Sep 10

With Perkins Act signed, new changes and opportunities in career tech education

In late July, President Donald Trump signed into law the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Called Perkins V, the legislation authorizes federal funding to help increase access to high quality career and technical education for America’s students. To find out what’s in Perkins V, we contacted Advance CTE, a Silver Spring, Maryland-based organization that monitors federal legislation on career and technical education for its members, including STEMx and Battelle. Kathryn Zekus, Advance CTE’s Senior Associate on Federal Policy, brought us up to date on the reauthorization:

Q: Give us an overview of the main aspects of the Perkins Act and why the legislation is important to the nation’s career and technical education schools.

Perkins is a federal education program that invests in secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) programs in all 50 states and the territories. The law is dedicated to increasing learner access to high-quality CTE programs of study.

With a focus on systems alignment and program improvement, this law has been critical to ensuring that programs meet the ever-changing needs of learners and employers.

Q: How was the measure changed in its reauthorization?

A: Perkins V largely maintained the structure and key tenets of current law, focusing on CTE program improvement, flexibility and data, and accountability.

Advance CTE was excited to see that Perkins V maintains a commitment to driving improvement through programs of study, increases the allowable reserve fund to 15 percent to spur local innovation, and allows support for career exploration in the “middle grades” (which includes grades 5-8).

From our perspective, Perkins V fell short in streamlining the requirements for the state plan and uses of funds.

Q: How was funding impacted?

A: The law would authorize $1.229 billion for FY 2019 and gradually increase this authorization level to $1.318 billion in FY 2024, which represents a 10.57 percent increase over the course of the act compared to the amount Congress allocated to the Perkins Basic State Grant program in FY 2018.

It is important to note that authorization levels are a suggestion, not a guarantee of funding levels, because congressional appropriators must develop and pass separate funding legislation annually, and the president must sign such legislation to enact it.

For example, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies proposed a $102 million increase for the Perkins Basic State Grant for FY 2019, which, if enacted, would bring the allocation to $1.294 billion, which is above the amount authorized in the law.

Q: How will the new legislation impact STEM education on the local and state levels?

A: STEM education is often viewed as separate from CTE, but this need not be the case. A state’s vision for CTE might encompass the state’s STEM strategy, and states will be able to use Perkins V as a lever to advance that vision. In fact, Advance CTE surveyed the state CTE directors in 2017, and 33 of them identified STEM as one of their areas of responsibility as a state director .

In addition, on the local level, high-quality CTE programs can provide a strong foundation for, and serve as a delivery system of, STEM competencies and skills for a broader range of students.

Q: How can STEM schools take advantage of the new measure?

A: Perkins V introduces a comprehensive local needs assessment that will require local recipients (e.g., local education agencies, area technical centers, etc.) of these funds to consult with a variety of groups, including educators, administrators, business and industry representatives, parents and students to complete the local needs assessment process.

Those involved with STEM schools could be part of this group of stakeholders who would be responsible for reviewing data and looking at a number of elements including student performance, progress toward implementation of equal access to high-quality CTE courses and programs of study, and whether programs are of sufficient size, scope and quality to meet the needs of all students served by the eligible recipient and are meeting labor market needs.

Perkins V requires that the resources local recipients receive under Perkins be aligned with the results of the local needs assessment.

Q: Is there anything else readers should know about this measure and how it will affect career and technical education?

A: While the measure was signed into law on July 31, 2018, Perkins V will go into effect on July 1, 2019.

Over the next few months, states will be writing transition plans, which will cover the first year of the law’s implementation (July 1, 2019- June 30, 2020). Full four-year state and local plans, covering all the requirements of the act, will be submitted in spring 2020 (encompassing program years July 1, 2020-June 30, 2024).