Advance CTE Legislative Update: Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2017 Perkins Funding Bill as Stakeholders Review Newly Proposed ESSA Regulations

June 10th, 2016

United States CapitalYesterday, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $161.9 billion funding measure for federal programs falling under the jurisdictions of the U.S. Departments of Labor (Labor), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education (ED) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. The overall allocation of funding made available for this bill, known as a 302(b) allocation, was $270 million below FY 2016 levels. This meant that programs falling under this part of the budget all faced reductions in order to stay within the new FY 2017 cap even before individual funding decisions were made by the committee this week.

The legislation, as passed yesterday, would provide level funding for state formula grants under the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins)— approximately $1.117 billion overall for law’s Title I program or the same amount the program has received since FY 2014.

The bipartisan bill, the culmination of negotiations between Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) is the first time Labor-HHS-ED funding legislation has passed the full Senate Appropriations Committee since 2009.

Overall the bill reduces ED’s budget by $220 million from the previous fiscal year although this figure does not take into account changes that would be made to the department’s largest program—federal Pell grants. A key piece to understanding the committee’s decision-making on this legislation date back to March when, at that time, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected a $7.8 billion surplus for Pell grants in the coming fiscal year.

In light of these additional funds, Senate appropriators have proposed to use a portion of this year’s Pell surplus to reinstitute “year-round Pell”— a provision the Obama Administration scrapped in 2011 as a cost savings measure which allows students to use their Pell awards during the summer months and accelerate their postsecondary studies. The bill also increases the maximum Pell award for the 2017-18 academic year to $5,935 although year-round recipients are capped at 150% of that maximum.

The Senate Appropriations Committee however took another chunk out of this surplus by also proposing to use a significant portion of it to fund other non-student-aid items in the budget, including a $2 billion proposed funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many higher education organizations, as well as the Congressional Tri-Caucus, voiced strong opposition to this proposal saying, in part, “Students cannot afford to continue subsidizing other areas of the budget.”

Advance CTE agrees with these concerns and believes that any additional funding freed up as a result of a Pell surplus should be used exclusively for education. However, such a move by lawmakers further underscores the importance of increasing or dissolving current “budget caps” that have been in place for several years as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, legislation that constrains the amount of resources available for important investments in our nation’s education system among other vital national priorities.

In addition to these provisions, the recently passed bill also proposes to cut Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) state formula programs by 3% or $73.8 million while providing a 10% increase for USDOL’s apprenticeship grant program to $100 million overall.

With the Senate’s work on a Labor-HHS-ED bill complete for the time being, attention turns to the House of Representatives where the appropriations committee in that chamber is widely expected to consider their version of the bill before recessing in mid-July. Although the deadline for all FY 2017 funding legislation is September 30th, the limited amount of legislative days left on the Congressional calendar will likely necessitate a temporary stop-gap funding measure—known as a continuing resolution— to put difficult (and final) federal budget decisions for FY 2017 until after the Presidential election this November.

Nevertheless, these appropriations bills will likely be used as a starting point for future negotiations on federal spending later this year. They are important mileposts for what the CTE community should expect with regards to education and workforce development funding for the coming fiscal year, but it is important to keep in mind that this legislation has not been enacted.

Be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis on the federal appropriations process as events continue to unfold.

U.S. Department of Education Releases Proposed ESSA Rules

As part of the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), legislation that reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released a draft version of rules outlining proposed requirements for state plans, accountability systems, and reporting responsibilities.

This new batch of proposed regulations— known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)— is open for public input and comment until August 1, 2016. Overall the NPRM hews closely to the newly passed law, providing substantial new flexibility to states and locals with regards to implementation. By comparison, another departmental proposal on so-called “supplement-not-supplant” regulations was met with far more concern earlier this month as we shared previously.

Interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback to the department for how to improve upon this proposal by the above deadline. A summary of the rules can be found here, the full proposal is over this way, and comments can be submitted via this portal.

