Legislative Update: OCTAE Deputy Assistant Secretary and President’s FY22 Skinny Budget Proposal

April 9th, 2021

This week the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced additional appointments, including the new Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives. Read below to learn more about this appointment, as well as the “skinny” Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget proposal from the Biden Administration and new information from ED regarding safely reopening schools. 

ED Announces New OCTAE Deputy Assistant Secretary

Dr. Amy Loyd was announced today as the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives at OCTAE as well as Acting Assistant Secretary. A full statement from Advance CTE in support of Dr. Loyd’s appointment can be found here. An excerpt from Advance CTE’s Executive Director Kimberly Green is below: 

“On behalf of Advance CTE, I am delighted with the appointment of Dr. Amy Loyd as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives at OCTAE. She is a friend to and advocate of Career Technical Education (CTE), with a deep and long history and commitment to ensuring every learner has access to a high-quality career pathway. Dr. Loyd understands the breadth of CTE – from secondary, postsecondary and adult programs – and has done extensive work developing education programs for historically marginalized populations, including individuals reentering communities from the criminal justice system and Alaska Native and American Indian families. She is a national expert regarding systems change, career pathways, equity, scaling best practices and building more resilient systems and is an excellent, high-qualified choice for this position.”  

President Biden Shares FY22 Budget Proposal  

Today the Biden Administration submitted an abbreviated version of its FY22 discretionary budget request to Congress which includes a proposed $29.8 billion increase in ED programs. While the “skinny” budget did not include the Administration’s request for Career Technical Education (CTE), it does outline some education and workforce funding levels, including: 

  • $20 billion increase to Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA);
  • $3 billion increase to raise the maximum Pell Grant by $400;
  • $600 million increase for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs); 
  • $203 million to increase Workforce Innovation and Opportunity (WIOA) state grants; and
  • $100 million increase to expand registered apprenticeship programs.

A press release can be found here and the full request can be found here. Advance CTE will be monitoring additional updates that come as more detailed information on the budget proposal is shared out.  

ED Releases COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2 

In today’s release of the COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs, ED seeks to provide, “additional strategies for safely reopening all of America’s schools and to promote educational equity by addressing opportunity gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

This document expands on the health and safety measures highlighted in Volume 1: Strategies for Safely Reopening Elementary and Secondary Schools, which provided strategies schools can use to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) K-12 Operational Strategy.

In releasing this expansion of Volume 1, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, “There is simply no substitute for in-person learning, but as schools reopen their doors, we must also make sure that we are meeting students’ social, emotional, physical, mental-health, and academic needs, and addressing gaps that existed before—and were exacerbated by—the pandemic. This is an opportunity for us to not only reopen our schools safely, but to make sure our education systems are truly serving all our nation’s students.”

The full press release can be found here

Scott Stump, Senior Advisor and Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: New Infrastructure Plan Supports CTE

April 2nd, 2021

This week the White House announced a new American Jobs Plan. Read below to learn more about what this proposal means for Career Technical Education (CTE), as well as an ask for stakeholder input from the Senate, new information for student loan borrowers and a recent Senate confirmation for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). 

Biden Releases New Infrastructure Plan That Calls Out CTE 

On Wednesday President Biden announced the American Jobs Plan, which would invest more than $2 trillion over ten years in infrastructure expansions and improvements. This includes $100 billion for workforce development, which is responsive to the amount that Advance CTE and 70 state and national organizations called for earlier this month in a letter to President Biden. The full amount is comprised of: 

  • $48 billion to build the capacity of existing workforce development and worker protection systems. This includes new career pathway programs in middle and high schools, which aligns with Advance CTE’s priority of elevating career pathways. The funding will also prioritize increasing access to computer science and high-quality CTE programs that connect underrepresented students to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs and in-demand sectors through partnerships with institutions of higher education and employers.

