Senate Committee Approves Bill To Overhaul Technical Education

REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Zachery Schmidt Contributor
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A Senate committee hearing has moved states a step closer to having more autonomy to determine education standards with an update to a law that oversees $1 billion in federal spending to career and technical education (CTE).

The Heath, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which says the Department of Education no longer has to approve state goals for CTE.

The updated law would require states to meet the department’s intended goals in two years to prevent losing federal funding. States need to make meaningful progress toward goals set to avoid Secretary of Education Betsy Devos from intervening. If a state fails to meet 90 percent of its performance goals for two consecutive years, federal funding could stop, according to

Under the revised law, states would need to track performances of students by creating sub-groups such as race, gender and economic background. Also, states need to make its goals around “core indicators.” These indicators include high school graduation rates and post-secondary education enrollment.

States that use these federal funds need to design “career development activities” for students. Also, career advisors and academic counselors need to be available for students to provide career advice on CTE.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray said this updated act would provide students and workers training they need to get better jobs with higher wages during the hearing.

The updated 2006 Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act will provide “individuals with rigorous academic content needed to prepare for further education and careers in current or emerging professions,” according to the bill.

Lobbying efforts by Devos and White House advisor Ivanka Trump help gain bipartisan support after months of stalling. The House of Representatives passed a version of the revised bill in 2017, but it did not pass the Senate because 59 senators voted no. Senators sent a letter HELP Committee saying the bill should focus on aligning CTE programs to local needs. Also, the letter wanted the committee to increase student involvement in work-based learning atmospheres.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the US Senate that said this bill “would help ensure that America’s students acquire the necessary skills to succeed in today’s high-skilled workforce.”

Groups like Association for Career Technical Education and Advance CTE, which advocate for high-quality technical education, support the bill in a statement saying it is important for “all students have access to high-quality CTE.”

School Superintendents Association, an organization that represents 13,000 public superintendents in America, urged the HELP Committee to postpone the vote. The association wants to continue “to work with stakeholders who implement Perkins CTE programs to ensure widespread support of the bill from the K-12 education community.”