Odds & Ends

  • Earlier this week, Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a new legislative agenda aimed at tackling poverty and ensuring economic opportunity for more Americans. The report offers four broad recommendations for the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Read more here starting on page 27.
  • Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) spoke at length on the Senate floor this week about a high-quality CTE program in his state and encouraged his colleagues to continue their efforts to reauthorize the Perkins Act. Watch his remarks here.
  • Last month USDE announced the 44 postsecondary institutions selected as part of its “experimental sites” initiative for Pell grants. The efforts will, on a limited and piloted basis, allow an estimated 10,000 students to use $20 million in Pell Grants to take dual and concurrent enrollment courses. Read the list of institutions here and more information on the effort can be found here.
  • USDE has announced another delay in the ongoing implementation of its “gainful employment” rule which aims to hold certain postsecondary institutions accountable for their students’ debt-to-earnings ratios. The hold-up relates to USDE’s release of “completers lists”— data that is necessary to determine these ratios. This interim step was originally slated for release last winter and has now been delayed until “later in June”. More on the delay from the department is available here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

State Policy Update: Iowa Passes Bill to Modernize CTE (and More!)

June 2nd, 2016

Since our last update, an additional nine states have completed their legislative sessions (16 states, five US territories and DC remain in session), locking in a new wave of policies related to Career Technical Education (CTE). While it’s too early to determine any national trends, we can certainly highlight a few new pieces of legislation. In this edition, we share some state policy updates as well as a few helpful resources.

In Iowa last week, Gov. Terry Branstad signed HF 2392 into law, supporting his Future Ready Iowa goal of ensuring 70 percent of the state’s workforce has postsecondary education or training by 2025. This new law, which passed the state legislature unanimously, codifies recommendations from the Secondary CTE Task Force and updates the state’s framework for CTE that has been in the Iowa Code since 1989. The major policy changes that the law enacts include:

  • Reorganizes CTE into six service areas;
  • Directs the state CTE advisory board to adopt standards for the CTE service areas as well as standards for establishing and operating regional planning partnerships, which are also established by the law as “an efficient, effective and economical means of delivering” high-quality CTE;
  • Directs school districts to develop an individualized career and academic plan for students in grade eight with an emphasis on work-based learning.

Meanwhile Georgia, building off of the 2014 Work Based Learning Act, passed a law incentivizing employers to offer work-based learning opportunities for students aged 16 and older. The law provides a discount for workers’ compensation insurance policies in an effort to reduce the burden on employers.

In Missouri, the state legislature passed a combined bill that directs the board of education to establish requirements for a CTE certificate that students can earn in addition to their high school diploma (notably, with a provision to ensure that students are not “tracked” based on academic ability). It also modifies the composition of the state’s Career and Technical Education Advisory Council and permits the commissioner of education to appoint members. The bill has passed the legislature and awaits Governor Nixon’s signature. Once signed, the CTE certificate requirements will go into effect during the 2017-18 school year.

And with Colorado’s 2016 legislative session now closed, all is quiet on the western front. The Colorado legislature passed four bills originating from the bipartisan Colorado 2016 Ready to Work package, including the creation of the Career Development Success Pilot Program, which provides financial incentives to school districts and charter schools for each student who completes “industry-credential programs,” internships, apprenticeships or Advanced Placement coursework in high-demand fields.

Odds & Ends

While that concludes our legislative update, we would be remiss to deny you these resources and papers from some of our partners:

  • The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) launched a state policy database that includes regulations and practices governing college, career, and civic readiness in all states and territories.
  • A new report from the Education Commission of the States (ECS) provides a brief history of state governance policies in higher education.
  • Interested in mitigating teacher shortages? A five-part series, also from ECS, examines common teacher recruitment and development strategies across states.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

Advance CTE Legislative Update: House Education Committee Holds Perkins Hearing while Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Career Pathways Briefing

May 19th, 2016

United States CapitalOn Tuesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing to discuss ways to improve and modernize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). Due for reauthorization since 2013, the law has been in the early stages of consideration by the committee since an earlier subcommittee hearing last October.

