AdvocacyEducation Policy

CTE: Review of the New Perkins Act

Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act: Initial Summary and Analysis


This week, Congress approved legislation to update the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (“Perkins Act”) for the first time since 2006. The measure (H.R. 2353, P.L. 115 —), the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act has been signed by President Trump. This memorandum only summarizes the new law’s major provisions, so readers should refer to the statute for further detail. The underlying statute will continue to be called the Perkins Act, so throughout the memorandum references to the Perkins Act describe the new law.

Perkins Act Purpose, Scope and Effective Date

The new Perkins Act’s purpose is to support the development of “academic knowledge and technical and employability skills” among secondary education students and postsecondary education students who elect to enroll in career and technical education. Congress authorized the law through fiscal year 2024, including authorizing $1.229 billion for Perkins Act programs for fiscal year 2019, rising to $1.318 billion by fiscal year 2024. This amount reflects a modest funding increase compared to fiscal year 2018, when the law’s programs received approximately $1.2 billion.  The new law will take effect on July 1, 2019.

Funding Distribution

Perkins Act funding is distributed to states by a population and income-based formula. Congress generally decided maintained the prior law formula, opting only to adjust the system’s methodology for establishing a minimum allocation. The formula produces a wide range of state level allocations. For example, for fiscal year 2018, the formula allocations ranged from $4.6 million (AK, D.C., WY) to as much as $120 million (CA). The new law also generally uses the same within-State allocation formula: not more than 5% may be used for state administration; not more than 10% may be used for state leadership (new provision on recruiting special populations and a chance to set aside for incarcerated participants); and a minimum of 85% is allocated to local programs. Up to 15% of local program funding may be reserved for rural areas and areas serving high numbers and high percentages of CTE students.

The “eligible entity” responsible for CTE within each state determines how to divide the 85% local funding allocation between secondary and postsecondary schools. 2014 U.S. Ed data shows that on average, states allocated nearly two-thirds of their Perkins subgrant funds to secondary school programs and one-third to postsecondary programs. Local recipients can include: school districts; career and technical schools; community and technical college; Indian Tribes; tribal organizations; tribal educational agencies; and tribally controlled colleges and universities (postsecondary only).  

State Plans

States must submit a four-year plan to the U.S. Department of Education to receive Perkins CTE funding. This plan must be renewed and resubmitted to guide a state’s CTE program in year five and beyond. Consistent with current law, the state plan may be combined with the state’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) plan. Similar to states’ Every Student Succeeds Act consolidated plans, state Perkins Act plan must be developed in consultation with key stakeholders. As part of the consultation process, the statute prescribers a lengthy public comment period. The new law raises the profile of governors in the plan development process and provides an opportunity for governors to review and sign the plans.  The plans must cover specified subjects, including topics such as accountability (see below); how the plan aligns with the state’s workforce development activities; the state’s vision and goals for developing a skilled workforce; and how the state will split local funding between secondary and postsecondary programs (just to name a few). Similar to ESSA, the Secretary must approve the plan so long as it meets the requirements of the Act. A state plan will be deemed approved if the Secretary does not act on it within 120 days.


The new Perkins Act features a revised accountability system, built around the law’s definition of “CTE Concentrator.” The law defines CTE Concentrator as a secondary student who completes at least two courses in a single program area or a postsecondary student who earns 12 cumulative credits in a single program area or completes a program that encompasses fewer than 12 credits. 

The law requires states to establish systems for measuring the performance of CTE programs at the secondary and postsecondary level based on specified indicators (see below). These systems must be described in the State CTE plan. States must follow specified steps in developing their CTE accountability system, including establishing a formal public comment period and analyzing their performance systems relative to other nearby states. Local grantees must adopt the state accountability system or negotiate with the State to develop local performance levels that satisfy the law’s requirements. Accountability reports must be shared widely, appear in accessible formats and language, and must disaggregate program data.

Secondary Core Indicators for Concentrators

The law requires reporting about secondary concentrators performance – relative to targets determined by the state – on the following indicators: graduation rates; academic attainment rates; post-graduation education or training placement; post-graduation military service, service program, Peace Corps or employment placements; “CTE program quality” (focused on post-secondary credential attainment; post-secondary CTE program/program of study credit attainment; % of students participating in work based learning; other valid and reliable statewide measure); the percentage of concentrators in CTE programs that lead to nontraditional fields.

