This Newsbrief gives our sense of important and timely federal educational news within the following process and 
protest context
To advance educational excellence and equity, we must prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable students and communities. To accomplish this goal, we need clear processes for the development of policy, and we need to take into account opposition to current and proposed policies and practices — protest — as a healthy part of those processes.  

Federal Update

Perkins V: Career Training or Academic Off-Ramp?

November 30, 2018

The Issue

Over the summer, and by large bipartisan margins, both houses of the United States Congress passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (also known as “Perkins V”). Much like the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) is the name for the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), “Perkins V” is so known because it is the fifth reauthorization of the the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.

Perkins V is a significant source of federal funding — about $1.2 billion — for career-related and technical education (CTE) in K-12 and postsecondary programs. It follows the basic blueprint for bipartisan agreement that was seen in Congress’ approval of ESSA in late 2015: significantly reduced federal oversight in exchange for significantly expanded, and more specific, requirements for the involvement of parents, families, and community members, including those from a list of specified “special populations” in the development of plans and in the implementation of the law.


The Process

Perkins V goes into effect fully in July 2019, prior to the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. By April 2019, states must submit either their full state Perkins plan or a one-year transition plan. The vast majority of states are expected to submit a transition plan in April 2019, and their full state plans in April 2020.

As with ESSA, the statutory language of Perkins V contains a great amount of detail regarding the responsibilities that state and local education officials have to solicit, receive, and consider input from a wide range of specific stakeholders. US ED has released draft guidance for states in the development of their state plans. Public comments on this draft guidance are due to US ED by December 24, 2018.

Conversations about state Perkins plans and the future of career and technical education programming in schools and districts are already underway in a number of states. Here are some equity-related considerations we believe should be part of those discussions:

Preparation for the New Economy
The basic promise of career and technical education is the connection of highly motivated students with local businesses and industries in ways that serve their shared interests: public education and skills development in a highly relevant economic context, where students gain market-relevant skills and employers gain access to new employees who are well-trained in areas of specific business need. For these connections to be maximally productive and mutually worthwhile, students must be trained not only for current-day market needs, but also in the skills that will serve them in their careers on a longer-term basis.

Academic Rigor
Of key concern to many civil rights groups is the marginalization of students of color, low-income students, and groups deemed by political or school leaders as unlikely to meet academic, testing and/or graduation rate goals. The dangers here are dual: the underrepresentation of these groups in science, technology, engineering and math (known collectively as STEM)-related CTE programs, and/or the placement of students from these groups into CTE programs that are neither academically rigorous nor linked to the kinds of skills that will enhance their employability on a longer-term basis.

Middle School Students
Perkins V allows funds to be used for “career exposure, exploration and preparation” for students in grades 5-8. The use of CTE in this way could be especially impactful for underserved and academically underperforming populations, as some research indicates that students in these grades are at increased risk of disengaging from their studies.

Federal Role in Oversight and Enforcement
The United States Department of Education (US ED) and some technical education groups have stated publicly that the statutory language of Perkins V reduces the role of the federal government in oversight and enforcement even further than under ESSA. This is notable because of continuing controversies regarding US ED’s approval of ESSA state plans in cases a where those plans appeared to be non-compliant with requirements specified in the language of the ESSA statute. Perkins V allows states to establish their own criteria for how to judge the performance of their CTE programs.

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