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Senate Education Committee Set to Consider Career, Technical Education Bill

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The U.S. Senate education committee is planning to consider a bill to renew a long-stalled reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the biggest source of federal funding for high schools. 

And just before the markup was announced, Ivanka Trump, the president's eldest daughter and his adviser, let it be known through a White House spokesman that she will be on Capitol Hill urging senators to move on the legislation.

"Adviser to the President, Ivanka Trump, will meet with several Democrat and Republican Senators on Capitol Hill this week to discuss the urgency of reauthorizing the enhanced Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which just passed the House," said Hogan Gidley, a deputy White House press secretary. "The important legislation benefits more than 11 million Americans across the country and is integral to the administration's working families and workforce development agenda." 

Quick fact check on that statement: The House did indeed pass a bipartisan bill reauthorizing the Perkins law, which was last updated in 2006. But that happened last summer. The bill didn't "just" pass. The House also approved a similar bill, also with big bipartisan support, in 2016.

And notably, the president's first budget request in 2017 sought to cut the CTE program, which represents the biggest source of federal funding for high schools. He sought to cut the $1.1. billion by $168 million. Congress rejected that cut, and Trump didn't ask again in his most recent request.

So what's in the bipartisan House bill? The House legislation would give states more control over how to spend money obtained through Perkins. And states and districts would get more leeway to tailor CTE programs to the needs of the local economy. It also measures new subgroups of students that match those required in the Every Student Succeeds Act when assessing CTE program performance. Much more detail from Andrew here.

So if the House acted on CTE in a bipartisan way all that time ago, what's the hold-up on the Senate side? The biggest stumbling point has been secretarial authority, advocates say. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee and others in her party, want to make sure the secretary has sufficient muscle to oversee state programs. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee wants to rein in the federal role through prohibitions that sound somewhat similar to the ones on the secretary's authority in ESSA.

Democratic and Republican staffers have been trading language for weeks, in the hopes of getting to a bipartisan deal. That's still the goal, although lawmakers aren't there yet.  

"Senator Enzi, R-Wyo., and Senator Casey, D-Pa., have been making good progress, and I hope the bill the committee considers next week is bipartisan," Alexander said in a statement. Alexander, though, has told Bloomberg News that the bill will be marked up whether Democrats are on board or not. 

An advocate expressed skepticism that Alexander would give up on the prohibition issue. "This really is his decision whether or not this is workable," the advocate said. But, she added, that if the Senate committee is able to come to a bipartisan agreement, there's an "excellent chance" the legislation will pass this year.

Photo: Ivanka Trump, second from right, speaks with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., right, before President Donald Trump's signature of a memorandum expanding access to STEM education. (Alex Brandon/AP)


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