Post-Secondary Core Indicators for Concentrators

The law also requires reporting about post-secondary concentrators performance – against targets determined by the state – on further education or training placement; military service; post-graduation education or training placement following program completion; post-graduation military service, service program, Peace Corp or employment; attainment of recognized post-secondary credentials during the program or within one year of program completion; and percentage of CTE concentrators in CTE programs that lead to nontraditional fields.

Failure to meet performance targets – dropping below 90% of performance levels for any indicator – triggers required improvement planning and implementation. Failure to make progress for two consecutive years can lead to loss of funding.

Local Applications

Local (secondary and postsecondary) funding recipients must submit applications, previously referred to as “plans”, to their states to receive federal CTE funding. The application must be based on a comprehensive needs assessment that must be updated every two years. The needs assessment must examine a range of issues described in the statute, including program performance, recruiting CTE professionals, alignment with workforce board plans, and more.  The applicant must consult with a “diverse body of stakeholders” in the application development process and continuously over time. Similar to the State plan, the local application must cover a four-year period. The application must address topics prescribed by the Perkins Act and additional requirements established by the state. The Perkins Act requirements include topics such as CTE course offerings and activities; how the applicant will serve special populations, how the applicant collaborate with local workforce boards, and how the applicant will expand work-based learning opportunities (just to name a few).

Allowable Uses – Local, State and National

The Perkins Act authorizes funding for National Activities, State Leadership activities and Local Uses. Required uses, and examples of permissible uses, follow below. Note that Local Uses must align to required comprehensive needs assessments. Further, local recipients may, as under the prior law, “pool” their resources for a collective use permitted by the law.

National Activities

• Data collection, research, and evaluation
• Innovation and Modernization Grants (no more than 20% of National Activities allocation)

Funding Allocation:
• $7.6 million annually, growing to $8.2 million by 2024

State Leadership/Admin.

Required Uses:
• Support for prep in non-traditional fields, special pops.
• Service for individuals in state institutions (corrections etc.…)
• Recruiting CTE teachers and faculty
• Providing technical assistance
• Reporting on effectiveness of programs

Permissible Use Examples:
• Developing statewide programs of study
• High quality professional development
• Promoting equitable access
• Making instructional content, including open educational resources, widely available

Funding Allocation:
Up to 10% set aside within state formula allocation
5% set aside for state administration

Local Uses

Required Uses:
• Career exploration and development activities
• Professional development
• Conveying skills required for high-skill, high-wage, in- demand jobs. Support and reduce out of pocket expenses
• Integrate academic skills into CTE programs
• Plan and carry out elements to help students achieve state CTE performance levels.
• Develop and implement evaluations.

Permissible Use Examples:
• Career guidance and academic counselors
• Supporting school leaders and administrators in managing CTE
• Helping secondary level CTE participants meet challenging State academic standards
• Sustaining relationships among education, business and industry, and other community• stakeholders

Funding Allocation:
85% set aside of state formula allocation

College in High School Programs

The new Perkins Act includes an enhanced focus on college in high school programs, including the following:

  • •  Definitions: Adds college in high school programs to the definition of career and technical education and aligns definitions of “dual or concurrent enrollment” and “early college high school” with ESSA.
  • •  Accountability: Makes the percentage of students graduating high school with post-secondary credits earned through dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school an optional indicator for State Plans.
  • •  National Activities: Authorizes research grants for innovative methods of delivering high-quality CTE programs of study, including college in high school programs, and includes the expansion of dual enrollment and early college as an allowable use of funds for the new Innovation and Modernization grant program.
  • •  State Plan: Requires states to discuss in their State Plans how they will make opportunities available for students to engage in college in high school programs and make information about those programs available to students.
  • •  State Leadership Activities: Allows states to use funds to establish, expand, and integrate opportunities for students to participate in college in high school programs at no cost to them or their families.
  • •  Local Application: Requires the local recipients to include in their application to the state how they will use funds to develop and implement programs to acquire college credit while in high school, including through dual enrollment and early college high school.
  • Local Use of Funds: Includes dual or concurrent enrollment and early college high school as allowable uses of local funds, and also has a provision that would ask recipients to use funds to reduce out of pocket costs for special populations (low income students, students with disabilities, English language learners etc.)

Middle School

Prior law prohibited using federal CTE funding below seventh grade. The new Perkins Act instead prohibits using CTE funding below the “middle grades” as defined by Sec. 8101 of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which leaves the definition up to states but within the parameters of fifth to eighth grade.  


This summary provides only a high-level introduction to the new law.