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Legislative Update: Cromnibus Edges Through Congress, Administration Announces New Apprenticeship Grants

December 15th, 2014

CapitolBy narrow margins in both the House and the Senate, Congress managed to pass omnibus appropriations legislation over the weekend to fund most of the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Totaling $1.1 trillion, the legislation will fund the majority of the federal government until October 1, 2015.

Earlier in the week, House Republicans had introduced the 2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 83)— hybrid legislation that combined aspects of a continuing appropriations resolution (CR) and more comprehensive appropriations for all federal departments and agencies with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Known as a cromnibus, this legislation was heatedly debated in the House on Thursday night and passed by a margin of 219 – 206. Following the vote the Chamber adjourned for the rest of the 113th Congress and is not expected to return until the start of the new 114th Congress beginning in early January.

With the December 11th deadline for the most recent CR having come and gone, Congress also passed another short-term CR to avert a government shutdown while the bill worked its way over to the Senate for further debate this past Friday and Saturday. Despite strong opposition from conservatives and liberals alike, the cromnibus was approved in the Senate by a 56 – 40 vote late Saturday night.

On the whole, H.R. 83 largely maintains funding levels from the previous fiscal year for most programs and departments, although it cuts approximately $166 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) discretionary budget. Fortunately the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program (BSG) was excluded from these reductions. Instead this legislation level-funds the BSG program at $1.118 billion— the same amount the program received in FY 2014.

Although NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) recently urged lawmakers to fund the program at slightly higher levels, maintaining current investment levels for the BSG program is a minor victory in the context of the changing political and fiscal dynamics on Capitol Hill— particularly at time when other programs in the discretionary side of the federal budget have been forced to shoulder even larger reductions over the past several years.

H.R. 83 also contained a number of controversial policy riders— provisions unrelated to appropriations— that were the focus of much debate on the legislation. Nearly all of the most contentious riders, such as changes to campaign finance and banking laws, were ultimately included in the legislation. Despite these riders, President Obama has publicly committed to signing the legislation into law sometime this week.

Of particular interest to the CTE community was the partial restoration of the federal Pell Grant program’s “ability-to-benefit” (ATB) provision— something that NASDCTEc has been advocating for in the context of the Higher Education Act’s reauthorization. This change affords students who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, access to the federal financial aid program if they are also enrolled in a career pathways program as defined in the new law. An additional $6 million in funding was also set-aside for a competitive grant program under ED to improve data system coordination and quality at the local, state and national levels and is expected to roll-out in the coming year.

Despite the late night passage of the bill in the Senate, the Chamber remains open today and possibly further into the week as lawmakers there work on last-minute legislation and confirmations for many Obama Administration nominees for various government posts.

DOL Unveils Apprenticeship Grants

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new $100 million competitive grant program to support the expansion of apprenticeship programs in high-growth and high-skill occupational areas. The American Apprenticeship Grant (AAG) program, is the successor to last year’s Youth CareerConnect grants and are funded through H-1B visa fees. Administration and Department officials hope the program will spur an expansion of apprenticeship programs into sectors of the economy which has not traditionally used them, such as information technology, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.

Approximately 25 grants will be awarded to public-private partnerships consisting of at least one public and private entity. Eligible entities include employers, industry associations, joint labor-management organizations, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, non-profits and faith-based organizations. Grant amounts will range from $2.5 million to $5 million each and must make efforts to align and coordinate with other postsecondary education programs and career pathways available in a state or local area.

Applications are due April 30, 2015 and more information on how to apply, including program factsheets and checklists, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Congress Considers a Cromnibus, ED Announces Start of P3 Initiative

December 5th, 2014

CapitolA new term is quickly entering the beltway lexicon this holiday season— a hybrid funding approach known as a “cromnibus” is now under consideration by House Republicans which would fund most, but not all of the federal government for the remainder of the 2015 federal Fiscal Year (FY). As we have shared previously, Congress failed to enact the necessary appropriations legislation earlier this summer to fund governmental operations in FY 2015.

