September 14, 2016
Is Congress Pushing Kids into Unwanted Career Paths?
William A. Estrada, Esq.
Director of Federal Relations
Recently, reports have been circulating online that two new bills in Congress will allow the federal government to completely control what jobs public school, private school, and homeschool graduates choose to enter.
These claims are, for the most part, incorrect.
HSLDA monitors all federal legislation, and has already reviewed the two bills in question: S. 3271 and H.R. 5587 (available on the House Rules Committee webpage as amended by the House Education Committee).
These two bills only apply to schools that receive federal funds. Homeschools and private schools are nowhere mentioned in these bills.
Furthermore, thanks in part to efforts by HSLDA, homeschools and private schools that do not receive federal funds have been exempted from any federal control, regulations, laws, etc., since 1994. Language to this effect was again included in the Every Student Succeeds Act that passed Congress last year and is codified at 20 U.S. Code § 7886.
These bills do attempt to address major problems confronting high school and college students—including the rigidity of academic programs and the cost of higher education. The legislation seeks to bring into public school classrooms the modern education opportunities that homeschoolers know and love: apprenticeships, dual enrollment programs where high school students can earn college credit, and common-sense guidance on how to pay for college.
Both S. 3271 and H.R. 5587 are bipartisan bills. The former was introduced by Senators Michael Bennet (CO) and Orin Hatch (UT), and the latter was introduced by Glenn Thompson (PA) and cosponsored by 29 other representatives from across the political spectrum—including two leaders in the fight against the Common Core, Virginia Foxx (NC) and Joe Wilson (SC).
S. 3271 is currently pending before the Senate Education Committee, while H.R. 5587 unanimously passed the House Education Committee on September 8 and is likely going to come up for a vote before the full House of Representatives this week.
S. 3271—The Workforce Advance Act
This 18-page bill updates the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 to encourage public schools to offer more dual enrollment, more information on career and college options, and more apprenticeships. S. 3271 also:
- would require schools that receive federal funds under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to report how many students in their school are enrolled in these programs.
- would allow schools that receive federal funds under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to use these funds for their teachers to receive additional training and certifications, and to do research on how these dual enrollment, apprenticeships, and career and college counseling programs are working.
- would allow state and school districts to receive federal funds to help implement these programs.
H.R. 5587—The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act
Unlike S. 3271’s more modest goals, the 96-page H.R. 5587 completely reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, and adds major new sections. These are primarily designed to encourage public schools to offer more dual enrollment, more information on career and college options, and more apprenticeships. Among other things, H.R. 5587:
- includes strong language against the Common Core.
- would continue significant reporting requirements for states and local school districts that opt into the Carl. D. Perkins Career and Technical education funding programs. These requirements place additional burdens on state and local school districts.
- would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Education to evaluate “the extent and success of the integration of challenging State academic standards … and career and technical education for students participating in career and technical education programs.” Current law leaves a lot of discretion to the federal government, and Congress wanted to tighten up the language to restrict the Secretary of Education from using regulations to force states into adopting certain plans. Whether this new language is strong enough to accomplish this goal remains to be seen.
- includes positive language reducing the ability of the federal government to reject state career and technical education plans. This is a step in the right direction, as it weakens the federal government’s ability to use funding to coerce states into adopting federal mandates, which is what happened with the Common Core. Page 68 also includes new language declaring that only local authorities may develop state career and technical education plans:
PLAN DEVELOPMENT.—Except for consultation described in subsection (b)(2), the State and local improvement plans, and the elements of such plans, required under this section shall be developed solely by the eligible agency or the eligible recipient, respectively.
HSLDA is neutral on both S. 3271 and H.R. 5587.
Both of these bills, however—particularly H.R. 5587—continue adding more federal red tape to state and local education policy, this time in the area of career and technical education.
HSLDA strongly believes that the federal government has no constitutional authority over K–12 education. Although both of these bills contain improvements, we believe it would be vastly better for the federal government to end its involvement in state K–12 education, whether regular classroom instruction or career and technical education. Let the states have free reign.
The success of homeschooling—with zero federal involvement—shows that parents and local educators are always superior to top-down federal involvement in education policy. Thus, we believe that H.R. 5587 and S. 3271 both represent missed opportunities to end federal involvement in career and technical education.
• • •