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Perkins CTE Reauthorization Set To Become Law After Clearing Congress, President’s Desk

Both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House approved legislation this week to reauthorize the Perkins CTE Act, as summarized here, and then sent it to President Trump for his signature. The bill moved forward quickly from the Senate early in the week, despite requests from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and superintendents from across the nation asking for additional improvements and a slower pace to ensure all needed aspects were being considered in the reauthorization.

 

AASA, for which the North Carolina Association of School Administrators is the state affiliate, worked closely with the House over the past two Congresses to pass a strong, bipartisan bill that had universal support from stakeholders in K-12, higher education and the business communities. Two major priorities—reducing the paperwork burden and streamlining the accountability system—were clearly reflected in the House bill.

 

However, due to enormous political pressure from the White House and business groups this spring, the Senate threw together a hastily written bill that they released on June 26th giving AASA and other stakeholders less than 48 hours to submit comments. The Senate HELP Committee then voted on June 28th on their bill and the Chair and Ranking Member refused to allow Senators to offer amendments to make improvements to the bill, a highly unusual step. It is not unheard of to see a concerning/flawed bill move to the floor of the chamber; the calculus was more intense and concerning this go-around because Senate education leaders refused to conference their bill with the House bill. Instead of taking a week or two to negotiate with the House and work out differences (just like what occurred during ESSA) and have a traditional legislative process that could have resulted in a good-faith effort to reconcile differences between the two bills—Senate leadership in both parties simply insisted on their version knowing the political pressure was high enough that the House would have no choice but to pass their bill as written.

 

Over the past two weeks, a few minor technical corrections were made to the bill and by last Thursday the bill was being “hotlined,” which is a way to fast-track legislation to the Senate floor without any opportunity for amendments.  The hotline process requires the passage of legislation by unanimous consent that can only be stopped if a single Senate office calls Senate leadership and places a hold on the bill from moving forward.

 

“While we had some great advocacy from superintendents in several states requesting that their Senator place a hold on the bill until our concerns were addressed, we could not stop the bill from hitting the floor last night,” AASA’s Sasha Pudelski wrote to school administrators earlier this week. “We tried our best to pass meaningful CTE legislation that would have improved access and equity in CTE programs across the country as well as ensured that district leaders had the flexibility to really focus on program improvement in a meaningful and sensible way. Unfortunately, politics got the better of policy.”

 

Pudelski said AASA appreciates the efforts of many individual superintendents and other school leaders from across the country who made calls, sent emails and attended meetings on Capitol Hill and have difficult conversations on this issue.