plans."

The legislators expect the House committee to consider their legislation in the coming weeks.

"Strengthening career and technical education continues to a leading priority for our committee," said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, in a prepared statement. "We came close last year to enacting reforms that would have provided more Americans with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the workforce. This is simply too important to students, families, and taxpayers, and that is why I am hopeful we will get the job done this year."

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), ranking member of the same committee called the proposed bill "a compromise" that will "ensure that quality career and technical education and work-based learning opportunities are accessible to all students, regardless of their background."

Two organizations that have been lobbying for Perkins reauthorization, the Association for CTE (ACTE) and Advance CTE, released a joint statement applauding the work: "Previous efforts to reauthorize Perkins took important steps to promote high-quality CTE programs of study, give states and locals additional flexibility to meet local employer and student needs, promote program alignment and streamline administrative requirements. We hope this year's reauthorization will build on past efforts to enhance and expand access to high-quality CTE programs for students all across the country."


About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.