President Trump on Tuesday signed into law an update to the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which will give states more authority to determine their own goals for the $1.2 billion federal grant program.
The passage of the Perkins legislation is the rare example of Republicans and Democrats reaching agreement on higher ed legislation.
“By enacting it into law, we will continue to prepare students for today’s constantly shifting job market, and we will help employers find the workers they need to compete,” Trump said in a statement.
Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate education committee, said the bill would help workers get the skills needed to fill jobs in a growing economy.
“At a time when our economy is booming, what I hear most often from Tennessee employers is that they need more skilled workers. The Perkins CTE Act funds the programs that help train those skilled workers -- for example, a high school student wanting to become a computer coder, or an adult going back to school to learn about commercial construction.”
Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and ranking member on the committee, said the Perkins update would help ensure students get training that matches the needs of their local economies while improving accountability.
Although the House passed a Perkins reauthorization more than a year ago, Senate negotiations remained stalled until Republicans and Democrats cobbled together a deal in June. The White House and business groups made passing a Perkins update this year a priority, and the Senate quickly approved the bill before the House did so as well.
Some work-force training groups have praised the passage of the legislation while urging that legislative language be crafted carefully to avoid having states either set low performance targets or become overburdened with administrative requirements.
“The resources provided through this law will assist states and local public education providers in their efforts to ensure both secondary and postsecondary learners have the skills and experiences that will provide a pathway to the middle class, while also meeting the needs of large and small employers across the nation,” said the Association for Career and Technical Education and Advance CTE in a joint statement. “As we turn our attention from policymaking to implementation, there is much work to be done to ensure the intent and aspirations of this law are fully realized.”