Trump seeks big increase in career-technical education money

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One to travel to a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

President Donald Trump is proposing a $900 million increase in education spending to teach skills and trades, in what would be a historic federal infusion into a spending area that's been stagnant for years.

The announcement Monday follows Trump's State of the Union push for career and technical education and is in line with increasing emphasis on the idea that there should be stronger career paths for students as alternatives to a four-year degree.

“It's maybe the largest investment in CTE ever,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said during a briefing to education groups after the administration released its budget proposal.

Career-technical education is already widespread, with 92% of students taking at least one career-technical class in high school, according to federal statistics. More than a third are described as concentrating in career-tech, taking at least two courses in a particular sequence.

The spending increase is proposed in an Education Department that Trump is once again seeking to cut overall, this time by 8%. Trump has signed previous budgets that ignored his education cut proposals, with Congress instead increasing funding.

Of the money, $680 million would flow through states to local schools and colleges through what's called the Perkins program, named after longtime Kentucky congressman Carl Perkins. Career-technical advocates have long argued that spending on the grant program isn't keeping up with rising costs. Jarrod Nagurka of the Association for Career and Technical Education said it would cost $400 million just to catch up with inflation over the past 15 years.

“America needs this historic rebirth of innovation and access to high-quality CTE,” said Scott Stump, assistant secretary for career, technical and adult education.

Kimberly Green, the executive director of Advance CTE, which represents state career-technical directors, said that new money would allow for more instructors, more spaces for students, updated equipment and course instruction, and programs aimed at new demand areas.