Negotiators from the Senate and House of Representatives agreed Thursday on a compromise version of legislation to renew the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, which authorizes programs designed to improve technical and vocational education.
The final legislation still has to be approved by both chambers of Congress and signed by the president before the Perkins program, which the Bush administration has repeatedly sought to eliminate in its recent budgets, is reauthorized for the next six years.
Community colleges scored a potential victory, as the compromise legislation maintains a separate flow of funding for the Tech-Prep program, which gives students a technical education during both two years of high school and community college.
"We're pleased with that," said Jim Hermes, a senior legislative associate with the American Association of Community Colleges. "The real significance is from a funding standpoint, it becomes easier to maintain funds [for the Tech-Prep program]. If we had lost the line item, there would be an increased likelihood that we'd lose money for the program."
The Senate bill, passed last year, called for separate authorization of Tech-Prep, but a House Education and the Workforce Committee version merged the program with the Basic State Grants program. Both bills passed by wide margains, but reauthorization efforts had stalled since last year because of wording issues, according to the AACC.
Hermes said the House-Senate conference committee also reached an agreement on how to treat state administrative funds. The House bill would have lowered to 2 percent from 5 percent the cap on the amount of a state's Perkins funds that could be set aside for administrative funds, while the Senate's version called for maintaining the current amount. Hermes said he was unsure of the agreed upon percentage, but that is would likely satisfy his community college constituents.
The AACC has pushed for sustained administrative funds, particularly for states where the community college system is responsible for administering the Perkins program.