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Committee Statements

Thompson Statement: Markup of H.R. 2353, "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act"

As a father, I can say there’s nothing parents want more for their kids than a life that is better than their own. However, only half of all Americans today expect their children to have a brighter future than they did. As co-chair of the Career and Technical Education Caucus, I’m happy to say the bill before us today will help move us in a more positive direction.

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act aims to help more Americans — particularly younger Americans — obtain the knowledge and skills they need to break the cycle of poverty and achieve a lifetime of success. A big part of that goal is ensuring federal policies accurately reflect the challenges and realities facing today’s students, workers, and employers.

It’s been more than a decade since the federal investment in our nation’s CTE programs has been modernized, and so much about our society has changed since then. A study conducted by the Brookings Institute found that in the next decade, 3 million workers will be needed in the infrastructure industry alone — this includes careers in transportation, housing, and telecommunications. By considering this legislation today and increasing access to high-quality CTE, we come closer to ensuring that these jobs can be filled by a skilled and well-trained American workforce.

Additionally, we want state and local leaders to be able to focus their time and resources on preparing students for successful careers. H.R. 2353 helps with this goal by simplifying the application process for receiving federal funds and providing states and local leaders with the flexibility needed to design CTE programs that best meet the needs of their local communities.

The bill also increases transparency and accountability. We want states and local leaders to be held directly accountable to those in their communities. By empowering parents, students, and key stakeholders to set performance goals and evaluate the effectiveness of the program, we ensure CTE programs deliver results.

By reining in the secretary of education’s authority, limiting federal intervention, and preventing political favoritism, H.R. 2353 also ensures a proper federal role. Perhaps most importantly, this bill makes improvements on alignment with in-demand jobs by supporting innovative learning opportunities and encouraging stronger engagement with employers. The bill promotes work-based learning — a technique that allows potential employers to give students hands-on experience. This is a win-win for both employers and students. Successful CTE programs depend heavily on the input and involvement of local businesses, and those are the kinds of partnerships we want to support.

The substitute amendment I am offering makes a number of changes including delaying the implementation of this act by six months to ensure the enactment doesn’t interfere with the school year. Other changes include clarifying that, in addition to secondary teachers, postsecondary faculty are included as stakeholders when it comes to improving local CTE programs. This amendment also requires an analysis of the extent to which efforts supported by the bill are based on evidence-based research.

In closing, I’d like to thank Representative Krishnamoorthi and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their support and for working together to move this bill forward. I urge all my colleagues to support this important bipartisan legislation and yield back the balance of my time.

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