The Perkins CTE Reauthorization


The Advocate

September 2016
Sasha Pudelski, assistant director, Policy and Advocacy
AASA, The School Superintendents Association

The Perkins CTE Reauthorization

This is an exciting time for advocates of career and technical education. Right on the heels of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, both the U.S. House and Senate have begun drafting a new version of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, yet another federal education law ripe for a rewrite.

It originally appeared the Senate would introduce their legislation first, but concerns about regulations for ESSA and the role of Secretary King began to impede bipartisan negotiations. The House then pushed ahead and after working quietly and closely for months with a select group of organizations (which included AASA), introduced legislation in July to reauthorize Perkins. The House Education Committee passed its bipartisan CTE reauthorization in a rare 37-0 vote. The full House passed the bill on September 13 by a vote of 405-5.

After ensuring that the House would keep Perkins a formula-driven program, AASA focused our lobbying efforts on two major issues: 1) reducing the administrative burden in Perkins and 2) enhancing alignment between local CTE programs and business/industry and higher education institutions. Unlike ESEA or IDEA, Perkins is not a broken law in dire need of repair. Instead, the primary issue with Perkins is that the tiny federal allocations do not justify the paperwork required to receive the funding.

AASA worked closely with the Association of Career and Technical Education to develop a blueprint for how to reduce the paperwork burden in Perkins. Our idea to create a biennial local needs assessment to take the place of the bulk of the annual local application process was entirely adopted by the House. This needs assessment would require districts to consult with higher education partners and local or regional business/industry entities to ensure there was strong programmatic alignment and relevance in the district’s CTE program offerings. Districts would also have to consult with local stakeholders (teachers, administrators, students, etc.) to ensure they were directing Perkins funding toward the areas of greatest need and importance.

In addition, they would also have access to relevant labor-market information when conducting the needs assessment, which would ensure school leaders consider what programs to maintain, add or eliminate based on the job opportunities students will have when they graduate.

Outside of the results of the biennial needs assessment and a description of how it informs funding priorities for districts, the only other information districts would be required to provide on an annual basis would be: 1) a list of CTE program offerings, 2) a description of career counseling and exploration activities the district provides, and 3) a description of how the district works to prepare students with disabilities and other special populations for high skill, high-wage occupations. As a result, the local application would be significantly pared down from the current law, which is what AASA intended to achieve. It would also ensure that districts are more cognizant of how well aligned their programs are with the needs of business and industry.

AASA remains focused on reducing the role of the Secretary in dictating federal accountability guidelines and targets. Building on our successful advocacy in ESSA, we sought to streamline the accountability system in Perkins to align performance measures with those set by each state under ESSA, and to add strong prohibitions to the bill to prevent the Secretary from overreach.

In the House bill, 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 policy and investments in CTE and aligns with what they may already require districts to track and report.

Since this is a bipartisan bill, the accountability provisions in Perkins aren’t 100 percent to AASA’s liking. Overall however, we have some major improvements from the current law. While the accountability system exclusively focuses on the performance of those students who are CTE concentrators, they define them as students who have completed three or more CTE courses or completed at least two courses in a single CTE program of study. We believe the second part of the concentrator definition is problematic and will aggressively lobby the Senate to limit the definition of CTE concentrator to only those students who complete three or more CTE courses in a single program.

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.

Of importance to school leaders is that the bill repeals 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 state leaders consult with superintendents, teachers, workforce development boards and other key stakeholders when setting performance targets.

The House bill also prevents the Secretary from withholding funds from a state that does not meet certain performance targets and ensures LEA improvement plans are developed by the LEA with limited input from the state. It also discourages states from requiring districts to redirect limited resources towards improving specific indicators.

On the whole, AASA is very pleased with how the bill addresses our major priorities within the reauthorization and urges the Senate to move forward in completing the reauthorization process this year.