    Apprenticeships are addressed in this section as well, with a commitment to creating one to two new million registered apprenticeships. Additionally, there is a focus on strengthening the pipeline for more people of color and women to access these programs through pre-apprenticeships. President Biden plans to support community college partnerships that increase capacity to deliver job training programs in response to in-demand skills. This partnership would tailor services to individual needs with new investments in Expanded Career Services and the Title II adult literacy program. Advance CTE has been calling for the Biden administration to invest in postsecondary partnerships that prepare for career pathways in high-growth, in-demand industry sectors (building off the success of the Trade Adjustment and Assistance Community College and Career Training- or TAACCCT- program), and recommended this be including in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). 
  • $40 billion for a new Dislocated Workers Program and sector-based training. This funding would allow workers to gain new skills and receive the career support services needed to pursue in-demand jobs. Individuals would receive high-quality training, as well as have access to evidence-based supports, including wraparound services, income supports, counseling and case management. 
  • $12 billion for workforce development opportunities in underserved communities. This funding would support evidence-based community violence prevention programs. President Biden is also calling on Congress to invest in job training for formerly incarcerated individuals and justice-involved youth, address long-term unemployment and underemployment through a subsidized jobs program and eliminate sub-minimum wage provisions. This section names the structural racism and economic inequities that persist for millions of individuals. Advance CTE has advocated for the administration to eliminate structures that embed systemic racism in education and workforce programs, and is glad to see this addressed throughout the plan.  

The proposal also includes an investment of $100 billion to expand high-speed broadband access to each individual. Advance CTE has been calling for an investment in internet access, and is pleased to see this addressed. Additionally, the proposal would invest $100 billion to upgrade and build new public schools, through $50 billion in direct grants and $50 billion in bonds.

The full fact sheet on the American Jobs Plan can be found here. Advance CTE’s statement on the American Jobs Plan can be found here. A second part to this plan will be shared in the coming weeks, and Congress will work to consider both pieces in legislation. 

Senate HELP Committee Seeks Input on Workforce Policies 

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) announced that they are working together to create bipartisan solutions to expand working training programs and the National Apprenticeship Act, as well as support innovation. The Senators requested input from all stakeholders on policy ideas to achieve those goals, for consideration in legislation that will be shared by early this summer. Comments from stakeholders must be submitted by April 9, 2021 to HELPWorkforceComments@help.senate.gov. In particular, Senators Murray and Burr are looking for proposals of: 

  • How to enhance or improve workforce training in direct relation to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and economic recovery, including ways to address workforce needs of the health care and public health sectors;
  • Reforms to programs authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act;
  • Ways to develop, modernize, and diversify the national apprenticeship system, including innovative approaches such as youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship; and
  • Strategies to encourage innovation to address worker and industry needs. 

ED Announces Updates for Student Loan Borrowers

This week the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced an expansion of the pause on federal student loan interest and collections to all defaulted loans in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. ED also announced relief for borrowers who received student loan discharges due to total and permanent disability. This update will ensure that no borrowers are at risk of having their loans reinstated due to failure to provide earnings information during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Senate Confirms New DOL Secretary 

The Senate confirmed Boston, Massachusetts Mayor Marty Walsh as the new Secretary of Labor in a 68-29 vote. Some of Secretary Walsh’s immediate tasks include expanding apprenticeship opportunities, expanding emergency unemployment programs due to pandemic impacts and implementing stricter workplace safety measures. Secretary Walsh shared his thoughts on meeting the moment with his new role and listed the following priorities: 

  • Bolstering career education and job training; 
  • Ensuring equal access to good jobs; 
  • Ensuring all workers have fair pay, health care, unemployment benefits, safe workplaces and a secure retirement; 
  • Ensuring workers have a seat at the table in shaping workplace conditions and policies; and
  • Increasing access to mental health and substance use treatment.  

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: New Information and Resources to Safely Reopen Schools

March 26th, 2021

This week new information was shared about safely reopening schools, resources to best support students during this time and guidance on the newest stimulus funds. Read below to learn more about the latest details provided by the Administration. 

Administration Announces New Actions to Support Schools and Students

On Wednesday President Joe Biden announced that $81 billion from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) have been released to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to be used as aid in getting students safely back to school for in-person learning and responding to the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of students. Specific state allocations from this first round of funds can be found here

ED Launches Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative

During Thursday’s National Safe School Reopening Summit, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the new Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative. The Collaborative will launch in April 2021 in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). It will operate as a learning community that will bring stakeholders together to develop plans for high-quality and evidence-based summer learning and enrichment programs. 

Secretary Cardona also encouraged states to use ARP funds to develop summer programs that address the instructional and extracurricular time students lost due to the pandemic, particularly for underserved communities. The Collaborative is intended to build capacity for states and districts to use the ARP’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds for these programs.  

ED Provides Guidance on Stimulus Higher Education Funding

ED shared new guidance for uses of funds under the ARP’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grant program. ED changed the requirement from the previous stimulus package, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), that had required HEERF dollars be used for costs incurred on or after December 27, 2020. There is also additional information from ED about how “lost revenue” can be calculated, as well as an expanded Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the Public and Private Nonprofit Institution Grants and Proprietary Institution Grant Funds for Students. 

