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A Peek at the Senate Bill to Reauthorize Career and Technical Education Law

Following the House of Representatives' lead, there's a new bill in the Senate to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

But what's in it? And will it get the same smooth ride next week (when there's a hearing scheduled for the bill) that the bipartisan House rewrite received this week? It's early, but the answer to the last question appears to be no.

Here are a few highlights of the Senate version of the Perkins reauthorization:

  • It defines a "concentrator" in career and technical education a little differently than the House bill does. It accounts for states that track students' progress based on academic credits earned, not just those completing courses of study.  The Senate bill says a "concentrator" can be a secondary school student who's earned three credits in CTE courses, or who's earned two credits in a single CTE program of study.
  • When states set the target levels their CTE programs must perform at to get federal funds, they must consider performance levels set by others states, adjust those levels annually, and consider disparities in states' economic conditions and participants' characteristics, among other conditions.
  • As the House version did, the Senate bill authorizes the secretary to oversee a competitive-grant program to help scale up promising CTE programs and practices.
  • In another echo of the House bill, the Senate proposal would allow eligible agencies to submit plans for Perkins that also satisfy the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a separate federal law reauthorized in 2014.

However, here's one other notable difference between the House and Senate versions: The latter puts greater restrictions on the secretary of education's authority over state plans for federal Perkins aid.

Among other restrictions, the act makes it clear that the secretary cannot:

  • add new requirements for CTE, prescribe accountability indicators for CTE not in the law when considering states' Perkins plans;
  • specify CTE targets for states to include in their plans as a condition of approval;
  • go beyond providing technical assistance to states when they are setting their target performance levels for CTE programs;
  • prescribe the specific progress expected from certain groups of students;
  • prescribe the extent to which any specific target performance level is expected to improve the likelihood of equitable outcomes, either in the labor market or in academic work.  

That language is why Democrats do not support the bill, according to a Democratic aide. You might remember that restrictions on the secretary's authority were also a big part of the discussion when Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act last year. 

The Senate is slated to consider the bill on Sept. 21. 

Read the full bill below:

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