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Senate Bill to Revamp Career-Tech Education Law Gives States More Power Over Goals

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UPDATED

The Senate bill to reauthorize the federal law governing career and technical education would allow states to set their own goals for CTE programs without negotiating them with the U.S. education secretary, a change from current law. It would also establish a definition for a "concentrator" in CTE as a high school student who's taken at least two courses in a CTE program or program of study—these students would become the focus for accountability as far as federal law is concerned. 

The secretary of education would also be barred from dictating states' CTE assessments or standards. However, states would have to make "meaningful progress" towards meeting their own goals under the proposed bill. In addition, the legislation would create "core indicators" for the performance of students concentrating in CTE, including their graduation rate, and the percentage who continue on to either postsecondary education or advanced training within a certain time frame. And it would require schools to align career and technical education programs with the needs of the state or local communities. 

The bipartisan legislation, which reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, is the result of negotiations between two members of the Senate education committee, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee's chairman, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., also had significant input on the bill. The Senate committee is due to consider the legislation Tuesday. It's titled the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.

"I think we're reasonably optimistic" about the bill's chances, said a GOP aide. "I don't foresee any strong opposition to it."

However, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, announced Sunday that it was opposed to the bill. The group said the legislation is "a relic of the No Child Left Behind era" due to its "unrealistic and prescriptive accountability measures." 

The White House has made reauthorizing Perkins a top priority recently. Earlier this month, it dispatched Ivanka Trump—his daughter and one of his senior advisers—to Capitol Hill to push the Senate to pass a bill. The law was last reauthorized in 2006, and it is the single biggest source of federal funds for high schools. 

We wrote about a bipartisan draft of the CTE bill on Friday. The House version of Perkins reauthorization, which also had bipartisan support and has the same name as the Senate bill, passed that chamber roughly a year ago. Senators failed to reach a bipartisan deal on Perkins in 2016, but this bill may represent a breakthrough. 

Read the full Senate bill below: 

   Senate Cte Mark Up by Andrew Ujifusa on Scribd

Photo: High school senior Sarah Murray, left, undergoes an ultrasound conducted by Nichole Ebener, center, at Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton, Ill. Murray and fellow Princeton High School senior Ellise Piper, right, were participating in a career internship program at the hospital. (Chris Yucos/NewsTribune/AP-File)

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