The Notice of Interpretation can be found here, Lost Revenue FAQs here and updates to existing FAQs here.

ED Announces Expanded SNAP Benefits 

ED shared that postsecondary institutions are now able to make outreach to students who meet the temporarily increased eligibility criteria for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid will also begin direct outreach efforts to notify students about the temporary changes. Now, SNAP eligibility includes students who either are eligible to participate in state or federal work study during the regular academic year or have an expected family contribution of 0 in the current academic year. This will be in effect until 30 days after the pandemic public health emergency is lifted. Additional information can be found here

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: Bills Reintroduced in Congress and Funding Levels to Reopen Schools

March 19th, 2021

This week, a bill that supports Pell Grant eligibility for high-quality short-term programs was reintroduced in the House and Senate. Read below to learn about this legislation, and why it is more important now than ever, as well as information on state allocations for K-12 school funding, the reintroduction of a bill that would advance postsecondary data and a new apprenticeship grant program.  

Congress Reintroduces the JOBS Act 

On Thursday Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Co-Chairs of the Senate Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, as well as Representatives Andy Levin (D-MI) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) reintroduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act in the Senate and House. This bill would expand Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality short-term programs that lead to high skill, high wage or in-demand jobs. Advance CTE joined ten other national organizations in sending a letter to Congressional leadership in support of the JOBS Act. This is also one of Advance CTE’s priorities for HEA reauthorization. 

This legislation would amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to: 

  • Expand Pell Grant eligibility to include high-quality short-term programs that result in industry-based credentials and a job in high-wage, high-skill careers; 
  • Ensure quality of these postsecondary credentials through a number of measures, including alignment with the program of study definition in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V); 
  • Define an eligible job training program as one offered at an institution of higher education and provides at least 150 clock hours of instruction over a period of eight weeks, training that meets the needs of local or regional workforce partners and institutional credit articulation that can be built upon to further education and careers; and
  • Create an inter-agency data sharing agreement between the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor to share Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) performance outcomes data. 

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has put millions of individuals out of work, and disproportionately impacted workers of color, women and those without a college degree. Many of these workers want or need to train for a different career. Making Pell Grants available for short-term programs would allow these individuals to receive the financial support needed to achieve the upskilling or reskilling necessary for their career aspirations. The pandemic has meant structural changes to our economy happened almost overnight. We need a nimble, responsive education system that can respond to structural shifts in the labor market so that people, businesses and economies are more responsive and resilient.  

You can find a summary of the JOBS Act here and the full bill text here

ED Announces State Funding Allocations to Reopen Schools

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the amount of funding that each state, DC and Puerto Rico would receive through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding authorized in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act that was signed into law last week. ED will begin to make this funding available to state eligible agencies (SEAs) as soon as this month. The ESSER funds, totaling approximately $122 billion, can be used to safely reopen K-12 schools and address the learning loss and disruptions to learning and teaching due to  the pandemic. ED Secretary Miguel Cardona has emphasized the need to ensure that those students who have been most impacted by pandemic disruptions are able to receive the resources and supports needed to recover. 

Additional information on the ARP ESSER Fund can be found here

Congress Reintroduces College Transparency Act

This week Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Mikie Sherill (D-NJ), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Bryan Steil (R-WI), along with Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) reintroduced the College Transparency Act in the House and Senate. This legislation would create a student-level data network within the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and promote transparency and accuracy in postsecondary student data. The privacy-protected postsecondary data system would be disaggregated and report out student incomes such as completion and post-college success. NCES would also develop post-college outcomes reports in a user-friendly website format so that learners and their families can make informed decisions.  

Advance CTE supports this legislation, and its goals are aligned with Advance CTE’s priorities for HEA reauthorization. 

DOL Announces Grant for States to Expand and Diversify Registered Apprenticeship Programs

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced approximately $87.5 million for grants to expand Registered Apprenticeships. These State Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity and Innovation (SAEEI) Grants will be awarded to states in amounts running from $2 million to $10 million, based on the needs of that state. Of the total grant funding, up to $40 million will be awarded to states that have diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and plan to expand this work.  

The SAEEI grant program aims to achieve the following goals: 

  • Provide states with the flexibility to meet industry needs and demands; 
  • Support the development, modernization and diversification of Registered Apprenticeships; 
  • Improve workforce system integration; 
  • Increase the number of apprentices, including underrepresented populations; and
  • Promote innovation in development and recruitment strategies. 

