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Senate Draft of Career and Technical Education Bill Would Let Secretary Withhold Funds

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UPDATED

An early bipartisan draft of a Senate bill to reauthorize the federal law governing career and technical education would allow the secretary of education to withhold funds from CTE programs if they fail to meet certain performance targets for two straight years. 

The Senate draft would also require school districts receiving money through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to make "meaningful progress" towards improving the performance of all CTE concentrators. 

Discussions about how to reauthorize the Perkins Act, which is the single largest source of federal funds for American high schools, have ramped up recently as the White House—including Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser to her father President Donald Trump—has put pressure on lawmakers to reauthorize the CTE law. The Senate education committee is set to hold a hearing on Perkins legislation on Tuesday. Congress last reauthorized Perkins in 2006. 

The House passed a bipartisan reauthorization of Perkins last summer, called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. (Click here to read more about that bill.) That legislation had broad support among lawmakers, passing the House easily. However, the Senate has struggled to reauthorize the law since 2016 over disagreements about how much authority to give the secretary.

The House legislation does not specify that the education secretary can withhold money from districts and other agencies receiving CTE money over performance targets. 

Like the House bill, the Senate bill establishes a definition for a "CTE concentrator" that isn't a part of the current Perkins law. However, the House and Senate definitions differ. The Senate version, for example, defines a concentrator as a student at the secondary level who has completed at least two courses in a single CTE program or program of study. The House has a more expansive definition, saying that in addition to that Senate definition, a CTE concentrator can also be a student who has completed three or more career and technical education courses. 

In addition, the Senate bill mirrors the House legislation in that it allows states to keep 15 percent of their money for their own "leadership activities" for CTE. States can in turn decide if they want to distribute at least some of that money competitively. Several elements of the draft could change before Tuesday's hearing. 

Read the text of the draft below:


Photo: Benson Tech High School junior Major Jimmerson learns about the surveying as a career during a summer session of the PACE mentoring program. Run jointly by the district and local leaders in the building trades, the program exposes students to careers in plumbing, air conditioning, carpentry, and electrical fields. (David Pascual-Matias)


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