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#AskExcelinEd: How can states invest more in innovation through Perkins Reserve funds?

• Melissa Canney

ExcelinEd’s new brief Perkins V Reauthorization: Opportunities, Challenges and Risks for States identifies eight shifts Perkins V makes that present critical decision points for states pursuing high-quality CTE programs. In today’s post, ExcelinEd’s Melissa Canney looks at how states can invest more in innovation through Perkins Reserve funds.

States are required to distribute at least 85 percent of their total state allocation toeligible local secondary and postsecondary recipients.” Of that amount, Perkins V increases the percentage that states may set aside for Perkins Reserve activities, from 10 percent under Perkins IV to 15 percent under Perkins V.

The table below shows how this change impacts available Perkins Reserve funds in small, medium and large-sized states based on FY18 allocations. (This assumes these sample states decide to set aside the maximum amount.)

Historically, states have awarded Perkins Reserve funds to local recipients for a variety of purposes through formula allocations, competitive grants or a combination of the formula and competitive.

Perkins V requires that Perkins Reserve funds must be used to foster innovation in CTE and promote programs aligned with high-skill, high-wage or in-demand occupations or industries.

Finally, Perkins V expands the eligible local recipients Perkins Reserve funds can now be awarded to, areas with disparities or gaps in performance, in addition to areas that meet geographic and student enrollment requirements.

New Opportunities

These changes provide states with the flexibility to invest in innovation and creativity in local areas. States that wish to take advantage of this flexibility should consider using the state’s priorities and/or challenges as the framework to establish Perkins Reserve award criteria. States should consider allocating substantial Perkins Reserve funding for local recipients that submit applications to pilot or develop solutions to some of the state’s most pressing challenges.

For example, in recent years Tennessee used a competitive Perkins Reserve grant process to drive regional partnerships and alignment in support of the Tennessee Pathways initiative, with grant funds being used to support offset costs of intermediary staff, CTE equipment acquisition and career exploration activities for middle and high school students. Other examples of possible Perkins Reserve grant focus priorities could include developing and piloting work-based learning or apprenticeship models, innovative CTE educator recruitment and retention practices, or new programs of study in priority industry fields.

There is an additional opportunity to co-invest some of the reserve funds from the secondary and postsecondary levels to develop and expand early postsecondary opportunities that ensure credit transfer or articulation. This investment could support Perkins V’s emphasis on acceleration through early postsecondary experiences and help both levels of CTE meet their core indicators of performance. Co-investment in early postsecondary could include the establishment of secondary/postsecondary shared use facilities, program of study content development or an infrastructure to support early postsecondary credit transfer statewide.

New Challenges

Increasing the percentage of funds held for Perkins Reserve activities and/or changing the mechanism by which Perkins Reserve funds are awarded, may create some unexpected challenges for states. Increasing the Perkins Reserve set-aside could cause a decrease in the portion of Perkins funds available to flow to local programs through the state’s distribution formula, and possibly local recipients’ overall funding level. Additionally, moving from a formula to a competitive grant approach investing in innovation may mean not all eligible recipients receive Perkins Reserve funds.

Singularly or together, these changes may result in some local winners and losers in terms of allocation adjustments or total Perkins funding for some local recipients. This could potentially be offset by increased funding for CTE state grants (a $70 million increase was included in the House/Senate conference committee but has not yet been approved by the full Congress), which would likely occur at differing rates depending on the state. It is also important to note that federal funds account for only a portion of all funds invested in CTE programs—state and local funds are used to support the majority of CTE programs across states.

Program Funding Recommendations for States to Consider

  • Increase the amount allocated toward Perkins Reserve funding to drive innovation toward meeting the state’s most pressing CTE challenges.
  • Co-invest secondary and postsecondary Perkins Reserve funds to support the expansion of high-quality early postsecondary opportunities within CTE programs of study, or other secondary-postsecondary partnerships that support career pathways.

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About the author

Melissa Canney

Melissa Canney is the Director of Innovation Policy at ExcelinEd. She previously served as the Executive Director of Divisional Operations and Communications in the Division of College, Career and Technical Education at the Tennessee Department of Education. Melissa’s experience in Tennessee included policy analysis and implementation, communication strategy development, grant management and data analysis related to college and career readiness. A Vermont native, Melissa earned a B.A in Sociology from Stanford University and an M.P.P. in Education from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her dog Moxie.