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Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 5587, "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act"

The committee meets to consider H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. Introduced by Representatives Glenn Thompson and Katherine Clark, this bipartisan bill will help more Americans—particularly younger Americans—compete and succeed in today’s workforce.

We are here because of inspiring individuals like Paul Tse. Paul is, in his own words, a proud graduate of a career and technical education program. These programs—created and run at the state and local levels—offer individuals the knowledge and hands-on training they need for a wide range of fields, from computer science and information technology to law enforcement and nursing. Successful CTE programs are often based on rigorous coursework and the workforce needs of local communities.

At a hearing the committee held in May, Paul testified how he struggled as a student in high school—poor attendance and lackluster grades. As his friends began making plans to go off to college, he remembered feeling embarrassed and helpless at the idea that he might be left behind. Then one day his life changed.

A family member suggested he look into a skilled trade as a possible career path. With the help of a guidance counselor, Paul enrolled in a CTE program at the Thomas Edison High School of Technology, located in Silver Spring, Maryland. His program focused on installing and maintaining heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Soon after graduation, he received two offers to join local businesses as an apprentice.

In the span of a few years, Paul has been a student, apprentice, journeyman, and now, project manager. He has a promising, fulfilling career, and I might add, not a dime of student loan debt. Speaking of his experience as a CTE student, Paul said, “I am the American dream,” and he urged us to help ensure every child in America has the same opportunities he did.

I think all of us want to hear more stories like Paul’s, and that’s why this legislation is so important. In recent years, we have taken significant steps to help individuals receive the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. We modernized an outdated workforce development system and improved K-12 education, important achievements that will make a positive impact in the lives of many Americans.

Today we can build on those efforts and help further spread the promise of a quality education to more Americans. Indeed, many of the same principles that guided those efforts are also reflected in this bill: restoring control to state and local leaders; enhancing transparency and accountability for taxpayers; ensuring a limited federal role; and better aligning programs with in-demand jobs.

It’s because of these principles the bill includes reforms to ease administrative burdens and increase funding flexibility at the state and local levels; it’s why the legislation encourages stronger partnerships with local business leaders; it’s why the bill empowers state leaders to set clear measures of performance that serve the interests of students and taxpayers; and it’s why the legislation reins in the authority of the Secretary of Education and restricts the ability of the federal government to interfere in state and local decisions.

These reforms will help prepare students for today’s workforce, not the workforce that existed years ago. A great education is the great equalizer, but not every individual chooses the same path. For those who have a particular skill, talent, or passion, career and technical education is often the key that opens the door to a lifetime of success. That’s true for Paul Tse, and with this legislation, it can be true for many others as well.

I want to thank Representatives Thompson and Clarke for introducing a bipartisan bill that will improve career and technical education and help Americans compete and succeed in the workforce. I urge my colleagues to support the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.