WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 17, 2017
I’d like to begin by acknowledging that today is the 63rd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education
decision. This historic decision forever changed our nation for the better. It declared that the opportunity of an education is “a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”
Our committee plays an important role in upholding the letter and spirit of that decision and ensuring opportunity is within reach for every American. Today, we will consider positive reforms aimed at extending the promise of a high-quality education to more men and women. Introduced by Representatives Glenn Thompson and Raja Krishnamoorthi, this bipartisan legislation will empower more individuals to find their path to success through career and technical education.
There is a common misconception that the path to success begins on the campus of our nation’s baccalaureate colleges and universities. This simply isn’t true. For many Americans, studying for a bachelor’s degree isn’t the right fit. Career and technical education, or CTE, has helped countless men and women gain the knowledge, skills, and real-world experience they need to succeed in the workforce. These valuable programs — conceived and operated at the state and local level — can pave the way to fulfilling careers in a wide range of fields, including health care, manufacturing, computer science, engineering, and more.
However, it’s been more than a decade since the federal law that supports state and local CTE programs was last updated. As we all know, our nation’s economy has changed quite a bit since then. Workers and employers have endured the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression.
At the same time, educational institutions haven’t caught up with advancements in technology. One result is a skills gap. Many employers can’t find the talent and high-tech skills they’re looking for while many workers struggle to land good-paying jobs. In fact, several members of the committee traveled to California last week to meet with leaders in the technology industry. We heard firsthand about the difficulties employers face in their search for skilled and educated workers.
As our economy continues to recover, one way we can help more Americans get ahead is by strengthening career and technical education. The bill before us today is largely the same as the legislation that passed the House last year with overwhelming bipartisan support. It reflects the same principles for reform that have guided our efforts for more than a year.
First, this legislation will empower state and local leaders to tailor programs to meet the unique needs of students in their communities. By providing more flexibility and simplifying the application process for receiving taxpayer dollars, local leaders will be better equipped to respond to changing education and economic needs.
Second, this bill increases transparency and accountability. By streamlining performance measures and encouraging input from parents, students, and community and business leaders, we can ensure programs are delivering results and taxpayer dollars are well spent.
Third, these reforms support a limited federal role. State and local leaders know better than bureaucrats in Washington how to develop CTE programs for their communities. That’s why this legislation restricts the secretary of education’s authority and limits the federal government’s ability to intervene in state and local decisions.
Finally, H.R. 2353 supports innovative learning opportunities and strong community partnerships. We want CTE students to gain real-world experience that will be valuable once they enter the workforce. By encouraging local employers and education leaders to work together in this effort, we can help more Americans obtain good-paying jobs and succeed in their careers.
I want to thank my colleagues, especially Representative Thompson for his leadership on this issue. As the Co-Chairman of the CTE Caucus, our distinguished colleague has spent years championing this issue. I also want to thank Representative Krishnamoorthi, as well as all committee members for the bipartisan work that’s reflected in this bill.
We don’t always agree on everything. But we can all be proud of our efforts to help address the nation’s skills gap, break the cycle of poverty, and expand opportunity by reforming career and technical education.
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