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New Career and Technical Education "Perkins Act" Signed Into Law

On July 31, the president approved his first piece of major education legislation when he signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century (Perkins V) Act. This law reauthorizes for six years the federal government’s main career and technical education program that provides more than $1 billion dollars annually to state and local education agencies. The Perkins Act was originally created in 1984 and is designed to help high school and community college students develop the skills necessary to fill in-demand industry jobs.

During the consideration of the new law, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) stated, “We have more than six million unfilled jobs in this country, due in large part to the skills gap. The skills gap is partly the result of an outdated approach to workforce development. The new Perkins Act supports innovative learning opportunities and strong community partnerships, addressing the problem of vacant jobs and workforce development needs where they exist: at the local level.”

The bill received widespread bipartisan support and was passed unanimously in the Senate. The legislation has been lauded for providing flexibility to states by giving them more leeway on how to spend federal CTE resources and measure the success of their programs. The Act will go into effect on July 1, 2019.

States will begin to implement the law during a first-year transition period. This will give them time to develop four-year plans in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including parents, students, community representatives, CTE program leaders, workforce development boards, business and industry leaders, labor representatives, and others.

Within the plans, states will set their own accountability and performance goals. Previously, states had to negotiate their goals with the U.S. Department of Education. Once set, states will have to annually report how well they are progressing toward their goals. If states are not meeting them, they will be required to implement an improvement plan. This was required under the previous law, however, now improvement plans will be developed with local stakeholders and overseen by state leaders, not the USDOE.

During a bill signing ceremony held at Tampa Bay Technical High School, a nationally certified magnet program in Florida, 2014 graduate David Thompson, joined the president to share how the school’s welding program prepared him for life and how he his making “six figures” as a pipe welder. David emphasized that the trades and other opportunities besides college can lead to very successful careers. He added, “To parents watching: please get your kids to Tampa Tech.”

To learn more about the new Perkins Act, please review this policy brief prepared by Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education.

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