Report 98124 Summary - May 1999

Perkins Vocational Education Program:

The State's Use of Funds to Administer Other Programs Reduced Its Ability to Provide Effective Administration and Leadership

RESULTS IN BRIEF

The federal government passed the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education (Perkins) Act amendments of 1990 to increase citizens' abilities to compete in today's technologically advanced global society. The funding the State receives increased over the past five years, amounting to $119 million in fiscal year 1998-99. However, the California Department of Education (department) and the Chancellor's Office of the California Community Colleges (Chancellor's Office) used some Perkins funds to administer other federal and state programs that are similar to the Perkins program. At the same time, the department, since reorganizing its Perkins function in 1995, reduced the number of staff working on the Perkins program in its Secondary Education Division, which administers the majority of the program. As a result, it diminished services to school districts providing vocational education programs. Some of the school districts we surveyed, including the State's largest, raised concerns about the department's services under the Perkins Act. One district stated that it felt the department's reorganization left a leadership void. A recent task force on industrial and technology education also raised concerns, citing a lack of support from both the Legislature and the department as a cause for the deficiencies it noted.

The Chancellor's Office also spent Perkins funds on a state program. Since August 1997, when it created a separate unit to administer the Economic Development Program, the Chancellor's Office spent more than $500,000 in Perkins funds to finance staff who administer the program. These funds could have been used by community colleges to provide additional Perkins vocational education services.

Federal guidelines do not appear to allow the State to use Perkins funds to administer other programs; therefore, it may have to repay the money. More importantly, the department and the Chancellor's Office have not maximized the effectiveness or availability of Perkins vocational education services at the local level. As a result, students who rely on Perkins funding to acquire vocational skills that will translate into careers in today's high technology society, may be inadequately prepared for the marketplace.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To ensure that the State meets federal requirements, the department and the Chancellor's Office should either discontinue using Perkins funds, including state matching funds, to administer other federal and state programs or obtain approval from the federal government to do so.

The department should ensure that it maximizes the use of Perkins funding to effectively administer and provide state leadership. It should also evaluate all areas in which its services to the Perkins program have diminished and ensure that it furnishes the appropriate level of service.

The department should reexamine its structure in light of the results of the statewide needs assessment to be conducted under the 1998 Perkins Act and ensure that it is organized in a way to fully address the State's needs.

AGENCY COMMENTS

The California Department of Education disagrees with the report's conclusions for several reasons and contends that the conclusions are inconsistent with the current direction of the federal vocational education program and its approved Vocational Education State Plan for using Perkins funding.

The Chancellor's Office of the California Community Colleges plans to investigate further its options to address our recommendation regarding its use of Perkins funding.


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