The hearing gave a platform to four witnesses to provide perspectives on how Perkins could be strengthened through future legislation:

  • Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Paul Tse, Project Manager, Shapiro & Duncan Inc.
  • Jason Bates, Manager, Toyota— Bodine Aluminum Inc.
  • Monty Sullivan, President, Louisiana Community and Technical College System

Chairman John Kline (R-MN) started the hearing off by emphasizing the bipartisan nature of Perkins and Career Technical Education (CTE), outlining a set of priorities he sees as important to a Perkins reauthorization effort.

During his written testimony, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) spoke at length about his passion for CTE and centered his remarks around several pieces of legislation he has introduced in the Senate to strengthen Perkins and bolster support for CTE. In particular, Sen. Kaine stressed the importance of defining and supporting high-quality CTE programs of study in the next Perkins Act, as he and his colleagues have proposed to do in the Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act (ETWA). He also emphasized the significance of appropriately aligning Perkins to the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)— a key theme throughout the day.

Another topic that was repeatedly touched upon on Tuesday related to the need to strengthen other federal programs, such as federal financial aid programs in Title IV of the Higher Education Act, to more effectively support postsecondary CTE programs. While outside the direct scope of Perkins reauthorization, several witnesses as well as members of the committee highlighted this issue as something that would further strengthen postsecondary CTE.

This last point was underscored in particular by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) who pointed out that Perkins funding has depreciated by 24 percent since 1998. Other members of the committee echoed the need for additional funding for Perkins, while others argued that improvements should be made to Perkins to more efficiently make use of the federal investment in CTE. Dr. Sullivan for instance made a compelling argument that future Perkins legislation should focus on incentivizing program and student outcomes, rather than measuring program inputs for the purposes of accountability.

Witnesses also touched upon the importance of strengthening relationships between employers and programs. Jason Bodine of Toyota for instance highlighted his company’s participation in the Advanced Maintenance Technician (AMT) program— a partnership between Jackson State Community College and a consortium of area employers.

Other subjects that came up in the hearing included strengthening supports for career guidance and advisement and the need to increase awareness of CTE opportunities at earlier stages in a student’s life. At the hearing’s conclusion Chairman Kline expressed optimism about the prospects for Perkins reauthorization in this Congress and underlined the need for bipartisan cooperation as discussions continue to take shape on the committee.

All witness testimony and the chairman’s opening remarks can be found here. To watch the archived video of the hearing, click here.

Career Pathways: Exploring the Partnership Pipeline

Last week the Senate CTE Caucus, in conjunction with the Alliance for Excellent Education, hosted a briefing dedicated to exploring partnership opportunities to develop and expand career pathways. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who opened the panel with brief remarks, framed the nature of the problem with a jarring statistic: with 300,000 individuals out of work in Ohio and 160,000 jobs unfilled, closing the skills gap is “incredibly important work right now.”

And just how do we go about equipping young people with the skills to fill these high-demand positions? Dr. Scott Ralls, President of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), described how career pathways could fan out from a 2-year degree program, enabling students to either pursue additional postsecondary education or enter the workforce after obtaining a certificate in a high-demand field like cybersecurity.

Over on the West Coast, Superintendent John Snavely described Porterville Unified School District’s (PUSD) Linked Learning approach. This model combines rigorous academics, career-based classroom learning, work-based learning, and integrated student supports to propel students through relevant career pathways. With support from third-party intermediaries like Innovate Tulare-Kings, which engages regional business partners in Central California to connect students with experiential learning opportunities, PUSD has been able to continue the learning experience outside of the classroom.

The panel discussion can be viewed in its entirety here (beginning 22 minutes in).

