June 25, 2018

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AASA Responds to Senate Rewrite

This is the letter AASA sent to the Senate HELP committee in advance of their mark up. 

On behalf of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, representing 13,000 public school superintendents across the country, I write to express our deep concerns with the Senate version of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the Twenty First Century Act. We urge the Committee to postpone the vote tomorrow and continue to work with stakeholders who implement Perkins CTE programs to ensure widespread support of the bill from the K-12 education community. 

We were incredibly pleased with the strong, bipartisan Perkins CTE reauthorization bill that moved through the House in 2016 and again in 2017. Comparing the bills in both chambers, we find the Senate bill contains prescriptive accountability that walks back the flexibility granted in ESSA. Specifically, the threat of losing district resources for failure to meet achievement targets and the requirement that districts demonstrate meaningful progress in meeting performance measures are policies we are surprised to see maintained in this reauthorization. The inclusion of these policies is made even more surprising given that districts have less time—two years instead of three years—to demonstrate they are reaching state performance targets before a state can sanction them.  

Unlike the bipartisan House bill, the Senate has chosen to maintain the continuous improvement language in Perkins. The idea that district CTE programs can annually improve on all accountability metrics regardless of economic circumstances, demographic shifts, and federal and state funding dynamics is disconnected from what we know about the reality of running successful Perkins programs.  Whether a district was a high-flyer or a lower-performer, this metric continues to lead to unintended consequences at the local level. We believe that districts should be encouraged to focus on meaningful program quality enhancements rather than hitting new performance targets every year and encourage the Senate to adopt the same language as the House.  

Aside from these missteps, we are pleased the Senate chose to mirror the House bill by requiring that school superintendents, teachers, workforce development boards and other key stakeholders provide input on new performance targets that are set exclusively by the State. We are also grateful that the Senate chose to include the local application model in the House bill that will ameliorate the paperwork burden of Perkins by allowing districts to fill out a more streamlined local plan although we are disappointed that the local application is twice as long as the version that passed the House.    

Like the House bill the Senate bill emphasizes district engagement with both higher education and business/industry partners to confirm CTE program quality. Districts would conduct a biennial needs assessment that provides business/industry and higher education partners, as well as other key  stakeholders, an opportunity to provide input into the local plan to ensure the district is directing its limited resources towards relevant, well-aligned programs of study. In addition, the Senate bill also ensures districts have access to, and take into consideration, critical labor market information that will detail current, intermediate, or long-term labor market projections when determining whether to maintain, develop or eliminate programs of study.  

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not express our enthusiasm for the one meaningful way that the Senate bill improves upon the House bill: it creates a definition for CTE concentrator that is uniform across states and districts and ensures that districts programs reflect the achievement of students who are truly engaged in their CTE programs.  

AASA hopes that the House and Senate will work together to find a compromise that strikes an appropriate balance of holding districts accountable for limited federal resources and ensuring that districts are incentivized to address program improvement in a meaningful and realistic way.   


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