Perkins Blog #1: How can I apply for Perkins funds for my class or school?

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As we’ve worked with teachers, administrators, and policymakers at both the state and federal levels, we’ve learned a lot about CTE funding—including the latest revision of Perkins—and thought it was time we made a dedicated effort to share what we’ve learned with you. This is the first in a series of blog posts wherein we explore topics around Perkins V and other funding resources available to you, as well as some ideas on how to petition for those resources when they appear to be in short supply.

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (better known as Perkins V) was signed into law on July 31, 2018 after near-unanimous support for the bill in both the House and the Senate. At Certiport we are happy to see strong bicameral and bipartisan support for CTE in the United States. In our observation, the people and politicians in our country are doing the math and agree that schools, students, and communities benefit in a myriad of ways from strong and diverse CTE programs.

There may be some of you, however, that don’t feel an upwelling of support for your CTE programs. When annual budget cuts have effectively become a tradition in America’s education system, we know that schools and districts are scratching for each penny to provide their students with high-quality education programs. In many districts it has become fiscally challenging to offer supplemental certifications to students, even though educators know that such credentials could dramatically improve students’ employability right out of high school or college. So, with all the chatter around Perkins funding in the CTE space, we regularly receive questions from teachers and administrators about how they can apply for Perkins funds to support the delivery of industry-recognized certifications in their classrooms.

How can I apply for Perkins funds for my class or school?

In order to try to answer this, we need to briefly explain the history and purpose of the Perkins grant.

The Perkins grant—officially the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, and now the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act—was first authorized in 1984 to support students’ development of technical and vocational skills at the secondary and post-secondary levels. The grant is federally funded and requires periodic re-authorization and budget approval from Congress. From the beginning, Congress developed the grant to outline A) the types of programs that qualify for grant funding, B) the accountability measures and procedures required to apply for the funds, and C) the types of activities and resources for which the funds can be used. Outside of these guidelines, the implementation, definition, and oversight of local policies and procedures, as well as the application for Perkins funds is left up to the states. With each re-authorization of the bill, this structure has remained largely intact—although the federal directives outlined above have been more strictly defined in each successive version of the bill. Based on their specific needs and requirements, states may support only a subset of qualifying programs or resources from the Perkins grant in their CTE implementations.

Since the application for and distribution of Perkins funds is handled at the state level, schools or districts never make direct application to the federal government for Perkins funding. Many teachers are not aware that their program may already be supported in some part by Perkins funds since states do more than simply pass through grant funds from the federal government to the districts. Usually states will include Perkins funds as part of their individually-conceived rubrics for district funding, and never rely entirely on federal funds as the sole source of CTE funding for their schools.

Ultimately, instead of asking how to apply for Perkins funding, the question may be better phrased how does my program qualify for Perkins funding according to my state? Based on the information above, the answer to this question will vary based on the location of your school, the program you are running, and the types of activities or resources you are seeking to fund. With such a crushing number of variables to consider, we cannot hope to definitively answer this question for all educators across the country in a single blog post—or even in fifty posts. Do not be discouraged, however. While we may not answer the question specifically for you, we hope to provide you with the tools and resources necessary to readily obtain the answer yourself. After reviewing the new legislation, we expect that Perkins V will help normalize critical elements of the funding experience across states, enabling us to better help you discover the answer to this question.

In Perkins V, we’ve identified three pillars of continuity that will help you know if and how a program is supported through the grant: 1) qualifications for and oversight of programs of study, 2) standardized, specific accountability measures, and 3) authorized use of funds by schools and districts. While each state still develops and implements their own plan to manage and apply for Perkins funds, the commonalities introduced in these three pillars will enable you to adapt or justify your program such that it has a higher probability of meeting your state’s requirements for funding. Stay tuned to the Certiport blog as we explore each of these three pillars in detail including the role industry-recognized credentials play in each.

As one of your partners in supplying high-quality CTE programs to your students, Certiport is committed to your success as an educator and to your students’ success in their careers. We hope you find value in this series of blog posts. Please consult with your Territory Manager as you explore these topics. Our team is knowledgeable and happy to assist you in your efforts to implement certification in your schools, districts, and state!

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