Vocational Education:

Opportunity to Prepare for the Future

HRD-89-55: Published: May 10, 1989. Publicly Released: May 10, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the implementation of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act, focusing on the: (1) extent to which the act provides access to quality vocational education programs for designated populations, encourages modernization and improvement of state and local programs, and directs funds to the most economically depressed communities within each state; and (2) availability at the federal level of vocational education data for legislative and executive oversight.

GAO reviewed 6 states and 20 localities and found that: (1) they generally used program funds appropriately, but some vocational education students in disadvantaged areas were less likely to receive funding for improved or modernized program activities than students outside such areas; (2) all six states allocated more than half of their basic state grants to economically depressed areas, as the act required, but some states designated relatively wealthy areas as economically depressed and gave them greater per-capita funding than some poorer communities; (3) the funds allocation formula for disadvantaged populations shifted funds from poor communities to more affluent ones because it included nonpoor, academically disadvantaged students; (4) a large number of school districts in four states returned funds for the disadvantaged and handicapped to the states, and one state reallocated funds to more affluent areas in the state; and (5) the Department of Education has not developed a national vocational education data system, making congressional oversight and program administration more difficult.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Amendments made to the Perkins Act established minimum grant amounts.

    Matter: To minimize returns of formula-driven disadvantaged and handicapped allocations, Congress may wish to: (1) establish an overall minimum grant amount applicable for all states in allocating Perkins disadvantaged and handicapped funds to localities; or (2) allow states to establish their own minimum grant amount.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Changes made to the fund-matching requirements in the reauthorized Perkins Act eliminated the need for this recommendation.

    Matter: If Congress wants to direct more funding to poorer communities, consideration should be given during the Perkins Act reauthorization process to requiring that any redistributions of formula-driven Perkins Act funds for the disadvantaged and handicapped populations be made between wealthier and poorer communities in approximately the same proportions as originally allocated.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Perkins Act was reauthorized in September 1990. The amendments to the act satisfy the intent of the recommendation by allocating funds using the Chapter 1 program formula.

    Matter: If Congress wants to direct more funding to poorer communities, consideration should be given during the Perkins Act reauthorization process to removing students who are academically disadvantaged, but not poor, from the formula for allocating Perkins funds for disadvantaged populations.

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Perkins Act was reauthorized in September 1990. It eliminates economically depressed area designations and satisfies the intent of the GAO recommendation by allocating funds using the Chapter 1 program formula.

    Matter: If Congress wants to direct more funding to poorer communities, consideration should be given during the Perkins Act reauthorization process to requiring the states to allocate at least as much Perkins Act funding to each vocational education student in areas that are economically depressed as those in other parts of the state.

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Perkins Act was reauthorized in September 1990, and increases the program's emphasis on program improvement and on the special population's access to such activities.

    Matter: If Congress decides to increase Perkins Act funding for program improvement, it should ensure that the act's targeted special populations benefit from any increased program improvement activities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The reauthorized Perkins Act eliminates the need for this recommendation by prescribing statutory need-based formulas for intra-state allocation of program funds.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education to perform analyses of the reasonableness of states' economically-depressed-area criteria, using enrollment and funding data submitted by the states.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The reauthorized Perkins Act eliminates the need for this recommendation by prescribing statutory need-based formulas for intra-state allocation of program funds.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should require states to substantiate to federal program officials the rationale used for selection of areas to be designated as economically depressed as well as submit supporting state enrollment and funding data to the same officials.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The reauthorized Perkins Act required Education to establish a vocational education data system. The Department is developing such a data system, although its completion is several years away.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should provide the leadership needed to complete development of a national vocational education data system, using common terms and definitions, in cooperation with affected vocational education organizations, such as the Council of Chief State Schools Officers, and with the assistance of the National Center for Education Statistics.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

 

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