June 29, 2016

(PERKINS) Permanent link

House Introduces Bipartisan CTE Reauth Bill


Yesterday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee released the "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act," a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. You can read the bill here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Strengthening_Career_and_Technical_Education_for_the_21st_Century_Act.pdf 

The House Education Committee is expected to mark-up the bill very soon, and there’s a small chance the bill will move to the floor prior to the August recess. The Senate HELP Committee has not yet introduced a bill to reauthorize Perkins.

There is much to like in the bipartisan bill and many ideas that AASA pushed for inclusion in the reauthorization have been incorporated. Chief among them is the major complaint by school leaders about the onerous administrative requirements for Perkins funding, particularly given the low levels of federal funding for Perkins. The House bill addresses the paperwork burden by allowing districts to fill out a simple, easy-to-complete local application. This is a radical departure from current law and will ensure that no district turns down Perkins funding because the associated paperwork does not justify the award amount.

AASA knows every district with high-quality CTE programs is continuously engaging with both higher education and business/industry partners. We are so pleased to see that as part of the development of a local plan, districts would conduct a needs assessment (an idea suggested by AASA) on a biennial basis that provides business/industry and higher education partners, as well as other key stakeholders, an opportunity to provide input into the local plan to ensure the district is directing its limited resources towards relevant, well-aligned programs of study. In addition, the bill ensures districts have access to, and take into consideration, critical labor market information that will detail current, intermediate, or long-term labor market projections when determining whether to maintain, develop or eliminate programs of study

The House bill also streamlines the accountability system in Perkins and aligns performance measures with those set by each state under ESSA. Districts must report on CTE graduation rates, post-secondary outcomes, and academic proficiency, but States have the discretion to choose another factor, such as the attainment rate of an industry recognized credential, the rate of dual-enrollment or the rate of students participating in work-based learning, that they can use as a fourth indicator. This flexibility ensures that States can use a metric that prioritizes their state policy and investments in CTE and aligns with what they may already require districts to track and report.  Moreover, the accountability system only focuses on the performance of those students who are CTE concentrators, defined as students who have completed three or more CTE courses or who have completed at least two courses in a single CTE program of study.  While we are disappointed to see the continuation of the non-traditional measure in the accountability system, AASA is pleased that this measure only requires districts to focus on the participation of non-traditional students in CTE, rather than participation and completion.

In light of what we have seen with the use of NCLB waivers and the current implementation efforts in ESSA, AASA remains vigilantly opposed to federal legislation that would enhance or maintain the role of the Secretary in determining or adjusting State accountability systems. The strong prohibitions that are added to the bill will prevent the Secretary from much over-reaching, and AASA is committed to working with the Committee to strengthen the limitations placed on the Secretary. Of importance to school leaders is that the bill does repeal the requirement in current law that States must negotiate their targeted levels of performance with the Secretary, which frees States to set more reasonable targets for accountability. It also requires that when the State sets new performance targets, they discuss these proposed targets with school superintendents, teachers, workforce development boards and other key stakeholders.  The House bill also prevents the Secretary from withholding funds from a State that does not meet certain performance targets and empowers State leaders to develop an improvement plan that works best for the needs and circumstances in their States. Even more importantly, at the local level, LEA improvement plans are developed by the LEA with limited input from state leaders, and state leaders are discouraged from requiring districts to redirect limited resources towards improving specific indicators.