This grant program builds on President Joe Biden’s previous Executive Order on strengthening registered apprenticeships. You can learn about how to apply for this grant here

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: New Stimulus Bill Signed into Law and Update to Appropriations

March 12th, 2021

This week, a new major stimulus package was signed into law. Read below to learn more about what this bill includes, a change to the upcoming appropriations process and new resources on COVID-19 vaccinations for school staff. 

President Signs New Stimulus Bill into Law

On Thursday President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319) into law, following the House passing of this bill on Wednesday and the Senate vote at the end of last week. This $1.9 trillion stimulus bill was passed through a reconciliation process, and allocates $170 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund that includes:

  • $127.775 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund
    From this fund, states are required to put 5% to respond to learning loss, 1% must go to evidence-based summer enrichment programs and 1% must go to evidence-based afterschool programs. Local education agencies are required to designate 20% of the funding they receive to respond to learning loss and address student needs. The remaining funding is authorized for various federal education policies including activities under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V);
  • $39.585 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund
    This funding is allocated based on a formula that takes Pell Grant- eligible enrolled students into account. $3 billion is designated for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and minority serving institutions (MSIs). All institutions of higher education must put at least 50% of the funds received to financial aid for students. This bill also amends a piece of the Higher Education Act (HEA) commonly referred to as the “90/10 rule.” Under HEA, proprietary institutions can not receive more than 90% of revenue from Title IV of HEA. Through this new bill, the 90% will count all forms of federal financial aid (including veterans’ benefits from the GI Bill). The rulemaking process for this change will begin in October 2021, and the final update will go into effect in January 2023.
  • $2.75 billion for Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools
    Governors will receive this funding and must allocate it to private schools that serve a significant percentage of low-income students. 

The bill also includes $7.27 billion for an Emergency Connectivity Fund through the E-rate program available through September 2030 for schools and libraries to purchase internet connectivity and technological devices. Another significant investment is $362.05 billion for a Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. 

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) shared estimates of the amount of funding states and institutions of higher education can expect to receive through the Education Stabilization Fund. Additional information on the ARP legislation, including summaries, can be found here

House Appropriations Committee Restores a Version of Earmarks

Written by Michael Matthews, Government Relations Manager, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Original post can be found here

At the end of February, House Appropriations Chairwoman Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) announced that the House would restore earmarks, albeit a more transparent and limited version, ending a decade-long prohibition. An earmark is a provision that is inserted into an appropriations bill that gives policymakers the power to direct specific funds to their district to pay for special projects, most typically infrastructure projects.

Under the new proposal, earmarks are capped at 1% of all discretionary spending, which is currently around $1.4 trillion. Aside from the 1% cap, there are other restrictions put in place to increase transparency and oversight. These include:

  • Each House member is limited to a maximum of 10 requests;
  • All requests and explanations will be public;
  • For-profit institutions are ineligible;
  • Members must provide proof that the community supports the project; and 
  • Members have to certify that they nor their family have financial interest in the project.

Although the House Democrats have decided to bring back earmarks, it is not yet a done deal. The Senate, although currently debating the merits of the proposal, has not yet decided how to proceed, if at all. Further complicating the process is the fact that Republicans in both chambers are barred by party rules from participating with earmarks. Although the process remains complicated, there are bipartisan talks currently taking place between congressional leaders, and there seems to be sentiment on both sides of the aisle in deal making.

One thing remains clear: If brought back, education stands to benefit. Infrastructure aside, higher education was historically one of the larger recipients of earmarked funds, having received nearly $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2010 for 875 institutions. These funds have been largely used to support academic research, but could be utilized for other projects and programs, including the start of new programs, acquisition of technology for distance learning, commercialization of intellectual property, or other pursuits. As for K-12, the funding could be used, and has been previously, for various pursuits ranging from after school programs to school construction. Given the demand for resources created by the pandemic, schools could use these funds for things like upgraded HVAC systems, extended learning programs that extend beyond the regular school day, and other needs. 

CDC Shares New Resources on Vaccinations for School Staff

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention published two new resources for schools regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccinations: 

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Exploring Area Technical Centers: Elevating ATCs in a National Economic Recovery

March 10th, 2021

The transformative workforce changes resulting from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic have made it more urgent than ever for states to have a comprehensive strategy for reskilling and upskilling that unites stakeholders across education, workforce development and economic development. Advance CTE has been vocal that investment in secondary and postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) is critical to a national recovery strategy. 