To avert another government shutdown, lawmakers passed a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) in late September which temporarily extended FY 2014 funding levels into FY 2015 which began on October 1 of this year. Unfortunately, this extension resulted in a 0.054 percent across-the-board cut to all discretionary programs, including the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) basic state grant program, because of lower revenue levels and lost savings elsewhere in the federal budget in FY 2015. Since that time, Congress has struggled to come to a longer-term agreement for how to fund the federal government past the current CR’s expiration date on December 11, 2014.

NASDCTEc and its partners in the Career Technical Education (CTE) community have recently called on Congress to pass comprehensive omnibus appropriations legislation in lieu of another temporary funding measure. An omnibus would replace the current CR with a consolidated package of the necessary 12 individual appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government— a move which would give greater certainty to the CTE community regarding future funding levels for the Perkins Act’s basic state grant program.

Despite a number of obstacles over the past several weeks, House Republicans now seem to be coalescing around the legislative strategy of a cromnibus—legislation which fuses an omnibus and a CR into one bill. In this proposal, eleven out of the 12 annual appropriations bills— including the legislation which funds the U.S. Department of Education and relatedly the Perkins Act— would receive funding for the remainder of FY 2015. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the primary federal agency tasked with implementing President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, would receive another temporary funding bill into the early part of next year.

In pursuing this strategy, House Republicans hope to leverage future concessions on immigration policy from the Obama Administration using a series of CRs to fund DHS moving forward. While a final version of this legislation has yet to be released, Congressional Democrats and President Obama have not said whether they would accept such a deal, although more recently both have signaled they may be open to such an approach. Democratic receptiveness to the cromnibus approach will likely hinge on the inclusion of other “policy riders” in the legislation— something that both parties in Congress are currently negotiating.

Check back here early next week when NASDCTEc expects further Congressional activity on federal funding.

U.S. Department of Education Announces P3 Initiative

As we shared earlier this year, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Labor (DOL), and Health & Human Services (HHS) announced a new initiative to more effectively support disconnected youth by granting additional flexibility to existing federally-funded programs to develop innovative solutions and strategies in local communities across the country.

Dubbed Performance Pilot Partnerships, or P3 for short, the agencies will select ten local applications to launch pilot projects using additional flexibility for existing discretionary grant programs administered by the agencies. Local Perkins grant recipients are among the programs eligible to participate in these pilots. An additional $700,000 in funding will be available for successful applicants who the departments hope will “braid” existing funding streams together in new ways to more effectively support disconnected youth.

Applications are due by March 4, 2105 and the winners of the project will be announced further into next year. More information on P3 can be found here and application details can be accessed here.

Senator Harkin Introduces HEA Proposal

Just before Thanksgiving last week, soon-to-be-retired Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, formally introduced the Higher Education and Affordability Act. The bill seeks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act which is set to expire in the coming year.

Although the bill will not move out of the HELP Committee prior to the new 114th Congress set to begin next year, the legislation does contain a number of promising proposals which NASDCTEc has been supportive of including:

  • Restoring the Pell Grant Program’s “Ability-to-Benefit” and “Year-round Pell” provisions
  • Repealing the ban on the creation of student unit record system and enable accurate measurement of postsecondary student outcomes
  • Strengthening support for early college and dual enrollment programs
  • Encouraging employer-community college partnerships

NASDCTEc applauds the Senator’s commitment to affordable high-quality postsecondary education and looks forward to reauthorization process of HEA in the New Year. More information on the bill can be found here and the text of the legislation is located here. The next incoming Chairman for the HELP Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), is widely expected to prioritize the reauthorization of HEA in the next Congress.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

New Report: The State of Employer Engagement in CTE

December 3rd, 2014

Today, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) released a new report exploring how employers are partnering Untitledwith the CTE enterprise to help prepare students for success in careers.

