House Approves Vocational Ed Bush Cut

Rejecting one of President Bush's budget proposals, the Republican-led House voted Wednesday to renew until 2011 a vocational education program the White House wanted to kill.

With the 416-9 vote, the House approved spending $1.3 billion for the Perkins Act (search) in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, and outlined changes in the popular program for the first time since 1998.

Democrats joined Republicans in praising the vocational program as crucial in helping youth and adults gain the technical skills needed for jobs or postsecondary education. But they also expressed concern that budget constraints imposed by the administration would mean that Congress would have to take money from other education programs to fund Perkins.

President Bush, in his budget proposal this year, recommended the termination of vocational education and other education programs deemed ineffective and "unable to demonstrate results."

But Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, noted that the Perkins program is "wildly popular with members on both sides of the aisle" and said he had no doubt that the funding authorized in the bill "will in fact happen."

The Senate in March approved a similar bill on a 99-0 vote. The two measures will have to be reconciled.

Almost half of high school students and about one-third of college students make vocational programs a major part of their studies.

Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., chairman of the Education Committee's education reform panel, said the bill "makes significant reforms to academic achievement and accountability to ensure students have the skills necessary."

States would have to create model sequences of coordinated high school and college courses and performance goals would be set similar to those used under the No Child Left Behind (search) law.

It would combine funding for Perkins state grants and the Tech-Prep (search) programs that provide math and science courses to help students in the transition from high school to vocational college programs.

To answer Democratic concerns that Tech-Prep would losing funding under the merger, the House approved a Castle amendment that ensured Tech-Prep would get at least as much in fiscal 2006 as it is receiving in the current budget year.