- The Perkins Act, the 34-year-old legislation that sets guidelines for federally funded career and technical education (CTE), has been stalled in Congress but is seeing new life, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
- Reauthorization of the legislation is gaining additional attention because it is overcoming political battles in the U.S. Senate and because of a brighter spotlight on CTE, which produces workers that employers say they need and training that may become more valuable in a full-employment economy. Advocates also say CTE may help reduce poverty levels.
- A Senate committee where the legislation has been bottled up is expected to act on it this week, but it isn’t clear what version will emerge, with senators disagreeing on how much federal control should be maintained over the program.
The Perkins Act expired in 2012, according to The Hill, and has taken cuts but been sustained by budget authorizations. It receives about $100 million less in federal funding than it did a decade ago.
Supporters, including business groups, say that while the Perkins Act continues to offer state grants, it needs to be updated because the CTE field has changed dramatically and there appears to be strong interest in the type of education it provides and initiatives such as work-based training and dual enrollment.
AACC reports that dual enrollment has grown steadily over the last 15 years, based on data showing the number of part-time students under 18 years old more than doubled and projections that 1.3 million high school students took college credit courses in the 2015-2016 academic year.
In a recent report, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce said students aren’t being prepared for the proper careers because of a lack of good information about the jobs available and skills needed – and even the value and relevance of the specific material that is being taught. It provides five recommendations that include the flow of that data, improvement to career centers and more structures that provide more information to students.
The Association of Career and Technical Education, which has lobbied for passage of the Perkins Act, also says that coordinated with other federal programs it can help develop training based on the latest employer data and needs. ACTE also reported that U.S. House of Representative committee members pressed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos earlier this month on authorization of Perkins, and while she highlighted the administration’s support for dual enrollment, business engagement with CTE and apprenticeship programs, she did not comment on administration support for the act.