The report drew from a survey of 47 State CTE Directors as well as a dozen interviews to understand how and in what ways employers were engaging with CTE across the country and to illuminate the state’s role in fostering employer engagement.

Overwhelmingly, the State Directors reported that employer engagement has increased over the past decade and they expect this growth to continue in the next five years. As the second installment in the “State of Career Technical Education” series, the report also examined the wide range of levers that states are using through state and federal policy.

At the state level, the most common tools used to foster employer engagement include interagency collaboration and pilot initiatives as well as standards development and credentials selection. Via the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, states also have the flexibility to levy additional requirements beyond what is detailed in the law for locals seeking Perkins funds. More than 40 states said they require local advisory committees, and another 10 states said they also require locals to incorporate work-based learning, employer-related professional development and/or monetary or in-kind contributions.

In addition to the report, NASDCTEc has created an extensive list of state examples that can be used as a resource. A recording and slides from today’s webinar will be posted in the coming days.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

 

Congress Continues to Struggle on Appropriations Ahead of Presidential Announcement, VP Biden Talks CTE

November 20th, 2014

CapitolFollowing the midterm elections earlier this month, Congress reconvened last week to begin their final “lame duck” session of the 113th Congress. As the Republican Party prepares to take control of the Senate and with it the entire Congress, lawmakers must still grapple with a number of pressing issues before setting to work in the 114th Congress beginning in the New Year. Topping the list of Congressional to-do’s over the next several weeks is the need to pass legislation to fund the government to avert another shutdown of federal operations— something that only too recently happened late last year.

As we have previously shared, Congress failed to pass the necessary appropriations legislation to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Instead, lawmakers passed a temporary stopgap funding measure known as a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extended FY 2014 spending levels into the current 2015 federal fiscal year that began on October 1, 2014. However due to differences in revenue levels and lost savings elsewhere in the federal budget, this extension resulted in an across-the-board cut of 0.054 percent to all programs, including the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins).

Until recently, it was widely anticipated that a comprehensive omnibus appropriations bill— legislation that combines all of the necessary 12 appropriations bills into one package— would be passed by Congress sometime before the expiration date for the CR on December 11 of this year. Doing so would replace the current CR with a long-term agreement on federal spending until the next fiscal year and could possibly restore some of the funding reductions that were a result of the CR’s passage this past September. Senator Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), the current Appropriations Committee Chairpersons in both the Senate and the House, have been working to finalize such a bill for the past several weeks and appear to be close to a final agreement.

However, it remains uncertain at this time if lawmakers will be able come to such an agreement before the December 11th deadline. Congressional Republicans and the Obama Administration are currently at odds over a widely expected Executive Action from the President on immigration— an announcement that will likely occur this evening. Many Republican lawmakers are opposed to such a move and have debated a number of responses including passing another short-term CR or possibly passing an Omnibus, but eliminating funding for federal departments or agencies which carry out aspects of the President’s expected action on immigration. Publicly, the Republican Party remains divided on how they will respond— whether through the appropriations process or otherwise.

Nonetheless, as Chairman Rogers recently pointed out, “We need to do an omnibus bill funding the entire government for the rest of the year, and get that whole business behind us, so that come January, [we] will have a clean slate rather than looking backwards to old fights that we could look forward to making positive changes.” NASDCTEc applauds this sentiment and remains hopeful that Congress will pass a comprehensive omnibus bill for the remainder of FY 2015. Along with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), NASDCTEc has recently called on Congress to pass this much needed legislation and restore the remaining cuts to the Perkins Act.

As this process unfolds we urge you, the Career Technical Education community, to do the same. Don’t know who your members of Congress are? Find out here.

