Federal Support for CTE Programs Becomes Hawai‘i Law

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Last week, President Donald Trump signed into law the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which will continue strong federal support for career and technical education (CTE) programs in Hawai‘i.

The recently enacted bill will update and reform the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins CTE), and make important changes to federally-supported CTE programs that will help to better prepare Hawai‘i students for the careers of the future, including careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. This year Hawai‘i will receive an estimated $5.8 million in federal funding through Perkins CTE to support programs that serve more than 30,000 high school and community college students throughout the State.

“I have visited with students across our state who are getting a head start on the careers of their choice because of federally-supported career and technical education programs,” Sen. Hirono said. “This update to Perkins CTE will ensure that Hawai‘i schools continue to receive strong federal funding for local CTE programs, and that students will continue to benefit from these programs.”

“Those of us who work in the field appreciate the continued, bipartisan support for career and technical education by the Senate and House and we thank them for their efforts to get a reauthorized Perkins bill across the finish line!” Bernadette Howard, President of Advance CTE and Hawai‘i State Director for Career and Technical Education said. “The continuation of Perkins grant funding to Hawai‘i will allow us to offer a range of educational programs—from career exploration through career preparation, to drive innovation and program improvement, and to address the current and emerging need of our economy. We and our partners are ready to go!”


The legislation makes progress on several priority areas that Sen. Hirono urged the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to take up earlier this year, as well as others for which she has advocated, including:

  • Renews funding for Native Hawaiian CTE programs: The new bill preserves funding for Native Hawaiian CTE programs, a longtime priority for Sen. Hirono.
  • Strengthens efforts to increase opportunities for women, minorities, and other traditionally underrepresented students: The bill makes changes to ensure that traditionally underrepresented students—including iwomen and minorities, students with disabilities, English language learners, students from low-income families, students who are homeless, non-traditional students, and others—can succeed by directing the Secretary of Education to consult with qualified experts, including those with expertise on how to address disparities in access to academic and career opportunities, when evaluating CTE programs. Similar changes were included in Sen. Hirono’s Equity in Career and Technical Education Act (ECTEA), which she reintroduced earlier this year.
  • Improves efforts to address performance gaps for women and minorities, and others: The bill also makes changes to improve outcomes and reduce performance gaps for traditionally underrepresented students, requiring the Secretary to evaluate whether CTE programs have made efforts to reduce performance gaps and expand opportunities for all students—similar to changes included in ECTEA.
  • Promotes collaboration between state and local CTE stakeholders: The bill promotes more collaboration between educators, representatives of labor and business, community stakeholders, and others to ensure that education programs are more relevant for local workforce needs and that students are better prepared for the CTE careers available to them where they live.
  • Encourages the use of resources for STEM education: The bill provides flexibility for states to increase access to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs and activities—another longtime priority for Sen. Hirono.
  • Focuses resources on the need for qualified CTE teachers: The bill also provides flexibility for states to support statewide or industry partnerships, or to provide high-quality professional development for CTE instructors.

As the first reauthorization of Perkins CTE since 2006, the recently-passed bill also encourages states to update their CTE programs to better meet the needs of local businesses and to ensure that students and workers have the relevant skills they need for the careers of the 21st century. The bill also updates Perkins CTE requirements to make sure they are more closely aligned with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) standards—improving coordination of education and job training programs, and promoting collaboration between stakeholders as programs are developed.

Sen. Hirono has been a longtime champion of career and technical education as a way to expand educational opportunities and improve college and career readiness for Hawai‘i students. She has been the lead author of ECTEA, which she has introduced since 2016 to promote equity in federally-supported CTE programs and provide opportunities for historically underrepresented students like women and minorities.


In 2016, Sen. Hirono chaired a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee field hearing where she convened national experts and local stakeholders to examine Hawai‘i’s emerging science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pipeline that will be necessary to prepare Hawai‘i students for the high-paying, in-demand jobs of the future. As part of her field hearing, the Senator visited Hawai‘i CTE programs and met with local CTE students, educators, and administrators at Farrington High School to discuss CTE programs across the state.

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