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Senate Approves Vocational and Technical Education Reauthorization; House Panel Approves Bill

On March 10, just one day after committee approval, the Senate unanimously approved, 99-0, a bill (S. 250) to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act (P.L. 105-332). The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved its version of the bill (H.R. 366) by voice vote on March 9.

Prior to Senate passage, bill sponsor Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) said the measure is important “because it will help ensure that we are preparing students for tomorrow’s workforce. We are in the midst of a skills revolution. Students going to school probably will not go to work for a single company and work there 30 years and then retire. The statistics show that they will probably have 14 different careers–not 14 different jobs, 14 different careers. Many of them won’t even have been invented now. It is very important that we have a flexible learning environment that will allow them to cope with these changes.”

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) agreed, “Investing in our education system, continuing education, continuing training, and the acquiring of skills is essential in terms of our national security as well. It is not always thought of in those terms, but it clearly is. This legislation, which has been upgraded in the course of this Congress, is essential for equipping millions of Americans with the skills they need to compete in the global economy.”

Senate Committee Consideration

On March 9, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved, by voice vote, a bill to reauthorize vocational education programs. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act would update the term “vocational and technical education” with “career and technical education” throughout the law. The bill would authorize such sums as necessary through FY2011 for career and technical education programs.

Under the bill, not more than 15 percent of funding could be spent on state leadership activities, and of that amount, not less than $60,000 would be available for services that prepare individuals for nontraditional employment. State leadership activities should expose students to high-skill, high-wage and high-demand occupations, and should provide support for career and technical student organizations, in particular to increase the participation of students who are members of special populations. The eligible agency would be required to submit a state plan that describes how the state plans to provide special populations with equal access to career and technical education programs, to ensure that members of special populations are not discriminated against, and to prepare special populations for further learning and high-skill, high-wage, or high-demand occupations.

S. 250 would require the use of local funds to prepare special populations, including single parents and displaced homemakers, for high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand occupations that lead to self-sufficiency.

In a press release announcing committee passage of the bill, Chair Enzi stated, “This legislation will require state agencies to work together to identify the needs of the workforce and design job and skills training programs to match those needs. More importantly, it will provide vital resources that are needed to prepare students of all ages for a lifetime of learning necessary to pursue high-wage and high-skilled occupations.”

House Committee Consideration

In his opening remarks, Chair John Boehner (R-OH) said that the reauthorization bill “seeks to meet the challenges of a changing economy and workplace by building on current successes of vocational and technical education. All vocational and technical education students should have access to programs that are rigorous in both academic and technical content, and provide clear connections with options beyond high school. I believe this bill fulfills those high standards, and I’m pleased to be considering it today.”

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), the Vocational and Technical Education for the Future Act would authorize $1.31 billion for FY2006 and such sums as necessary through FY2011 for vocational and technical education programs. Unlike the Senate bill, the House 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 could be spent on state leadership activities, and of that amount, not less than $60,000 and not more than $150,000 would be available for services that prepare individuals for nontraditional employment. H.R. 366 would require the state plan to include information on how vocational and technical education programs would prepare special populations, including single parents and displaced homemakers, for high-skill, high-wage occupations that will lead to self-sufficiency.

During consideration of the bill, the committee approved, by voice vote, a substitute amendment offered by Rep. Castle that would allow states to provide dual-enrollment programs for students planning to obtain an associate or baccalaureate degree.

The committee also approved, by unanimous consent, an amendment offered by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) that would emphasize the importance of preparation for postsecondary education.

The committee rejected the following amendments:

  • an amendment by Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) that would have kept the Tech-Prep program a separate program from the Perkins state grants program, 19-20;
  • an amendment by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) that would have increased funding for state leadership activities by 5 percent, 15-18; and
  • an amendment by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) that would have rebuked President Bush for eliminating the Perkins program in his FY2006 budget, 19-23.

 

Both House and Senate committees considered similar bills last year, but no final action took place before the end of the 108th Congress (see The Source, 9/24/04).

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