AFL-CIO & AFT Host Vice President Biden for CTE & Workforce Development Summit

vpbidenLate last week, the AFL-CIO, along with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), hosted a “Career and Technical Education (CTE) Workforce Development Summit” which explored the ways CTE and workforce development programs can create multiple pathways for student success. “CTE has the promise and potential to help equip a new generation of workers with the skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and to forge a new path to college and life,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

Vice President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address for the event, emphasizing the importance of education and employer partnerships. “These partnerships provide a seamless transition so folks can go from a classroom to a job, and from job to job within the industry they’re in,” he said, adding, “We have to maintain and enhance our workforce so we have the most sophisticated, best-trained workforce in the world.” Later on in the day, Snap-on Inc. Chairman and CEO, Nicholas Pinchuk couched this in even clearer terms declaring, ““We are in a global competition for jobs and the single best weapon is CTE. We need to out-skill the competition.”

During the all-day summit, several panels explored a number of CTE and workforce development issues, including employer engagement, apprenticeship programs, effectively using labor market information and strategies for scaling up other innovative education and workforce program models. Yet, the most common theme throughout the day centered on CTE’s evolution over the past several decades from vocational education and into today’s modern conception of CTE. Nearly every panelist agreed that today’s CTE has made extraordinary progress and is now very much a viable pathway for any number of postsecondary and career ambitions.

U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, capped off the day with a rousing address on the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) work on apprenticeships. Perez made a number of references to DOL’s upcoming grant program, the America Apprenticeship Initiative.  Grantees for this $100 million program— the successor to last year’s Youth CareerConnect grants— are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

More information on the summit can be found here.

NASDCTEc Finalizes Higher Education Recommendations

With the next Congress widely expected to take up the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the consideration of the nation’s primary legislation governing the nation’s postsecondary education system presents a unique opportunity for the CTE community to have their voices heard as this process unfolds. To that end, NASDCTEc has recently finalized a set of recommendations for the reauthorization of the legislation which can be viewed here.

Odds & Ends

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) recently released a document outlining the “pillars” of his vision for a new Republican Congressional majority. Although education is part of this platform, the Perkins Act and CTE more generally were notably absent.

Yesterday the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education hosted a town hall listening session on the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to aid in implementation of the new law. More recently, the Department of Education released a short video outlining the various intersection points between WIOA and Perkins IV.

The U.S. Department of Education’s recently finalized regulations defining “gainful employment” have been challenged in court by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Pending action by the court system, these regulations are still set to go into effect next year.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Midterm Elections Place Republicans in Control of Congress, Gainful Employment Regulations Finalized

November 6th, 2014

CapitolThe long anticipated 2014 midterm elections took place on Tuesday, ushering in a wave of new Republicans into both chambers of Congress. The central question ahead of these elections rested on the balance of power in the Senate and with it full Republican control of the entire Congress. Late Tuesday night, that question was finally put to rest. As of this post, the GOP has picked up seven new seats in the Senate, with three races still in contention. In the House the results were much the same, with the Republicans swelling their majority in that Chamber to at least 243 and possibly 250— a high water mark for the Republican Party not seen since 1928.

Although a few races are still in contention, the Republican Party looks poised to add additional seats in both Chambers over the next several weeks, as the elections results continue to trickle in. Democrats who have served in both the House and the Senate on the Chambers’ respective education and appropriations committees have lost their seats which, along with the influx of new Republican lawmakers to the Capitol, will significantly change the composition of the Committees that oversee and ultimately fund the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) along with other key education and workforce programs.

Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) along with Representative Tim Bishop (D-NY), who have served on education and appropriations committees in both Chambers have all lost reelection. Two others including Senators Beigich (D-AK) and Landrieu (D-LA), are in races whose final outcome have yet to be determined.

So what does this all mean for the Career Technical Education community? First and foremost, the key Committees in both Chambers which will oversee the reauthorization of the Perkins Act— the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House’s Education and the Workforce (HEW) Committee— will look dramatically different in the 114th Congress which is set to convene formally on January 3rd, 2015.