ATC Positioning in the Workforce Development System 

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many things in our way of life, including the education or training path most Americans will pursue to return to work. A typical economic recovery would have millions of Americans flocking to traditional higher education programs but instead, in this post-pandemic economic recovery, the majority of Americans say they will seek non-degree and skill-based education and training programs to reskill or upskill their way back to a good job.

Area technical centers (ATCs) should be part of this solution – helping more Americans secure non-degree credentials of value. Our national analysis found that in the states where ATCs serve an adult population, these institutions provide short-term credentials and programs below the level of an associate’s degree, and  are uniquely positioned to be nimble and responsive to changing workforce needs. Further, these institutions are accessible, by design serving a region, and low-cost, with few or no barriers to admission for adult learners and affordable tuition rates as low as $2.00 per seat hour. ATCs can and should be better leveraged to serve those who have been disproportionately impacted by job losses associated with the pandemic, particularly Black and Latinx workers, workers with a high school education or less, and female workers.  

Leveraging Federal Funding 

Funding matters, and in states that have leveraged federal funds, we see ATCs being key players in meeting the state’s short- and long-term workforce priorities.  

For example, all of Ohio’s Ohio technical colleges (OTCs) and selected programs in Delaware’s ATCs are eligible training providers under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Many ATCs are eligible for federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, including institutions in Florida, Ohio and Utah most commonly accredited by the Council on Occupational Education.

Some states have utilized 2020 federal stimulus funding to reinforce their ATCs as valuable institutions in an economic recovery. Delaware leveraged $10 million of its federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act economic relief funding to support its Forward Delaware initiative, a set of rapid training and credentialing programs focused on in-demand occupations and skills in the state. Florida’s governor designated Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) funds provided through the CARES Act to award grants to its ATCs, known as technical colleges, to establish or enhance rapid credentialing programs that lead to a short-term certificate or industry-recognized certification as part of its statewide Get There campaign. 

Utilizing ATCs in Statewide Workforce Training Programs 

ATCs have strong connections to their local communities and employers by design and often offer customized training programs to meet those needs. 

  • Oklahoma’s State Training for Industry Growth (TIG) program provides funding to their ATCs, known as technology centers, to administer short term employee training programs for businesses experiencing skill shortages. The state CTE agency also offers a Training for Industry Program (TIP) that utilizes technology centers as business incubators and employee training providers for designated high-demand industries; over 4,000 employees were trained in FY20.                                 
  • Utah’s Custom Fit program allows employers to utilize technical colleges to provide employee training at no cost to the employee.  Each technical college employs a program director which  is partially supported through state funding, and at least 50 percent of the training costs are paid by the employer. Over 19,000 employees participated in this program in FY19.                                            
  • Ohio provides not only an employee training program, but an opportunity for its Ohio technical centers (OTCs) to participate in more strategic workforce initiatives. An OTC can be designated a Center for Training Excellence, making them eligible for up to $500,000 in state funding that is matched by the OTC to offer custom training and consulting to local employers. Ohio’s Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills (RAPIDS) program looks at the bigger picture by providing $8 million in equipment investments to postsecondary institutions to retain, attract, and strengthen industry and support workforce development initiatives. OTCs are able to participate by partnering with a community college. 

To recover from the devastation of the coronavirus will require persistence, creativity and leveraging all public assets to ensure a full and equitable economic recovery. States should be learning from one another – what worked and what didn’t  – and leveraging their public assets, including ATCs to every learner with the opportunity to access a career pathway that leads to sustained, living-wage employment in an in-demand field. 

To find the ATCs in your state and to access the full report and additional resources, please visit www.areatechnicalcenters.org . To read other posts in this series, please check out our Medium post that breaks down the major findings, and our blog post on leveraging ATCs to advance state postsecondary attainment goals. 

Legislative Update: New U.S. Secretary of Education Confirmed and Reconciliation Moves Forward

March 5th, 2021

This week the Senate confirmed Dr. Miguel Cardona as the new U.S. Secretary of Education. Read below to learn about Secretary Cardona’s biggest priorities in his new position, as well as the latest update in the congressional reconciliation process. 

