Perkins Reauthorization and what it means for Music Education

Capitol Hill

Photo: Willard/iStock/Thinkstock

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) for the 21st Century Act recently passed unanimously in the House Education and Workforce’s full committee.  The bill now awaits floor action in the House of Representatives.  Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-PA) introduced the bill, a proposed reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which was last reauthorized in 2006.  The bill seeks to reduce bureaucracy, increase flexibility, and ensure that the programs governed by the law at the middle school, high school, and postsecondary levels are best aligned with workforce demands and produce results.  According to bill sponsors, the legislation would:

  • Deliver states more flexibility to use federal resources in response to changing education and economic needs.
  • Ensure career and technical education prepares all students, including historically disadvantaged and vulnerable students, for success in high-skill, high-wage occupations and careers in nontraditional fields.
  • Improve alignment with in-demand jobs by supporting innovative learning opportunities, building better community partnerships, and encouraging stronger engagement with employers.
  • Streamline performance measures to ensure career and technical education programs deliver results for students and taxpayers.
  • Reduce administrative burdens and simplify the process for states to apply for federal resources.
  • Provide parents, students, and stakeholders a voice in setting performance goals and evaluating the effectiveness of local programs.
  • Empower state and local leaders to develop plans that improve the quality of career and technical education and take into account unique ‎local and state needs.

CTE Gaining Momentum in Congress

Perkins reauthorization is one education policy that may have traction in passing through both chambers of Congress this year.  The top two members of the House education committee, Rep. John Kline, (R-MN), the committee chairman, and Rep. Bobby Scott, (R-VA), the ranking minority member, both praised the legislation from Clark and Thompson.  U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. and Sen. Lamar Alexander, (R-TN) the chairman of the Senate education committee, among others, have publicly supported changes in CTE funding in some form. 

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What this means for Music Education in your State

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) shifted from the No Child Left Behind Act’s “core academic subjects” concept to a “well-rounded education”.  With the relentless work of the National Association of Music Education’s (NAfME) members, music was included as part of a well-rounded education.  This is one of the biggest achievements for music education in some time, but that relentless advocacy to provide music education to more and more students must continue. 

CTE was also included in the list of subjects that can define a well-rounded education.  Reauthorization of the Carl Perkins Act certainly makes CTE a highly attractive area for schools to target their focus.  At a time of limited resources at the federal, state, and local levels, the additional funding provided by Perkins with less bureaucracy could tip the scales to CTE rather than music for school districts looking to incorporate a well-rounded education. 

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) took a big step forward on the implementation of ESSA when it recently unveiled draft regulations on the law’s accountability, reporting, and state plan provisions. Specifically, the draft rules address the use of multiple measures, including new indicators of school quality and student success, in state accountability systems, design and delivery of state and district annual report cards, and development of state plans across ESSA programs.   This provides the option to include Perkins performance indicators on state and district report cards, which will help parents, policymakers and the community understand important role of CTE in student success. 

NAfME supports the premise of a well-rounded education.  However, we must ensure that music education is as feasible of an option as other subjects for schools to incorporate into their curricula.  To this end, music educators should continue advocating for NAfME’s request of full-funding for ESSA.  NAfME has also reached out to the ED with non-regulatory guidance and plans to submit comments on state reporting and accountability.  Music educators spend their careers advocating for their craft, so NAfME and its members know that advocating for music education must continue onward. 

Tooshar Swain, Legislative Policy Advisor, Center for Advocacy, Policy, and Constituency Engagement, July 25, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (