Is Congress Ready to Enact an Updated Perkins Act?


For those of you who follow college and career pathways, you need to know about what’s happening with the Federal Perkins act, the legislation that governs the way career and technical education (CTE) funding is spent.

Many school administrators don’t know much about the Perkins Act, but it plays an important role in shaping the way CTE is delivered at the state and local levels; CTE is the critical backbone of high-quality pathways system.

Last week, Representatives Glen Thompson (R-PA) and Krishamoorthi (D-IL) introduced bi-partisan legislation in the House of Representatives that would update the federal guidance for career and technical education. Based on what’s in the bill, if enacted, here’s what you could expect in the relatively near future.

Local Comprehensive Needs Assessment

At the local level, each recipient of Perkins funds will be required to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment. As part of this needs assessment, you will need to document how you are providing career counseling to all of your students and in particular, the students who are considering enrolling in CTE programs.

You will also need to think carefully about how well aligned your local CTE programs are to high demand, high need industry sectors that have been identified by your state Department of Labor and Industry (or whatever it is called in your state). Be aware that it might become increasingly difficult to use federal funds for CTE programs that students like to take if there isn’t a clearly demonstrated need for skilled workers in that field.  You’ll still be able to use local funds for such programs, of course, but it might get harder to use federal funds unless you can justify that they clearly address state priority career fields.

Work-based Learning

Another new emphasis in the legislation is getting students into work-based learning experiences, where they leave the school building to participate in the workplace.  Or, when getting students out of the building isn’t feasible, bringing the world of work more explicitly into the school environment through simulated workplace programs and projects that are related to real-world expectations.

Employability Skills

There may also be increased emphasis on including employability skills as part of the CTE curriculum. Practitioners and legislators realize that employability skills  (or what NC3T calls career and life readiness skills), is just as important to workplace success as the career based technical skills and applied academic skills.

The Three-legged Stool

Good practice demonstrates that high-quality CTE and broader pathway programs are built on a three-legged stool, academic learning skills, career specific technical skills, and broadly applied employability skills.  That theme will be emphasized in the new legislation.

Here are some links where you can learn about the latest in the House legislation and forthcoming versions in the Senate.


Advance CTE:

Timing of the Legislation

No one has a crystal ball when it comes to Congress, but if the bill maintains its bipartisan support, it could move relatively quickly through the House and the Senate, assuming they are able to clear other legislative log jams that always seem to arise.

I am hopeful that Congress will be able to pass the updated Perkins Act this year and then work with states and localities to begin implementation next in the summer of 2018. No guarantees, but the changes envisioned in the bill look very positive. Keep your fingers crossed.



Hans Meeder is President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions.  (  NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.

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