President Trump has signed bipartisan legislation to revamp an important federal Dept. of Education program that provides grants to states to fund high school and post-secondary career and technical education.
The measure, which Trump signed on July 31, is the first reauthorization since 2006 of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program.
The bill gained final congressional approval on July 25 when the House passed it on a voice vote,
Supporters of the legislation say that it gives state agencies more flexibility and updates the grant program to reflect the current workforce situation. (View summary of bill from House Education and the Workforce Committee here.]
Design and construction industry groups praised the legislation. Contractors continue to report problems finding enough skilled workers; architects expect their workforces to increase over the next decade.
Stephen E. Sandherr, Associated General Contractors of America chief executive officer, said in a statement that the legislation “will provide a long-overdue boost to career and technical education in this country.”
Sandherr added, “Enacting a new career and technical education measure will help address the growing shortage of qualified workers that is keeping many construction firms from hiring even more workers.”
Greg Sizemore, Associated Builders and Contractors vice president of environment, health, safety and workforce development, said in a statement, "There are 500,000 jobs ready to be filled in the construction industry alone, a number which will continue to grow if we don't join forces to expand collaboration between industry and educators and focus on effective work-based learning."
Governors have been working since 2014 to reauthorize the Perkins program, according to the National Governors Association (NGA). An NGA spokesperson said via email that the measure gives governors a role in developing their respective Perkins plans—"the first time in the history of the law such a role has been included."
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)—a former secretary of education and Tennessee governor—said in a statement that the measure limits the Education Dept.’s role “so states don’t have to ask ‘mother may I?’ when they want to make changes or do what is best for their students, and increases expectations that states will hold themselves accountable for student achievement.”
The measure authorizes funds over six years for the program, with funding rising in small, annual steps from $1.23 billion in fiscal year 2019 to $1.32 billion in 2024.
For fiscal 2018, the Education Dept. has estimated it is providing a total of $1.17 billion for the Perkins grants. Most of that total is divided by a formula among the states, District of Columbia and U.S. territories and possessions.
California will receive the largest estimated 2018 share, $120 million, followed by Texas, with $105 million, Florida, $69 million, New York, $54 million, and Ohio, $44 million.
States re-distribute their federal allotments to local colleges and school districts.
The American Institute of Architects also welcomed the measure. AIA President Carl Elefante said in a statement that “for the first time this legislation clarifies that states can use federal career and technical education funding to modernize their architecture curriculums, which 49 out of 50 states have not updated in years.”
Elefante noted that the legislation also “legally recognizes architecture as part of a STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] education.”
According to the Opportunity America Jobs and Career Coalition—an industry and business group—the legislation encourages more input from business in developing state career education programs ad setting performance goals.
ABC pointed out that the legislation allows businesses to weigh in on career and technical curricula and requires state and local officials to get input from companies as the educational programs are planned, put in place and evaluated.
The coalition—whose members include AGC, ABC, Cianbro, Fluor, and other construction organizations—said the measure also brings the Perkins program more in line with the Dept. of Labor-administered Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which aims to help those looking for work get access to jobs, education and training.
In addition, the coalition said the legislation increases the share of states' "leadership" allotments—to 15% from 10%—that officials can use for such things as expanding use of technology in career and technical education, professional development for teachers and preparing students for "non-traditional fields" and introducing them to "high-skill, high-wage occupations."
The NGA spokesperson also said that the increase in the "leadership set-aside" will provide "flexible funds to spur innovation statewide."
Story updated on 7/31 to include bill enactment, National Governors Association and Associated Builders and Contractors comments.