Current Ranking Member of the Senate’s HELP Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), will likely become Chairman of this influential committee, where he is expected to prioritize the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA) in the committee’s legislative queue. Additionally, the retirement of Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) has positioned Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to likely take the Ranking Member position on the HELP Committee next January. Both Senators Alexander and Murray were among the main architects behind recent reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act— evidence that the two could also work in bipartisan fashion on other education and workforce issues.

In the House current HEW Chairman, John Kline (R-MN), is expected to retain his position pending Republican leadership approval of a request for a term-limit  extension to stay on as Chair (current House rules cap panel leadership at three terms). For the Democrats, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) is anticipated to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of current HEW Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA).

With the Republican Party set to take the reins of Congressional power early next year, the question now shifts to what education and workforce legislation— possibly including the Perkins Act— will be prioritized in a new Congress. Nevertheless, the current “lame duck” Congress still has much to accomplish beginning next week when both Chambers are set to reconvene.

As we have previously shared, Congress passed a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extended Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 spending levels into the current FY 2015. This stopgap funding measure is set to expire on December 11th of this year and Congress must act to fund the federal government past that date. NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) have called on Congress to pass a comprehensive omnibus spending bill to replace the current CR and restore funding to the Perkins basic state grant program. Senate Democrats recently circulated a similar request last month.

As all of this and more unfolds over the coming weeks and months, check back here for more information and updates.

Gainful Employment Regulations Finalized and Released

Last Friday, the Obama Administration’s Department of Education (ED) released the final version of its widely anticipated “gainful employment” regulations which impact postsecondary institutions offering career education programs. These newly finalized rules, set to go into effect July 1st, 2015, regulate institutional eligibility to access Title IV federal student aid under the Higher Education Act (HEA). Current law requires that most for-profit programs and certificate programs at non-profit and public institutions prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” to access Title IV student aid money. However, current statute does not fully define the term “gainful employment” and these regulations have sought to do just that.

As we have previously shared, these regulations are the result of nearly five years of off-and-on negotiated rulemaking sessions between a broad swath of the higher education community and ED. A previous attempt by the Department to implement new gainful employment regulations was struck down by a federal district court in 2012 which ruled that the rules were arbitrarily constructed and applied, but upheld ED’s authority to make a new, more fully justified set in the future. Last Friday, after months of negotiated rulemaking sessions failed to reach consensus agreement, ED released the final version of these regulations for public consumption.

Under the proposed regulations gainful employment will be measured using three criteria which ED hopes will identify and weed out the lowest-performing programs among the institutions and programs these regulations apply to. Almost all programs at for-profit postsecondary institutions, as well as non-degree programs at public and private nonprofit institutions, including some community colleges and area career technical education centers, will be subject to these new regulations which include:

  • Certification Requirements: Institutions must certify that their gainful employment programs meet accreditation standards, along with state or federal licensure requirements.
  • Accountability Metrics: To remain eligible to receive Title IV funds, gainful employment programs must meet two minimum standards for their graduates’ debt-to-earnings; less than 8 percent of total earnings or less than 20 percent of discretionary earnings.
  • Public Transparency: Institutions must make performance and outcome data— including costs, graduate earnings, debt and completion rates— publicly available for each of their gainful employment programs.

The Department’s factsheet which lays out these metrics in a bit more detail, can be found here.

Significantly, ED did not include a program cohort default rate (pCDR) as a third accountability metric— a measure which was included in the Department’s initial proposal this past spring. Many community colleges and sub-associate degree institutions argued that a pCDR metric would unfairly penalize their programs whose students largely do not receive any federal student aid.

While these regulations are set to go into effect July 1st, 2015, a transition period for institutions to meet the more stringent debt-to-earnings metrics will be established over the next seven years to allow programs to make the necessary changes to meet these new requirements. A press release from ED, containing more information can be found here and the final regulations can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

CTE Research Review

October 29th, 2014

Research Image_6.2013As talk of data increasingly dominates education and employment conversations across the country, 37 states are working to track the employment outcomes of participants in education and workforce programs, according to a new report from the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC).