Senate Confirms New U.S. Secretary of Education

On Monday the Senate voted to confirm Dr. Miguel Cardona as the new U.S. Secretary of Education. The Senate voted in favor of Secretary Cardona 64-33, making this nomination more bipartisan than the past two U.S. Secretary of Education confirmation processes. Advance CTE shared the below statement following the confirmation: 

“Advance CTE supported Dr. Cardona’s nomination for U.S. Secretary of Education and applauds the Senate’s confirmation of his appointment. During his confirmation hearing, Dr. Cardona shared that he is a “proud graduate” of a CTE program. This unique and lived perspective, coupled with his lifetime career as an educator, administrator, and state education leader, positions him to be a powerful advocate for equity and access and a strong steward of quality and accountability. We look forward to working with Dr. Cardona to leverage his personal experience and new position to build visibility and support for CTE. “

Cardona Shares Letter as New ED Secretary

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) shared a letter from Secretary Cardona following his confirmation. In the letter the Secretary names supporting high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) as one of the areas of focus for ED. Secretary Cardona writes that right now the top priority is to bring students back to school for in-person learning. He discusses additional goals, including: 

  • Building better career pathways; 
  • Making college more affordable; 
  • Ensuring all students have access to high-quality schools with balanced coursework; 
  • Supporting teacher quality and improving teacher diversity; 
  • Ensuring teachers receive the support needed; and 
  • Expanding access to high-quality preschool. 

Check out this introduction video from Secretary Cardona for more information. 

Congress Continues Reconciliation Process

This week the Senate released the text of their reconciliation bill (H.R. 1319) following the House passage of their reconciliation bill late last Friday night. The Senate version of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is similar in many ways to the legislation passed in the House. The Senate bill includes approximately $170 billion for ED, which would be available through September 2023. That amount includes: 

  • $125.8 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. Of those dollars, 20% is required to respond to learning loss. The remaining funding is authorized for various federal education policies including activities under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V);
  • $39.585 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund;
  • $2.75 billion for governors to allocate to private schools that serve a significant percentage of low-income students; 
  • $1.25 billion (1% of each state’s allocated dollars) for evidence-based summer enrichment programs;
  • $850 million for outlying areas; and
  • $190 million for American Indian, Native Hawaiin and Alaska Native Education.

States would be required to put 2.5% (or $3 billion in total) toward costs related to technology. The bill also includes $7.27 billion for an Emergency Connectivity Fund through the E-rate program available through September 2030 for schools and libraries to purchase internet connectivity and technological devices.

At 12:00pm today the Senate began a vote on amendments to this bill. The vote is expected to go late into the night. It is possible that the full bill could pass the Senate sometime this weekend, followed by a House vote as soon as Monday. Please note that this timeline is an estimate and is subject to change. 

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: New Guidance on Assessments and Next Step in Senate Confirmation

February 25th, 2021

This week, new guidance was released on assessments during the pandemic. Read below to learn more about the information and flexibilities that were detailed, as well as the next step in confirming a new U.S. Secretary of Education, updates to StudentAid.gov and a resource on performance targets. 

ED Releases Guidance on Assessments During the Pandemic

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced new guidance to states that emphasizes the need to administer assessments this year, as well as the accompanying flexibilities given the major disruptions facing schools. In the announcement, Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Ian Rosenblum stated that “the Department of Education is committed to supporting all states in assessing student learning during the pandemic to help target resources and support to the students with the greatest needs. We also recognize that at a time when everything in our education system is different, there need to be different ways that states can administer state tests like moving them to the fall so that precious in-person learning time this year can be spent on instruction. Balancing these priorities is the best approach.”

Flexibilities to states include: 

  • Extending the testing window and moving assessments to the summer or fall; 
  • Giving the assessment remotely, where feasible; and 
  • Shortening the state assessment, to make testing more feasible to implement and prioritize in-person learning time. 

In the announcement, the Department recognizes that states may need additional assessment flexibility and is prepared to work with individual states based on unique needs. 

ED is also permitting states to request a waiver for the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) accountability provisions for having a 95 percent test participation rate. The full letter from ED to the Chief State School Officers can be viewed here

Senate Moves Forward with U.S. Secretary of Education Confirmation

This afternoon the Senate voted 66-32 to invoke cloture on the nomination of Dr. Miguel Cardona for U.S. Secretary of Education. Dr. Cardona’s nomination will now be brought to a full Senate vote for confirmation. This vote is likely to take place next week. 

ED Enhances Entrance and Exit Counseling on StudentAid.gov

This week Federal Student Aid shared updates to the resources on StudentAid.gov, which includes entrance and exit counseling. Modules on entrance counseling have now been integrated into the College Scorecard. This will help individuals understand their projected debt and salary so that informed decisions can be made. The new exit counseling process includes details on personalized loans and repayment options. There is also a tool that individuals can use to simulate the outcome of different repayment plans.   

