This year, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (also known as Perkins V) went into effect. This federal program is a valuable tool for increasing student access to educational programs—and we want to make sure you’re aware of the updates that are now in effect through this re-authorization.
The re-authorization of Perkins
The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (known by most as simply “Perkins”) was first authorized in 1984, and was reauthorized in 1998, 2006, and now in 2018. Carl Perkins was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a Democrat representing Kentucky for 35 years, until his death in 1984. He was a long-time supporter of education, particularly for under-privileged populations.
The program was reauthorized by Congress (nearly unanimously), and it is managed by the Department of Education. It’s expected to provide about $1.2 billion each year for career and technical education (CTE) programs across the country, administered by state-designated agencies to eligible schools, districts, and educational institutions. This funding can be received by certain types of high schools, community colleges, technical schools, apprenticeship programs, and Tribal organizations and educational agencies.
Importantly, the Perkins Act has gotten a raise for the first time in years, adding about $75 million to the available funding in 2018 and another $70 million in 2019. The funding is also available to more grades, expanding eligible participation to grades 5 through 8—while previously only available to grades 9 through 12, as well as postsecondary institutions. This can help schools begin their CTE programs earlier and offer more continuity from younger grades through graduation.
There is also an added focus on “employability skills,” in an effort to more closely align the academic and technical knowledge presented in CTE programs with the skills needed by relevant industries—and to help support local communities. As more and more students and prospective students see the value in career training instead of a traditional four-year degree, demand for skills-based education is rising and that is reflected in funding programs like this one.
According to Advance CTE, a national nonprofit representing state CTE leadership, “nearly 60% of companies report having difficulty filling job openings because of a lack of qualified applicants.” But CTE programs supported by Perkins can emphasize real-world skills and practical knowledge that offer students a better chance to find relevant work after graduation.
Another important requirement to note is regarding performance targets. With Perkins V, state and local agencies will have greater authorization to determine performance indicators and progress metrics. States must seek continual progress toward performance improvement for all CTE students, including special populations (such as individuals with disabilities, low-income youth and adults, single parents, out-of-workforce individuals, English learners, and homeless individuals).
The updated Perkins legislation also requires a public comment process to allow written comments on state-determined performance indicators at least sixty days before a state’s plan is submitted. And if a state fails to meet 90% of its core performance indicators, it will be required to implement an improvement plan—or risk withholding of funds from the Department of Education.
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