WDQC promotes a 13-point state blueprint for inclusive, aligned and market-relevant education and workforce data systems that identifies key features of high-quality data infrastructure to provide useful information for policymakers, educators, employers and more. NASDCTEc is a WDQC partner.

The report surveyed 40 states and the District of Columbia about their progress implementing the 13 indicators including:

  • Expanding use of labor market information;
  • Assessing employment outcomes;
  • Counting industry-recognized credentials;
  • Including all students and pathways; and
  • Ensuring data access and appropriate use.

The results found a majority of states had achieved or were progressing toward establishing cross-agency councils to oversee statewide data collection, capturing employment outcomes such as graduates’ employment status and cross-state data sharing, and creating scorecards for students and workers. More than half of states, however, reported not having starting initiatives related to industry-recognized credentials such as increasing the range of credentials being counted or developing a process for industry validation of credentials.

WDQC highlighted several standout states such as Utah, Maryland, Florida, North Carolina and Maine. Be sure to check out the report for many more outstanding state examples.

WDQC will host a webinar on Thursday, Nov. 6, to discuss the report and highlight the work being done to connect and use workforce data in Utah and Indiana.

In Case You Missed It:

Check out new research from Burning Glass, Education Development Center and more!

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

House CTE Caucus Hosts Field Hearing

October 27th, 2014

IMG_0877On Friday, the House Congressional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus hosted a field hearing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to explore the ongoing challenges with the nation’s skills gap and the role CTE has in addressing it.

The bipartisan hearing, titled “The Role of Career & Technical Education in Creating a Skilled Workforce: Perspectives from Employers and Stakeholders,” was co-hosted by State Senator John Blake (PA-22), Co-Chair of the House CTE Caucus Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Rep. Perry (R-PA).

Rep. Thompson began Friday’s hearing by laying out the central role CTE has in addressing the nation’s skills gap and pointed out that, “the number one asset of any business is its people and CTE is an integral part of developing them.”

State Senator Blake also underscored the hearing’s core focus on the need for more employer engagement in CTE. “We need to better connect our schools to the business community — and our business community to our schools . . . Early and effective career development assures for our children a more efficient transition from school to the world of work and enhances our state’s economic growth,” he said.

Six witnesses, including NASDCTEc Executive Director Kimberly Green, provided expert testimony on how CTE could more effectively engage with employers and the role federal legislation could have in aligning CTE programs more closely to the needs of the local, regional, and state economy.

Green’s testimony highlighted NASDCTEc’s 2010 CTE Vision and the organization’s legislative recommendations for the reauthorization of the principal federal CTE legislation— the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins).

In addition to her remarks, five other witnesses provided a broad array of perspectives from both the private sector and institutions, highlighting the unique challenges facing them in their respective industries and how stronger partnerships with CTE programs could help to address these issues and improve CTE program relevancy and outcomes. Witnesses included:

Following testimony, the assembled lawmakers had the opportunity to pose a series of questions to the witnesses, requesting specific recommendations and strategies for how to improve and elevate the entire CTE enterprise to balance the shared interests of both students and employers. A recording of the event is can be viewed here and a press release outlining some of the hearing’s key takeaways can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

Legislative Update: Congress Passes Temporary Funding Measure, Obama Administration Unveils Round IV of TAACCCT

September 29th, 2014

CapitolAs we shared earlier this month, Congress continued to struggle to pass the necessary appropriations legislation needed to fund the federal government in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 set to begin October 1st, 2014. Despite topline spending caps put in place by the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA) earlier this year, widespread disagreement on individual funding levels for certain programs ultimately derailed the budget and appropriations process which had been ongoing since the release of President Obama’s budget request to Congress this past March.