Advance CTE Shares New Resource on Revising Performance Targets 

Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) created a new resource that provides an overview of four steps states can take to decide whether and how they might revise their performance targets under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) as a result of the pandemic: 

  1. Quantify the impact; 
  2. Explore options; 
  3. Revise targets; and
  4. Engage the public. 

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced uncertainty into the Perkins V performance accountability system. Under the “unanticipated circumstances” provision of Perkins V, the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education is allowing states to adjust their state determined performance levels (SDPLs) in light of the ongoing crisis. You can view the full report on Mitigating Unanticipated Circumstances: Resetting Perkins V State Determined Performance Levels During the COVID-19 Pandemic here

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: Administration Support for Registered Apprenticeships and Reopening School Guidelines

February 19th, 2021

The Administration voiced support for registered apprenticeships this week. Read below to learn more about the details of this announcement, as well as new information on safely reopening schools and an update on the reconciliation process. 

Administration Plans to Expand Registered Apprenticeships

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris announced steps that would be taken to expand and invest in registered apprenticeship programs. Specifically, President Biden will: 

  • Reaffirm his commitment to expanding registered apprenticeships to reward work, rebuild the middle-class and connect a diverse workforce to family-supporting, living wage jobs.
    President Biden endorsed the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, stating that “this bill will ensure these programs draw in a diverse workforce, by supporting industry and equity intermediaries who can help recruit women and people of color.” Advance CTE supports the National Apprenticeship Act and the impact it would have on expanding high-quality apprenticeship programs. 
  • Reinstate the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships.
    It has been requested that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reinstates the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships. The Advisory Committee will be focused on expanding apprenticeships into new industries, such as clean energy, as well as ensuring equitable access to training and jobs. The Advisory Committee will select stakeholders from across the country to develop registered apprenticeship programs that are successful in all communities. 
  • Reverse industry recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs), which threaten to undermine registered apprenticeship programs.
    Executive Order 13801 (Expanding Apprenticeships in America), which began the development of IRAPs, was rescinded on the basis that there are too few quality standards. President Biden also asked DOL to provide new rulemaking that would halt approval of new Standards Recognition Entities and end funding for existing ones, which would slow the already planned implementation of IRAPs. 

ED Shares New Information on Reopening Schools

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the release of the COVID-19 Handbook Volume 1: Strategies for Sagely Reopening Elementary and Secondary Schools. This first volume of the ED COVID-19 Handbook supplements the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools Through Phased Mitigation. The handbook includes examples and strategies for educators and staff to use to implement the CDC’s recommendations for safe in-person learning. Information is included on: 

  • Masking practices; 
  • Physical distancing practices; 
  • Cohorting/podding and staffing considerations for physical distancing; 
  • Transportation considerations; 
  • Encouraging families and staff to check for symptoms at home; 
  • Handwashing and respiratory etiquette; 
  • Safety considerations related to extracurricular activities and athletics programs; and
  • Supporting ongoing engagement with educators, families and the school community. 

The second volume will be released by ED in the coming weeks, and it will provide strategies to respond to the disruption the pandemic has caused for students, educators and parents. This will particularly focus on historically underserved students and communities. 

House Continues Reconciliation Process

The House Committee on the Budget scheduled a markup of the $1.9 trillion reconciliation bill, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, for Monday, February 22. This legislation includes the 12 reconciliation bills from the House committees. Last week, the House Committee on Education and Labor voted to approve its $357.9 reconciliation portion. This bill appropriates $170.1 billion for education programs- broken down by $169.8 billion for the education emergency relief fund, $128.6 billion for K-12 education and $39.6 billion for higher education. If the bill passes next week’s committee vote it will then go to a full House vote. You can watch the markup at 1:00pm ET on the 22nd here

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Resetting Perkins V Performance Levels: A Q&A with the Michigan Department of Education

February 19th, 2021

In 2020 the Michigan Department of Education began the process of revising its State Determined Performance Levels (SDPLs) for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) as a result of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. This blog post features a discussion with Dr. Jill Kroll, Supervisor for the Grants, Assessments, Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, and Dr. Yincheng Ye, Research Consultant, at the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Career and Technical Education.

Michigan is one of the first states to make adjustments to its Perkins V SDPLs as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Can you explain what changes you are proposing and why? 

We are proposing to reduce our SDLP for 3S1—Secondary Post-Program Placement from 95 percent to 75 percent for 2020-2021 and to 80 percent for 2021-2022, returning it to the original SDLP of 95 percent in 2022-2023.

