Congress has cleared for President Trump’s signature a six-year reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the Strengthening CTE for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353). Legislation that emerged from the Senate HELP Committee in early July was approved with amendments by the full Senate on July 23rd, and the House approved the same legislation two days later. This process eliminated the need for a House-Senate conference committee meeting to resolve differences between the bills.
Although the association did not formally endorse the reauthorization legislation, its approval represents attainment of one AACC’s primary legislative objectives for this Congress. The reauthorization puts the program on stronger political footing and will hopefully help sustain the recent momentum for significant funding increases. (The House appropriations committee has approved a $115 million increase for next fiscal year.) The extraordinary bipartisan support for the bill reflects strong Congressional support for career-related education and training. The Trump Administration has also stated its strong support for the program. That said, the final legislation did not enjoy the same degree of support from major stakeholders, including the Association of Career and Technical Education and Advance CTE (which represents CTE state directors), than the earlier-passed House version of the bill.
As outlined below, the legislation addresses many of AACC’s priorities for the Act, though implementation of the new law will be critical. The bill’s final text in some areas could have better reflected the avowed intent of Congressional members and staff, so report language and the bill’s legislative history will be important to fully achieving some of the following:
- Modernization: Practices such as dual enrollment, work-based learning, career pathways and others that have grown in prominence since the statute was last reauthorized in 2006 are featured throughout the bill.
- Continued Emphasis on Sub-Baccalaureate Education: Changes in the definition of “career and technical education” and “eligible institution,” which were intended to better align the act with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), could potentially be interpreted to open postsecondary funding to 4-year programs, despite there being no intention to do so by the bill’s sponsors. Here, legislative history and report language will play a role in how the Department of Education (ED) guides states on this issue.
- Greater Alignment with WIOA: Key terms employed in the Act are cross-referenced to those in WIOA. The bill also emphasizes coordination at the state and local level between CTE programs and WIOA initiatives. Most notably, Congress has modified the bill’s performance indicators to better match with those in WIOA. Again, ED’s implementation will be integral to the efficacy of these statutory changes.
- Increased Emphasis on Business and Industry: The legislation requires funded programs to have closer ties to state and local businesses. For example, funded institutions must conduct workforce need assessments and demonstrate cooperation with business, and, as mentioned above there is greater emphasis on workplace learning.
AACC looks forward to working with Congress and the ED on implementing the new law. For now, the Association commends Congress for renewing legislation that is vital to ensuring that community college students have access to the best CTE programs in the world.