Odds & Ends

  • The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released a useful FAQ resource for states as they make the transition to ESSA over the coming year.
  • USDE, along with 11 other federal agencies, re-released a letter of support for career pathways systems development. The letter has been updated to reflect WIOA’s statutory definition for a career pathway, reiterates the six key elements of a career pathway system, and provides a useful toolkit for implementation. More here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager and Austin Estes, Policy Associate 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: CTE Presidential Scholars Announced as ESSA Implementation Continues and Obama Administration Makes Skills Announcements

May 5th, 2016

United States CapitalYesterday the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) announced the 52nd class of U.S. Presidential Scholars that, for the first time since the program’s inception, now counts Career Technical Education (CTE) students among the nation’s highest achievers.

“We’ve added 20 more slots to honor our highest achieving students in career and technical education, reflecting the Department’s belief that a quality education must be a well-rounded education that prepares students for college, careers and any other civic service,” USDE Secretary John King said in a statement yesterday.

As we have shared previously, President Obama signed Executive Order 11155 last June— a move that expanded the existing Presidential Scholars program to include up to 20 CTE students as part of the program. Created in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson, the U.S. Presidential Scholars program identifies the nation’s highest-achieving students and honors them at an annual award ceremony in D.C. Advance CTE applauded the CTE expansion of this program and will continue to urge policymakers to raise the profile of CTE through efforts and initiatives such as this.

More info can be found here and a full list of Presidential scholars can be found here.

ESSA Implementation Continues

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)— a law that replaced No Child Left Behind and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act— states, districts, USDE, and other stakeholders have been busy figuring out the best way forward for implementing the new law.

While the defining theme of ESSA has been a devolution of policymaking authority from the federal level to the jurisdictions of states and local districts, USDE is still responsible for facilitating the development of a limited set of regulations to assist in the law’s ongoing roll-out. Known as “negotiated rulemaking”, this is a collaborative process by which a panel of stakeholders and USDE negotiate the terms of specific regulations required for ESSA implementation.

The panel was tasked with coming to consensus on issues affecting student assessments and the law’s “supplement, not supplant” requirement— a provision that requires that federal funds from ESSA not take the place of existing state and local spending, but rather supplement those efforts.

The panel was able to reach consensus on the issues related to assessment, but unfortunately not on supplement, not supplant rules. As a result, USDE will now write its own regulations on this issue setting up a likely fight with Congressional Republicans who have been vocally opposed to USDE’s proposals for the rule to date. Before publishing these rules for public comment, ESSA requires a fifteen day Congressional review period where these disagreements will likely be highlighted further.

Separate from the formal rulemaking process, USDE is also planning to develop non-regulatory guidance to further assist states, districts, and other stakeholders in implementing the new law. Although ESSA makes clear that such guidance cannot be “legally binding”, USDE hopes that this guidance can help the public understand the law better, provide a window into how the department interprets ESSA, and to provide examples of best practices to support implementation. The department is asking for input from the field on what topics this guidance should cover and recommendations can be submitted to essa.guidance@ed.gov. Comments must be submitted by May 25, 2016.

Advance CTE will continue to monitor and engage with implementation of ESSA in the coming year. A helpful timeline for that process can be found here.

White House Announces $100 Million in Free Community College Grants

On April 25, Vice President Joe Biden announced a plan to expand upon their America’s College Promise initiative with a $100 million competitive grant. The effort, which President Obama first proposed during his 2015 State of the Union address, aims to provide two years of free community college to eligible students — an ambition that has already spurred some 27 free community college programs across 15 states. Details about the timing and process for awarding grants are forthcoming, though the White House did release a fact sheet with information about its investments in postsecondary education and its wider skills agenda.

Department of Labor Launches $90 Million ApprenticeshipUSA Program

Separately, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) announced that it is now accepting applications for ApprenticeshipUSA, a $90 million grant competition to increase “job-driven” apprenticeships in the U.S. The first competition, which closes on May 15, makes available $9.5 million for State Accelerator Grants — state-level grants to expand access to and diversify participation in Registered Apprenticeships. States wishing to apply for an Accelerator Grant can find information such as the timeline and process for awarding grants here. USDOL plans to make an additional $50 million available to states later this spring and will invest the remaining $30 million to help employers launch and grow apprenticeship programs.

