Career Education Bill Will Get Committee Vote June 20: Alexander

(Courtesy of Bloomberg Government)

A Senate committee will vote on an update to a career and technical education law on June 20, its Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) said, even if he and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the panel’s top Democrat, are unable to come to a bipartisan compromise on the legislation.

“Hopefully it will be bipartisan,” Alexander, the head of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told Bloomberg Government today. He said several points of contention between him and Murray have yet to be worked out, but there was “no need to delay it any further.”

“If we have differences of opinion, we can just vote,” he said.

The career and technical education bill is one of several Alexander suggested could be marked up June 20 during a hearing last month. At that time, Alexander said moving the bills along would “take some cooperation and compromise between now and then to do it.”

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (P.L. 109-270) was last updated more than a decade ago in 2006. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House passed legislation (H.R. 2353) that would more closely align education programs that teach students certain skills with the needs of the local workforce.

Alexander and Murray, along with Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) had been working to craft a bipartisan bill, with the most recent round of discussions beginning within the last several months. When asked if he would mark up a partisan bill, Alexander responded that the committee “will be marking the bill up on June 20.”

Persistent Hurdles

Murray and Alexander have spent several years working to update the Perkins law, but have been unable to compromise on several issues. One point of contention is how much power the Education secretary will have in overseeing the program. Alexander wants limitations similar to those passed in the 2015 national K-12 law (P.L. 114-95). Murray says while such restrictions were needed for the K-12 programs, the career and technical education program doesn’t have major issues with federal department o versight.

Alexander has also proposed allowing states, the recipients of Perkins funding, to give money to individual students to use for the educational program of their choice. Alexander has compared the option to the federal Pell Grants low-income students use to attend colleges or universities. Several advocacy groups representing state officials and teachers involved with career and technical education said they would not support giving funds to individual students.

Career and technical education groups said they hope the lawmakers are able to come to a bipartisan compromise.

“We are strongly encouraging Senate leaders to continue the long history of CTE and Perkins being bipartisan issues,” said Jarrod Nagurka, advocacy and public affairs manager for Association for Career and Technical Education.