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Committee Approves Vocational and Technical Education Reauthorization

On July 21, the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved, by voice vote, a bill (H.R. 4496) to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act (P.L. 105-332). Chair John Boehner (R-OH) praised the bill, saying that it would “build on the foundation of the No Child Left Behind Act, and ensure students participating in vocational and technical education at the secondary and postsecondary levels have greater educational opportunities now and into the future.”

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), H.R. 4496 would authorize $1.3 billion in FY2005 and such sums as necessary in FY2006 through FY2010 for vocational and technical education programs. The bill would fold the Tech-Prep program, which provides courses in math, science, and technology, into the Perkins state grants program. Under the bill, not more than 10 percent of funding may be spent on state leadership activities, and of that amount, not less than $60,000 and not more than $150,000 shall be available for services that prepare individuals for nontraditional employment. State leadership activities should place an emphasis on learning, math and science education, scientifically based research, improving student achievement, enhancing professional development, and entrepreneurship education and training. H.R 4496 also would require local programs to develop, improve, or expand the use of technology and math and science knowledge. Local programs also could use funds to strengthen teacher training and to prepare special populations, including displaced homemakers, for high skill, high wage occupations that lead to self-sufficiency.

Prior to approving the bill, the committee adopted, by voice vote, a substitute amendment by Rep. Castle that would allow private school students to participate in vocational education programs, among other things. The committee defeated, 21-23, an amendment by Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) that would have kept separate funding streams for the Tech-Prep program and the Perkins state grants program. The committee also defeated, 20-24, an amendment by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) that would have authorized $250 million in vocational education funding to be administered through community colleges.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) offered and withdrew an amendment that would have required students to be enrolled in the ninth grade in order to access Perkins grants. Under current law, Perkins grants may be used for children enrolled in the seventh grade.

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) also offered and withdrew an amendment that would have allowed schools to develop an education/career path for vocational education students with assistance from their parents and teachers.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee was scheduled to consider a similar bill (as-yet-unnumbered) this week; however, the mark-up has been postponed until after the summer recess.

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