Odds & Ends

  • Recently, USDE circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter outlining various available funding streams that can be leveraged to support STEM education. The letter was sent to states, districts, schools, and other stakeholders and references the several permissible used of funds within the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) that can be used to support STEM education.
  • USDE also released a guidance letter that further clarifies its position on higher education accreditation following an executive action by President Obama last November that sought to improve upon current accreditation practices. The letter encourages accreditors to use standards that are based on student outcomes such as graduation, retention, and employment rates.
  • USDE announced the second round of its “Performance Pilot Partnerships” (P3), an initiative that waives certain requirements for some federal programs, such as the Perkins Act, to allow entities to braid funding and test innovative strategies targeted at disconnected youth. State and local governments, along with other stakeholders, are encouraged to express their intent to apply by May 26, 2016 and applications are due June 27, 2016. The full application announcement can be found here and USDE plans an informational webinar May 9th.
  • In partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, USDE announced $5.7 million in new grants aimed at providing CTE programs, reentry services, and training opportunities for students involved in the criminal justice system. USDE has also released a new toolkit for educators to support successful reentry of these students.

 Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager and Austin Estes, Policy Associate 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: Secretary King Continues to Make Rounds on Capitol Hill as a Bipartisan Group of 150 Lawmakers Express Support for Perkins Funding

March 28th, 2016

cherry-blossoms-at-jefferson-150x150Although Congress is out of session until the first week of April, lawmakers continued to examine the Obama Administration’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget just before their “Easter Recess” was set to begin late last week.

Newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Education John King appeared before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee last week to discuss his department’s proposed spending priorities contained in the President’s FY 2017 budget.

As we have shared previously, the Obama Administration proposed flat-funding for the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program— approximately $1.118 billion at current levels. Rather than proposing to fully fund the core formula grants that compose Perkins (which are still $5 million below “pre-sequester” levels) the Administration renewed its call for a new competitive grant program known as the “American Technical Training Fund” (ATTF).

Thus far Congressional lawmakers have met this proposal with measured skepticism. Members have been raising a number of concerns related to the ATTF and the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) other proposed CTE-related spending priorities, all of which would be made at the expense of fully investing in the Perkins Act.

During the House hearing last week Rep. Roby (R-AL) echoed these sentiments saying, “Rather than funding a large competitive grant, it seems to me that these funds would be better used to support state formula grants which would ensure more students are able to benefit from the CTE experience.” Rep. Womack (R-AR) also reiterated these concerns, questioning why USDE was proposing to fund a “new and unproven program” while failing to fully invest in its existing CTE commitments like Perkins.

The full hearing and related testimony can be viewed here.

Although the CTE-related spending priorities in the President’s FY 2017 budget have been disappointing, a group of 150 lawmakers have taken the opportunity to champion Perkins funding in the upcoming budget and appropriations cycle. In the House 118 members of Congress signed on in support of “pre-sequester” funding levels for the Perkins basic state grant program— a record number of signatures from both sides of the aisle. In the Senate, 32 Senators signed-on in support of a similar letter calling for the same funding levels in the upcoming appropriations process.

Advance CTE applauds these lawmakers for formally expressing their support of Perkins funding and a special note of thanks goes to House CTE Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) who lead these efforts in their respective chambers.

The letters can be viewed here and here. If your member of Congress signed-on in support of either of these appropriations letters, we encourage you to visit ACTE’s Action Center to send your lawmaker a note of thanks!

Perkins Reauthorization Efforts Continue

As we shared last October, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee began to formally consider the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. While these efforts have been overshadowed by higher profile issues such as the federal budget, the Supreme Court nomination process, and the upcoming Presidential elections, the committee’s consideration of Perkins has continued behind-the-scenes for much of this year. HELP Committee members have been working to expand upon the bipartisan Perkins reauthorization principles they released last fall and it is possible that this work could culminate in a draft bill as soon as the next few weeks.

