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Myrna, Mandlawitz, Esq. LDA, Director of Public Policy
Myrna, Mandlawitz, Esq.
LDA, Director of Public Policy

The Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins), last reauthorized in 2006, was in the queue for consideration in 2013. However, given the backlog in laws ready for reauthorization, Congress is just beginning its reexamination of Perkins. LDA has submitted comments to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and is part of a large national coalition of organizations following the Perkins reauthorization.

Perkins is designed to provide individuals with the academic and technical skills needed to succeed in today’s economy. Career and technical education (CTE) coursework prepares students both for postsecondary education and careers. With federal support, CTE programs maintain academic rigor and are current with the needs of business and industry. Right now, the federal contribution to these programs is about $1.3 billion.

Senators Enzi (R-WY) and Casey (D-PA) are leading the efforts to reauthorize Perkins. They expect to have a bill draft by next spring. In response to the Senators’ request for recommendations on changes to current law, LDA responded with the following comments:

  • Include a specific statement in the Purpose section of the law that references “special populations,” the term used in Perkins that includes students with disabilities, English learners, and several others. Affirmatively stating in the Purpose section that special populations must be fully included in CTE services sets the tone for the rest of the Act. In fact, students in this category have already been well integrated throughout the law.
  • Ensure students with disabilities have access to specialized instructional support personnel (SISP) who are best equipped to provide appropriate accommodations. While the law talks about “support services” and personnel, it doesn’t specifically mention specialized instructional support personnel (currently known in ESEA as pupil services and in IDEA as related services) who are integral to students with disabilities being able to take full advantage of CTE programs.
  • Add representatives of special populations, including students with disabilities, to the Independent Advisory Panel. This panel advises the Secretary of Education on the independent evaluation and assessment of CTE programs; therefore, a representative who understands the needs of students with disabilities will help ensure their full participation.
  • Add “special education teachers” and “specialized instructional support personnel” throughout the Act in provisions focused on educator training and professional development. For students with specific learning and other disabilities to fully participate in CTE programs, special educators and specialized instructional support personnel must be trained to assist and collaborate with CTE educators in planning and implementation. Special education teachers and SISP have knowledge regarding design of modifications and accommodations, but may have little if any training about CTE programs specifically. In turn, CTE educators may have little experience in designing and using accommodations and modifications. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary these personnel are co-trained and are afforded professional development opportunities related to CTE in order to best assist students with disabilities in these programs. In addition, the use of universal design for learning (UDL) principles, as defined in the Higher Education Act, would enhance CTE programs for special populations and all students.

The House Education and Workforce Committee has not yet requested recommendations. However, they have begun holding hearings to gather information.

LDA will be following the process closely, so please check our monthly Legislative News for updates over the next several months.

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