In order to avert another federal government shutdown similar to what happened this time last year, Congress passed a short-term Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extends current FY 2014 spending levels through December 11th, 2014. Currently, federal programs are being funded via the 2014 Omnibus spending package passed this past January which increased funding for the Perkins act by $53.2 million over FY 2013 levels.

President Obama has recently signed this legislation into law which will continue funding the Perkins Act at this level, at least until a longer-term agreement is reached. This is likely to occur sometime after the conclusion of the Congressional midterm elections this November. Following the passage of this legislation, both Chambers of Congress adjourned until after these elections— the results of which will largely determine the ability of Congress to accomplish its remaining legislative agenda for the year.

It is important to note that while this CR extends current funding levels, imbalances between FY 2014 revenue levels and those projected for FY 2015 will result in a small across-the-board reduction to all discretionary programs, including the Perkins Act for the duration of this CR. For the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the programs it oversees, this cut translates into a 0.0554 percent reduction in funding, which will require revisions to the FY 2015 budget estimates released to states for the Perkins Act basic state grant program.

As ED revises these estimates, NASDCTEc will keep the CTE community abreast to changes in Perkins funding and will continue to advocate for a full-year appropriations bill when Congress reconvenes in November.

Obama Administration Announces TAACCCT Grants

This morning, Vice President Joe Biden unveiled the winners of the fourth and final round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants worth $450 million in total. This initiative traces its roots back to 2009, as part of the Obama Administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which allocated roughly $2 billion in competitive grant funding for community colleges and other eligible postsecondary institutions to expand career training programs lasting two years or less.

Since 2009, three rounds of grants have been awarded to a variety of institutions seeking to strengthen and expand workforce training partnerships across the country. This last round focused on bringing to scale in-demand job training programs through industry partnerships, promoting seamless transitions between education and training, and improving upon statewide employment end education data use.

In all nearly 270 community colleges partnering with more than 400 employers received 71 grants, which is co-administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor. More information can be found here.

Senators Introduce CTE Teacher Training Legislation

Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act this month, legislation that aims to address an ongoing CTE teacher shortage in many states and local communities throughout the country. Specifically, this bill would amend the Higher Education Act to create a CTE teacher-training grant program to encourage partnerships between high-need secondary and postsecondary CTE institutions to recruit and train high-quality CTE teachers. Presently, HEA has a similar program in place to promote these efforts, but it does not currently focus on CTE specifically.

NASDCTEc applauds this legislation and is encouraged by the Senators’ continued commitment to the CTE enterprise. A press release with additional information on this bill can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Briefing on CTE and the Skills Gap

September 17th, 2014

IMG_20140916_123050Yesterday morning, the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus hosted a panel briefing on the role CTE has in closing the nation’s persistent skills gap. As Congress begins to finalize the remainder of its legislative agenda for the year, this event was aimed at reminding lawmakers, their staff, and the general public about the important contribution CTE has in educating and training students across the country for careers most demanded by employers.

Senate CTE Caucus Co-Chairs, Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Mike Enzi (R-WY) provided opening remarks to the event which touched upon this core message. A recurring theme throughout these statements emphasized the importance of reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) as a way to drive innovation and foster the growth of rigorous, high-quality CTE programs across the country. Sen. Portman in particular highlighted some of the core principles contained in recent legislation which he and some of his Senate colleagues hope to address through this reauthorization:

  • More clearly defining what constitutes a high-quality CTE program through the incorporation of key programmatic elements
  • Increasing opportunities for students to gain postsecondary credit in secondary school
  • Promoting greater collaboration between secondary CTE and postsecondary CTE
  • Supporting the attainment of industry recognized certifications, licenses, and credentials
  • Ensuring states and locals have the flexibility to cultivate and build relationships with employers to ensure clear links between the needs of the labor market and the CTE enterprise and relevant work experiences for students

