Congress has passed the bipartisan reauthorization of Career and Technical Education (CTE) which is currently awaiting signature by the president. CTE programs provide students with a hands-on opportunity to develop academic, career and technical skills at the secondary education and postsecondary education level within a subject area that leads to a defined career. Last reauthorized in 2006, the Carl D. Perkins Act has recognized the need for increasing the supply of qualified early childhood educators and allowed state and local use of formula funding to include child development courses. As a result, some school districts have instituted dual and concurrent enrollment programs that let high school students learn about child development with hands-on experience, while also receiving credit towards their Child Development Associate (CDA). The CDA is a nationally recognized credential, and it is a stackable first step in an early childhood educator’s career path. For example:
- In Parker, Colorado, students at Ponderosa High School can obtain college credit for taking early childhood education courses that include both observing classrooms and implementing lesson plans.
- In Saratoga Springs, New York, the World of Learning Preschool is a student-run preschool learning lab. Its Early Childhood Department invites parents of three- and four-year-olds to enroll from October through May free of charge.
- In Washington, D.C., the First Steps program offers high school students the opportunity develop competency-based skills and knowledge in early childhood education while being compensated for their participation in the summer youth employment program. Participating students also benefit from access to financial aid for college through specialized scholarships, such as the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) Early Childhood® Project and the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG).
The new law builds upon current law to elevate early childhood education talent development. It explicitly includes a new competitive grant opportunity aimed at identifying and supporting innovative strategies and activities to improve CTE and align workforce skills with labor market needs – including early childhood. While the use of CTE funds to provide courses that lead to a CDA has been allowable, this is the first time the legislative language explicitly names early childhood education. By elevating the need to support the supply of high-quality educators, the reauthorization of CTE has the opportunity to play a role in bolstering ECE talent development.
Reauthorization also emphasizes alignment with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). WIOA is designed to strengthen the workforce by helping job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market. When it comes to strengthening the workforce, families undeniably need reliable access to quality early childhood education for their young children. When ESSA passed in December of 2015, it included the new Preschool Development Grant (PDG) program, demonstrating a deliberate effort to increase the connection between the early childhood education and K-12 systems. Coordinating the reauthorization of CTE with WIOA and ESSA has the potential to further interagency efforts that support quality programs for children from low- and middle-income families while their parents work or attend school.