Senate lawmakers are currently working on improvements in the Perkins Career and Technical Education Law, a law that provides for federal spending for technical education in the United States. This re-authorization of the Perkins Law will now give states and local educational facilities more flexibility in determining where their funding should be directed to reach career goals.

Negotiations on this bill stalled for months because of disagreements that revolved primarily on the restrictions to the authority of the Secretary of Education in determining the manner in which states should use federal funds to achieve the goals of their career training. This updated Perkins Law would allow states more autonomy in meeting career-educational goals. The Senate agreement also requires that if states do not achieve their goals, the federal Education secretary could then assert more authority. This conditional empowerment of the states in determining their specific educational objectives differs from the proposal of the House of Representatives.

In contrast to the Senate bill, The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act proposed by the House of Representatives offers a more simplified application process for states and local educational facilities requesting federal funds. It also requires that employers in the states have more input into the goals of career-education programs. Further, the House legislation eliminates the present requirement that states receive approval by the Secretary of Education for program goals. It does, however, set performance benchmarks. One of these is a measurement of postsecondary programs based on the median earnings of graduates.

The proposed measures of both the Senate and the House of Representatives have been praised by the director of federal policy at the National Skills Coalition, Kermit Kaliba, because they are similar to those contained in legislation that passed last year. However, while the Coalition believes that both the Senate and the House bills are well directed, it is disappointed that career education grants are still receiving less funding than historical funding levels in the past for the Carl D.Perkins Career and Education Act. Kaleb observed that priorities are created in part by the spending levels that are set. Advance Career Technical Education (Advance CTE), another organization that strives to connect learning to work, praised the efforts of the Senate to improve the bill. But, the American Association of School Superintendents found it to be “unrealistic and too prescriptive.”