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House Education Panel Ready to Tackle Career Education

Next up on Congress' seemingly endless edu-to-do list: reauthorization of Career and Technical Education programs. The House subcommittee that deals with K-12 education is holding its first hearing on the bill Friday.

CTE, which governs roughly $1.13 billion in Career and Technical Education money, was last reauthorized back in 2006, so the current version isn't nearly as stale as the No Child Left Behind Act (last renewed in 2002) or the Child Care and Development Block Grant program (which has been sitting on the shelf since 1996). The last renewal of CTE was aimed in part at better aligning the law with the accountability requirements of the NCLB law.

Then, in 2012, the Obama administration came out with its
own blueprint for renewing CTE. The most dramatic proposal: making CTE dollars (which are now distributed by formula) competitive within states. (That's how School Improvement Grant dollars are currently allocated.) At the time, the Association for Career and Technical Education wasn't thrilled with that idea—and neither was U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who may well be the next chairwoman of the Senate education committee.

The administration's proposal also seeks to boost collaboration among districts and postsecondary institutions by making them share grants. Right now, districts and postsecondary institutions get separate funding. The administration instead would fund consortia of districts, postsecondary institutions, and their partners. Those partners could include employers, labor organizations, and industry associations, among others. More background on what the Obama folks are looking for here.

One potentially loaded question going into this reauthorization: What's going to be the definition of "career"? The Obama administration's waivers—and the Senate Democrats' bill to revise the ESEA law—ask states to craft standards to make students college- and "career"-ready. The ACTE has some ideas that the organization says will help break down the barrier between an academic pathway and "career" education. More here.

Politically, CTE reauthorization fits in with the House Republicans' recent push to become the party of "kitchen table" issues. Rep. Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader, has been closely associating himself with any and all legislation that deals with job training or schools (such as the Workforce Investment Act and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act). But both of those bills were partisan—can a CTE renewal be a cross-aisle affair? We might get a better sense on Friday.

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