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NCLB Outrages

Stiffing Technical Education

Thank you to the editorialist who makes the link between Perkins and NCLB funding.

In his State of the Union address last month, President Bush expressed a commitment to "prepare a rising generation to fill the jobs of the 21st century." So you'd think programs like the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, which helps states teach students how to operate new radiology equipment in doctors' offices, use software to fix cars and employ other "emerging technologies," would be in their heyday. Instead, the Perkins Act is in danger of being jettisoned.

The president's budget proposal terminates the program's $1.3-billion annual funding. Bush would redirect the money to fund a dubious expansion of high school testing under his No Child Left Behind Act.

Fortunately, the Senate moved last week to restore the program's funding. Community colleges already can barely afford the technical education courses the Perkins Act supports because they tend to require costly equipment.

The administration says there is little evidence of "improved outcomes" resulting from the money spent on the Perkins Act. The best the Bush administration can do to sully the program, however, is to quote a Government Accountability Office report from last year that noted the difficulty of assessing the program's success. Though states are required to measure the act's performance in helping students improve technical skills and get jobs, the measurements vary from state to state. That's a reason to improve the program by setting a federal standard, but hardly a reason to kill it.

The fate of Perkins funding now lies in the hands of House leaders, who may consider the program as early as this week. They should reject the administration's suggestion that the money would be better spent on testing high school students. Given that only half of high school graduates go on to college, the need to prepare the other half for jobs should be obvious.

— Editorial
Los Angeles Times


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