National Skills Coalition today submitted a letter to leaders of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce regarding the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act” (H.R. 5587), a bill that would reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 through Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. The letter, which was developed in consultation with NSC’s Postsecondary Education National Advisory Panel, expresses strong support for the overall direction of the proposed bipartisan legislation, while offering specific recommendations to strengthen alignment between Perkins-funded CTE programs and other federal, state, and local investments in skills. The committee has announced that they will hold a markup hearing on the bill this Thursday, July 7th at 10 am.
As drafted, H.R. 5587 includes a range of policy changes to Perkins that would make it easier for states and CTE providers to coordinate with activities under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), including closer alignment of postsecondary performance indicators with the core performance indicators under WIOA, and requirements that state Perkins plans describe how CTE programs fit within the state’s broader vision and strategy for preparing an educated and skilled workforce. The proposed bill would also adopt a number of key WIOA definitions, including recognized postsecondary credentials, industry or sector partnerships, and career pathways. National Skills Coalition support these proposed changes, and offers additional recommendations on how the bill could be strengthened, consistent with our October 2015 reauthorization priorities, including (among other things):
- Expanding the definition of “special populations” that must be served under Perkins to include certain populations identified as “individuals with barriers to employment” under WIOA, including long-term unemployed individuals and ex-offenders. This would promote better coordination with WIOA activities targeting individuals with barriers, while expanding access to high-quality Perkins-funded programs for such individuals.
- Increasing authorized funding levels for the state formula grants. The bill as proposed would provide slight increases in formula grant funding, from about $1.13 billion in FY 2017 to about $1.21 billion in FY 2022; NSC notes that the FY 2022 funding would be approximately 15 percent less (in inflation-adjusted terms) than FY 2006 levels, and urges the committee to match historical investments.
- Strengthening the postsecondary performance outcomes by adopting a measure of participation in employment, education, or advanced training in the 4th quarter after program completion and a measure of effectiveness in serving employers, consistent with WIOA. The proposed bill would include a measure of participation in education or employment in the 2nd quarter after program completion, a measure of median earnings of program completers, and a measure of individuals receiving a recognized postsecondary credential.
- Encouraging states to use Unemployment Insurance (UI) quarterly wage records for employment outcome reporting, which would provide reliable data across states and other programs, and would enable stronger performance management, evaluation, and research,
- Expanding investments in a proposed “Innovation Grant” fund, which could be used to support innovative activities carried out by consortia of secondary and postsecondary CTE providers, and other key stakeholders. NSC also encourages the committee to include the development of industry or sector partnerships, career pathways, and integrated education and training programs as eligible uses of these funds, as well as data pilots to improve tracking of certification and license attainment by CTE students.
- Adding the state agency with responsibility for adult education activities under WIOA Title II to the list of entities that must be consulted as part of the state planning process.
- Ensuring that state planning requirements relating to the development and implementation of career pathways include descriptions of how such activities will be coordinated with state and local activities funded under WIOA, to ensure consistency across programs.
- Requiring states to carry out a range of state leadership activities that would support better student outcomes and cross-program alignment, including establishing and expanding work-based learning opportunities for CTE participants and coordinating career pathways and programs of study.
- Establishing a minimum percentage of state formula grants for postsecondary CTE, which would help compensate for declining state investments in community and technical colleges in recent years, and support the development and implementation of high-quality programs.
- Including industry or sector partnerships, where appropriate, as part of the local planning process, and expanding the list of required uses of local funds to support work-based learning activities and connections to sector partnerships and career pathways implemented under WIOA.
National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with policymakers and our national partners to strengthen and advance this critical legislation.