As we discuss ways to prepare the twenty-first century workforce, I constantly point to the innovative career-technical education (CTE) programs in my district. I am honored to represent an area of Georgia where centers of CTE are leading the way. Notably, the Central Education Center (CEC) in Coweta County has long been at the forefront of preparing students for successful careers. Over a decade ago, they were already considered one of the "replicable national high school reform models."

Encouraging the development of CTE is a priority in my work as a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which will reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

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The Perkins Act is the primary federal law that supports CTE programs for students in secondary and post-secondary education. Organizations like CEC benefit from this legislation because of its flexible funding, which often goes towards equipment. For example, recently, CEC upgraded the technology infrastructure in their broadcast video program so that it is consistent with a small local television station. This allows students to work with the same equipment they will find in the workplace.

This reauthorization legislation will increase federal support of CTE programs and make changes to existing federal law that will better enable stakeholders to develop programs that reflect local workforce needs, leveraging small dollars for large outcomes. A few important changes include:

Increasing total appropriations: This legislation will increase the overall funding authorization for CTE programs to $1.23 billion by fiscal year 2022. States will be able to reserve up to 15 percent of their Basic State Grants funds specifically for innovative CTE programs in rural areas or areas with higher numbers of CTE students. This is up from the current 10 percent states can allocate.

Local Control: This bill would also return oversight and planning control to local and state officials. Currently state CTE plans can be disapproved by the secretary of Education. Under this new legislation, authority to approve plans would revert to the state and local level so leaders could determine what programs are best suited to their communities.

Definition Alignment: CTE program administrators should be able to devote their time to educating students instead of having to wade through conflicting definitions from the federal government. This legislation will standardize the definitions of common terms across the federal government, so programs can spend more time teaching and less time navigating bureaucratic language.

CTE is vital to ensure our young people are prepared to enter the twenty-first century workplace. We all have a family member, friend or neighbor who has benefitted from a CTE program, and we must work to preserve these opportunities for future generations. I will proudly continue to champion CTE and the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act which supports CTE programs and enables organizations to pioneer advances to make our workforce competitive on the world stage. 

Ferguson represents Georgia's 3rd District.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.