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'Modernize' Career- and Tech-Ed Law, House Education Committee Leader Says

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The leader of the House education committee deplores what she called the negative connotations attached to career- and technical-education programs, and expressed optimism that a new bill to revamp federal law governing these programs would make progress in Congress.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said that too often, bachelor's degrees are held up as the ideal, while other pathways to successful careers are often ignored or given inadequate support. And employers also have a responsibility to share their workforce needs, Foxx said during a Tuesday event focused on career- and technical-education at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

"We have to get away from ...  the notion that a bachelor's degree denotes success and accomplishment," while apprenticeships and CTE program by contrast are treated like some kind of Plan B, Foxx said. Even the term "career and technical education" is misleading, she said, because those with four-year degrees and CTE certifications ultimately want the same thing: a job. 

Our colleague Catherine Gewertz recently examined the stigma often attached to CTE, and how such programs in Tennessee are adapting to changing conditions

Earlier this month, House lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. In many respects, the legislation is similar to legislation (also backed by both parties) that passed the House last year but failed to get over the line in the Senate. A House education committee "mark-up" of the new bill is slated for Wednesday. 

Among other things, the bill would give states more flexibility over how they use Perkins funding—for example, it would allow states to withhold a certain share of federal CTE funding for their own competitive grant or formula programs. It's also intended to encourage stronger connections between CTE programs and the labor markets in local economies. 

The legislation's two main co-authors are Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill. Foxx praised their bill during her speech, saying that it also increases transparency and accountability for CTE programs. She argued that it's urgent that the Perkins law be "modernized" to help connect students with in-demand jobs and keep up with the changing economy.

"I'm confident that these reforms will be well received this Congress," Foxx said.

In a discussion with Andy Smarick, a resident fellow at AEI who hosted her at the event, Foxx said it's states' responsibility to set clear targets for CTE programs that help paint a true picture of how those programs are performing.

And she reiterated what she's said previously, including to us, about the need for more local control that's more responsive to parents. "I believe that the federal government has no role in education," she said, although she added that she wasn't going to get her wish on that front in the foreseeable future. 

Screen capture: Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairwoman of the House education committee, speaks at the American Enterprise Institute about career and technical education on May 16. 


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