Congress' August Recess is a critical time for CompTIA members to tell their representatives about the importance of career and technical education and urge Congress to restore funding to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which recently saw significant cuts.
The Perkins Act is a principal vehicle for funding career and technical education (CTE) in this country, serving both high school and community college students preparing for college and careers.
In FY 2011, Perkins was cut by more than $140 million (11%) to $1.1 billion. The Perkins Act has not seen a significant increase since FY 2002 and with the recent cuts in FY 2011, the program is now $184 million below FY 2002 levels. A FY 2012 budget proposal by President Obama threatened even deeper cuts.
CompTIA and other trade groups believe that federal funding cuts to Perkins will reduce the number of educated, skilled workers entering the workforce at a time when the nation needs to create jobs and rebuild its economy.
"In the IT industry, 400,000 jobs are open on any given day, waiting to be filled with qualified personnel," says Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA. "Further cuts to Perkins will damage a key conduit in our nation's IT workforce pipeline."
"Now that members of Congress are back in their home districts, contact your representatives and urge them to restore Perkins Act funding to at least its FY 2010 levels," added Thibodeaux. "We all need to show Congress the value that career and technical education represents to students and to our industry. Once school starts again in the fall, bring your legislators to tour a local CTE program to see first-hand what's at stake with Perkins."
The FY 2011 Perkins cut affected CTE programs 2011-2012 school year, its impact varying state by state. In early August, funding shortages caused some secondary and post-secondary CTE programs to trim professional development, defer equipment purchases and not fill positions opened through attrition.
CompTIA is supporting its CTE trade association partners that are engaged in a full-court press - from Washington, D.C., lobbying to grass-roots campaigns - to build business and congressional support for the Perkins Act and the CTE programs it helps fund.
"CompTIA calls on federal legislators to restore Perkins to fiscal 2010 levels as national investment in a career-ready workforce," says Thibodeaux.
The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of Chief State School Officers the and National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education (NASDCTEc) are circulating a business sign-on letter in support of Perkins. The HR Policy Association, representing more than 325 of the largest businesses operating in the U.S. and globally, also recently urged Congress to restore Perkins funding. Perkins supporters expect a difficult fight, given the deficit/debt limit debate.
"Anything funded by federal dollars is going to be scrutinized," says Kimberly Green, NASDCTEc executive director. "The CTE community has to do a more thorough job of educating the members of Congress about the value and success of CTE programs. We need to shift the mindset that these crucial federal funds are an investment, bringing a positive return to the economy, not just an expenditure."
Stephen DeWitt, ACTE senior director of public policy, adds, "Local constituents and local businesses will make the biggest impression on members of Congress. That's where the rubber meets the road."
For tips on how to contact Congress to support funding of the Perkins Act, check out this Action Alert issued by TechVoice.org, the advocacy partnership of CompTIA, the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), and participating regional technology associations. Other CTE/Perkins advocacy tools (including a business sign-on letter, talking points data and background information)are available from NASDCTEc and from ACTE.
ACTE's Spokesperson Jamie Baxter urges CompTIA members to use all possible vehicles for contacting members of Congress and their staff: from phone calls and letters, to Facebook posts and Tweet tags. "Doing everything and anything to get the message out is really crucial right now."