Congress reauthorizes Perkins Career and Technical Education Act

Congress passed a long-awaited bipartisan overhaul of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act Wednesday (July 25) when the U.S. House of Representatives approved changes made by the U.S. Senate on a voice vote, then sent the legislation to the President for his signature.

The $1.1 billion Perkins CTE program, last reauthorized in 2006,  provides funding for job training and related programs for high school students as well as for students in higher education.  President Donald Trump has made career and technical education a priority for his administration and has called on Congress to send him the bill.

The House action came after the U.S. Senate passed the measure, known officially as the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, with strong bipartisan support Monday evening (July 23).  The Senate altered the bill by adopting a substitute amendment to the version that passed the House on a voice vote over a year ago, then passed its version on a voice vote.

The reauthorization is designed to:

  • Encourage states, schools and local CTE providers to update education and job training to meet the needs of the local economies;
  • Promote collaboration between stakeholders so that local businesses can communicate their needs to states and educators as strategies and programs are developed; and
  • Increase the alignment of Perkins CTE Act with both the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Provisions in the legislation:

  • Reauthorize Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs through Fiscal Year 2024 and becomes effective July 1, 2019;
  • Bar the U.S. Secretary of Education from dictating a state’s CTE standards or assessments;
  • Allow states to set their own CTE goals but requires states to make “meaningful progress” toward meetings those goals; and
  • Create “core indicators” for the performance of CTE concentrators, including graduation rates and the percentage who continue on to either post-secondary education or advanced training within a given time frame.
  • Require disaggregated data reporting for student subgroups to help inform programmatic improvements aimed at closing achievement gaps, similar to ESSA;
  • Allow states the option to reset their baseline funding levels one time to comply with maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements so that MOE would be at least 95 percent of a state’s fiscal effort per student, or 95 percent of a state’s aggregate CTE expenditures; and
  • Require local grant recipients to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment with stakeholders every two years, and address those identified priorities in their grant applications to states.  (Local grant applications must also address plans to acclimate students to CTE/career exploration in earlier “middle grades,” and the provision of effective academic and career counseling services, targeted services for at-risk students, and career readiness for students pursuing employment opportunities in non-traditional fields.)