Washington Watch: Progress on Perkins, ed funding

Photo: House Education and the Workforce Committee

A Senate education committee on Tuesday approved legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, breaking through a long-running stalemate among its leaders that had stymied progress on the bill for at least two years.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously passed the Strengthening CTE for the 21st Century Act, which is based on legislation of the same name that the House passed last year. It bears many similarities to that legislation, but also some substantial differences. Areas where the two bills differ include:

  • the role that the secretary of education plays in overseeing the program’s implementation.
  • “subsequent actions” that may be taken in the event a state or local recipient does not meet its performance levels.
  • a somewhat different approach to the core performance indicators that measure the performance of states and local institutions.

Baccalaureate question

Neither version of the bill substantially alters how Perkins funds are distributed. The Senate bill, like its House counterpart, emphasizes the need for Perkins-funded programs to closely work with industry and greater alignment between Perkins and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

As marked up, the bill would also potentially open up postsecondary Perkins funding to baccalaureate programs, which are not currently eligible. The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has worked closely with Congress to ensure that Perkins remains focused on the sub-baccalaureate level. Senate staff has indicated that it was not their intent to change that in the bill, and they will work to ensure that final legislation does not have that effect.

Not endorsed

AACC sent a letter to the HELP Committee prior to markup expressing appreciation for the committee’s efforts to move the reauthorization forward in a bipartisan manner, but did not endorse the bill at this time. Several other leading career and technical education (CTE) organizations, including the Association for Career and Technical Education and Advance CTE, have also not endorsed the legislation.

Next steps for the legislation are not clear at this time. Senate leadership must find floor time for the bill in a crowded agenda, and the differences between the House and Senate legislation must be resolved before final legislation can pass. But the momentum seems to have shifted towards completing the Perkins CTE reauthorization this year.

Senate panel OKs funding bill

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations passed draft legislation to fund those departments in fiscal year 2019. Full details of the bill won’t be available until the full Senate Appropriations Committee marks up the bill on Thursday, but a few nuggets of information were included in an accompanying press release.

The bill would increase the Pell Grant maximum award by $100, to $6,195 in award year 2018-19. The bill would most likely accomplish this by tapping the current Pell Grant program surplus for this purpose. It would not be surprising, once the full legislation is released, to see the Pell surplus used to fund increases in other programs as well.

The bill also would freeze at currently levels funding for the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Federal Work Study and Trio programs. The Department of Labor (DOL) apprenticeship grants would see an increase of $15 million, to $160 million. Other DOL workforce training programs would likely be level funded.

About the Author

Jim Hermes
is associate vice president of government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.