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Letter to the House on Perkins Reauthorization

May 16, 2016

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association (NEA) and the students they serve, we offer the following comments ahead of the House Education and the Workforce’s hearing, “Helping Students Succeed by Strengthening the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.” Career and technical education (CTE) provides secondary students with engaging, relevant, and hands-on learning opportunities that lead to higher graduation rates and a range of post-secondary education and career options. CTE also prepares post-secondary students for careers and provides opportunities for degree and credential attainment.

Ensuring Student Access

Perkins should continue to ensure that all students regardless of their zip code have access to high quality CTE programs, particularly underserved students, and provide states with the means to strengthen programs and foster innovation in career and technical education. The federal government plays a critical role in ensuring that all students—especially those most in need—have access to an education that will prepare them to succeed in the 21st century.   

Involving and Preparing Educators to Meet Students’ Needs

Reauthorizing Perkins offers an opportunity to strengthen collaboration among educators and the business, labor, employment, and economic development sectors, where CTE educators themselves are best able to voice CTE students’ needs. Perkins should ensure that CTE educators are involved in all levels of decision-making, including program and curriculum design, state and local planning and reporting, and on federal advisory panels.

Excellent CTE programs require a strong pipeline of quality, credentialed, and experienced educators to best serve students’ needs. Teachers of record should be fully prepared and certified regardless of the subject matter. In renewing Perkins provisions regarding teacher recruitment and retention, Congress should ensure that CTE instructors receive appropriate training in pedagogical practices and mentoring by experienced teachers. Resources for professional development should also include training to improve instruction of students with disabilities and English-language learners to ensure they have the same opportunity to succeed as their classmates.

Preparing CTE students should also include an assurance of access to the most up-to-date equipment, student support services, and support for related certifications. Support should also be available for initiatives that offer students early exposure to programs of study.

Addressing Our Nation’s Skills Gap

Employers across the nation continue to stress the need for well-trained workers -- the education and training supported by Perkins are vital to addressing this skills gap. While industry has a shortfall of skilled workers, Perkins should also maintain flexibility to meet local occupational needs.

We thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments and we look forward to the opportunity to work with members of this Committee and Congress to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations