With an unanimous vote, the House education committee approved a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act on Wednesday.
The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, with Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi as the lead co-sponsors, passed unanimously out of the committee. It now moves to the full House for consideration, and could become the first major education legislation sent to President Donald Trump during this Congress.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the committee chairwoman, and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the top Democrat, both said there is a skills gap between what students are provided in educational settings and the demands of the current workforce.
“This legislation will empower state and local leaders to tailor programs to meet the unique needs” of students in their community, Foxx said in the Wednesday committee meeting. “Local leaders will be better equipped to respond to changing education and economic needs.”
As we reported earlier this month, the legislation is tailored to give states more flexibility in their plans for Perkins funds and for prioritizing programs that meet their particular workforce environments. It is very similar to a 2016 bill that easily passed the House, although this year’s version does impose somewhat stricter requirements on state CTE spending, as well as the process by which state plans are approved or rejected. In several respects, it matches the emphasis on greater state and local control in the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Scott said the bill promotes equity in career and technical education while updating the Perkins law to reflect the changing economy. However, he said the bill isn’t perfect in its current form and that the authority of the education secretary in the bill over funding issues isn’t as strong as he would like.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., introduced and then withdrew an amendment to the bill to beef up secretarial authority—she expressed concern that the bill in its current form would allow states to use federal funds on failing CTE programs. (Disputes over secretarial authority led last year’s bill to stall out in the Senate.) She said lawmakers should continue to discuss this issue as the bill moves ahead.
On Tuesday, Foxx expressed optimism about the bill’s prospects in public remarks at a CTE event. In addition to more freedom for states, Foxx said the Thompson-Krishnamoorthi bill creates greater transparency and accountability for CTE programs.