Following these remarks a distinguished panel of leaders from education, business and the public sector shared their perspectives on how they have leveraged CTE to address the evolving demands of the modern economy and provided policy recommendations for improving upon the past successes of CTE to date. Panelists included:

  • Charles “Chuck” Speelman, Superintendent, Tri-Rivers Career Center, Marion, OH
  • Danny Hunley, Vice President of Operations, Newport News Shipbuilding, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News, VA
  • Bryan Albrecht, President, Gateway Technical College, Kenosha, WI
  • Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor

A recording of this briefing can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

New CTE Legislation Introduced in the Senate, Caucus Event Highlights Confluence of CTE & Literacy

September 15th, 2014

CapitolLate last week Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), co-Chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced the Career and Technical Education Opportunity Act (S. 2795)— legislation aimed at expanding eligibility for federal student aid programs to postsecondary CTE students. Co-sponsored by fellow Senate CTE Caucus co-Chair Tim Kaine (D-VA), the legislation amends the Higher Education Act (HEA) to allow students enrolled in shorter-term CTE programs that lead to an industry-recognized credential to qualify for federally backed student loans made available under Title IV of the law.

Specifically the CTE Opportunity Act amends current program eligibility requirements under HEA to incorporate programs that have at least 250 clock hours offered over a minimum duration of five weeks of instruction (a lower threshold than current law), so long as the program culminates in an industry-recognized credential in demand within a local, regional or state economy. NASDCTEc has supported this legislation and applauds the Senators’ ongoing commitment to ensure equitable access to federal student aid programs for postsecondary CTE students.

“As our nation works to educate and train students of today for the jobs of tomorrow, it is critical that we afford them the necessary resources to complete education and training programs that are most demanded by employers” said NASDCTEc Executive Director, Kimberly Green during the bill’s introduction last week. A press release and additional information on the bill can be found here.

Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Briefing on CTE and Literacy

Last Thursday, the Senate CTE Caucus hosted a briefing on strategies and approaches for integrating literacy services with Career Technical Education (CTE) coursework. The event aimed to highlight the interdependency between CTE and literacy programs—particularly technical literacy— provided by schools as a way to combine efforts to prepare students for the demands of the workplace. Three distinguished panelists, including Sheila Harrity Principal of Worcester Technical High School and a recent Principal-of-the-Year participated in the event.

The briefing began by highlighting an ongoing collaborative effort between two experienced CTE practitioners from the Arlington Career Center who have successfully integrated their Information Technology (IT) program with the school’s English Language Learners (ELL) department in a number innovative ways. For instance, students from Arlington’s IT programs developed a mobile app dictionary for students in ELL programs to use and also developed related games for ELL students to hone their vocabulary and grammar. For her part, Harrity highlighted her school’s journey to becoming a leading national CTE school, while highlighting the importance of strong partnerships with community businesses and other employers to the school’s success to date.

Following the panel’s presentations, Senators and CTE Caucus Co-Chairs Kaine (D-VA) and Baldwin (D-WI) gave remarks on several new bills they had recently introduced, including the CTE Opportunity Act outlined above and the Middle STEP Act introduced last week. Summing up the overall narrative of the briefing, Senator Kaine captured it succinctly in his remarks saying, “I detect an ongoing transformation in how we view Career and Technical Education.”

Odds and Ends

As we shared in May, the full House approved legislation which aims to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). Titled the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA), the bill continues its support of education research programs and, of particular note to the CTE community, grants for state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is set to hold a mark-up of this legislation this Wednesday, September 17th. The Chamber is also expected to bring last week’s Continuing Resolution (CR) to the floor for a House-wide vote tomorrow or Wednesday of this week.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded $14.7 million to 40 school districts in 20 states across the nation late last month to create or expand school counseling programs in elementary and secondary schools. More info on the program and project abstracts can be found here.

Next Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services will host a National Dialogue on Career Pathways. Leaders from these agencies will provide insights into how to effectively develop and sustain these promising models. More information can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

 

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