Our reasoning for requesting this change is that we expect that student placement in both employment and continuing education will be adversely affected by the pandemic. This is based on a review of employment projections from the University of Michigan, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, and research reports and other reports indicating a reduction in postsecondary enrollment, especially among first-year college students and low-income students.

We also requested and received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education (USED) for reporting the academic indicators 2S1 and 2S2 because our state did not administer the 11th grade tests in Spring 2020, which will affect the data for students graduating in Spring 2021. We are awaiting the decision on the Spring 2021 assessments. If our state receives a waiver for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the waiver will also apply for Perkins (Our state already had a waiver from reporting the Science indicator 2S3 because we have a new assessment).

We did not feel that we needed a waiver for our indicator of program quality, 5S1—Attained Recognized Postsecondary Credential because our SDPL was already set quite low in our state plan due to the fact that we will be phasing in approval of credentials over several years. This info page for our State Board of Education and for public comment summarizes the proposed changes and includes citations for our evidence.

With conditions changing so rapidly under the Coronavirus pandemic, projecting data over the next few years can be like trying to hit a moving target. How were you able to make these projections work?

We were lucky that the University of Michigan produces solid quarterly economic and employment projections. We participated in several webinars beginning in Spring 2020 on the economic impact of the pandemic so we were aware of the resources available. We felt that it was important to follow procedure and propose reduced SDPLs where appropriate, and take the proposed levels for public comment, even if we had to base the proposed levels on estimated impact.

How are you explaining to the public why Michigan’s SDPLs need to be adjusted? 

We cited the available data. We found, during the initial public comment period for our Perkins V state plan, that stakeholders and the public were very receptive as long as we provided our reasoning for our recommendations, so we anticipate the same will be true for our proposed modifications. Here is what we have listed on the info sheet for public comment:

Both employment and postsecondary enrollment have been negatively influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown in 2020. The Post-program Placement indicator needs to be adjusted to reflect these impacts.

  • In November, the Michigan Economic Outlook 2020-2022 showed the actual unemployment rate as 8.66% in Q3 2020; and forecasted the unemployment rate to drop to 7.85% for Q4 2020, declining to an average of 7.01% in 2021, reaching 5.60% by the end of 2022, but still higher than 2019-year average (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan).
  • Nationally, the data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the unemployment rate for youth was 18.5% in July 2020, down from 26.9% in April but still about twice as high as a year earlier. 
  • An article in Inside Higher Edcites a study by the NSC research center is showing 16% fewer freshman have enrolled this fall compared to last year. The community colleges had an even steeper enrollment drop of 23% among first-year students.
  • Additionally, estimates in Michigan indicate that low-income students may have an 8-10 percentage point drop in college enrollment.

States have to go through the same public comment process to adjust their SDPLs as when they first developed their Perkins V plans. How has this process been similar or different to the original public comment period? 

We are following the same process as we did for our Perkins V state plan, presenting the proposal to stakeholder groups, taking the recommendations out for virtual public hearings, and publicizing the public comment opportunity through an online survey on our website. We also had to present to our State Board of Education prior to the public comment period and will have to present to them again after public comment, including the public comments.

What advice would you give states that are considering whether or not to change their Perkins V SDPLs? 

My advice would be to continue to regularly review the data related to each of the indicators. If it appears that the pandemic (or any other unanticipated circumstance) may affect the state’s ability to meet the SDLPs, develop a timeline for revising the SDLPs and then do it. I think it is important that school districts feel that the SDLPs are fair and reasonable and if they are unattainable due to circumstances outside the control of the districts and/or colleges they lose their value as engines of program improvement. I also think it is important for state offices to do our due diligence to maintain the faith and trust of our educators, districts, colleges and the public.

My other recommendation is to plan, plan, plan. A timeline is critical. As soon as we realized we needed to revise our SDLP we did two things. First, we contacted the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) at USED to verify that we could adjust the SDPL and to get the deadline for submitting the adjustment. Contact information for OCTAE Perkins Regional Coordinators is listed here. Second, we immediately worked out a timeline (this was in August) and quickly realized how long the process would take, with two State Board Meetings required as part of the process. It was only because we worked out the timeline so early that we will be able to make the OCTAE deadline for revising state plans and SDPLs on May 21.

Today, Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education released Mitigating Unanticipated Circumstances: Resetting Perkins V State Determined Performance Levels During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a guide to help states revise their Perkins V SDPLs. Dr. Kroll served on the workgroup that helped produce the guide.