House expected to approve CTE reauthorization

Perkins CTE Program helps library patrons thrive in 21st Century Economy

Libraries play numerous roles in communities across the country, working generally to meet the needs of their patrons at every life stage. Whether providing high-speed broadband access to rural and urban communities alike, running youth reading sessions and book clubs, teaching computer literacy to patrons seeking to learn new skills or aiding small businesses, libraries serve as learning centers helping patrons along their career paths.

Libraries also play a valuable and specific role in supporting and working to improve secondary and postsecondary Closeup of child's hands on a laptop keyboard, display shows some sort of coding programCareer and Technical Education (CTE) programs funded by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (“Perkins Act”), the federal bill which governs the more than $1 billion in federal funding for career and technical education activities across the country. Such programs help equip youth and adults with the academic, technical and employability skills and knowledge needed to secure employment in today’s high-growth industries. In so doing, libraries help close the “skills gap” and expand economic opportunity to more communities across the nation. Some libraries work directly with their state labor and employment offices to implement CTE programs which receive Federal funding.

Libraries and certified librarians also provide valuable CTE resources, equipment, technology, instructional aids, and publications designed to strengthen and foster academic and technical skills achievement. In many communities, libraries play a significant role in career and technical development. Often the library is the only place where patrons can access the high-speed broadband vital to those working to apply for jobs, research careers, and towards enhanced certification and training.

As early as this week, the House of Representatives is expected to pass legislation reauthorizing the Perkins Act, which was originally adopted in 1984. ALA recently submitted a letter to the House Committee on Education and Workforce supporting this bi-partisan legislation: the Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353), which was approved by the Committee on June 6.

The House timed the vote on the reauthorization to occur during the National Week of Making spearheaded by the Congressional Maker Caucus. The week highlights the growing maker movement across the country.

We’ve been here before, however, as the House passed similar legislation in 2016 only to see reauthorization of the Perkins program stall in the Senate, where a companion bill has yet to be introduced. Unfortunately, the President’s budget seeks to cut $168.1 million from the Perkins CTE State Grant program, which had previously received $1.118 billion in funding for FY15, FY16 and FY17. ALA will continue work to support robust funding for CTE programs and, if the House acts favorably, to urge the Senate to follow its lead and promptly reauthorize the Perkins Act.

About Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the assistant director of the American Library Association's Office of Government Relations.

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