In the House, formal consideration of Perkins is still in the early stages but it remains a significant priority for the House Education and the Workforce Committee this year.

As this work continues, Members of Congress have been working on smaller pieces of legislation that they hope will inform the wider reauthorization process. One such bill, the CTE Equity and Excellence Act (S. 2718), introduced by a handful of Senators on and off the HELP Committee proposes to amend Title II of Perkins to fund high school reform efforts by harnessing the potential of CTE to support greater student achievement. Advance CTE looks forward to working with these offices on a wider reauthorization effort where proposals such as this can be thoughtfully considered in the context of the entire legislation.

Odds & Ends

  • Congress passed the “Evidenced-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016” this month which would establish a committee to make recommendations for how the federal government can use data to evaluate federal programs and more effectively spend public resources. More coverage of the bill can found on the Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s blog. Read the full bill here.
  • The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing this month to explore current federal policies related to education research and student privacy. This hearing is part of a wider effort to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). More info can be found here and here.
  • USDE convened the first round of negotiated rulemaking this month to develop regulations to govern the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A number of topics are being discussed as part of these negotiations, most notably for the CTE community specifics related to ESSA’s new assessment framework and the implementation of the law’s new “supplement-not-supplant” spending requirements.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: Senate HELP Committee Moves Forward with John King Nomination as USDE Announces New Grant Opportunity

March 11th, 2016

United States CapitalOn Wednesday March 9th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted to advance President Obama’s nomination of John King to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. King has been in this position in an acting capacity since December 2015. As we shared earlier this week, King recently appeared before the committee to discuss the details of his nomination and make his case to members directly. The committee voted on a 16-6 margin to move forward with his nomination.

Later that same day, King visited the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center in Baltimore, Maryland to formally announce the U.S. Department of Education’ (USDE) new “Career and Technical Education (CTE) Makeover Challenge”. This competition will be administered by USDE to support the creation of “maker spaces”— dedicated space in high schools where students “have access to the tools to design, build, and innovate.” The competition is offering $200,000 in total prize money to 10 award recipients for this purpose and is being funded by USDE’s national programs funding via the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins).

The deadline for applications is April 1, 2016 and more information on how to apply can be found here.

During this announcement, Acting Secretary King also called on Congress to renew the Perkins Act saying, “It’s time for Congress to reauthorize the Perkins Act so that every student, in every community has access to rigorous, relevant, and results-driven CTE programs.”

Gainful Employment Regulations Survive Second Challenge

On Tuesday March 8th, a federal appeals court upheld USDE’s gainful employment regulations— rules that seek to hold career education programs accountable for students’ levels of debt and earnings.

The court rejected a second challenge from the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, ruling that USDE has the necessary legal authority to promulgate rules that measure students’ debt-to-earnings ratios and hold colleges accountable for those levels of student earnings and debt.

A previous iteration of this rule was struck down in federal court in 2012, forcing USDE to recraft them into their current version. Gainful employment regulations have been in effect since July 1, 2015 and this most recent decision by the courts makes it much more likely that the rules will stay in effect for the foreseeable future.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager  

Advance CTE Legislative Update: Acting U.S. Education Secretary Visits Capitol Hill as Perkins Funding Requests Begin to Circulate

March 8th, 2016

United States CapitalLast week, Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King participated in multiple congressional hearings to discuss the potential of the Senate formally confirming his position as Secretary (he has been “Acting” since December 2015), the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and the Administration’s most recent budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.

King first appeared before the House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) to highlight his department’s education priorities outlined in the President’s final budget request to Congress. As we shared earlier, the President proposed to fund the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program at approximately $1.118 billion in the upcoming fiscal year— the same amount the program has received since FY 2014 or about $5.4 million below “pre-sequester” levels. Instead the Administration renewed its proposal for an “American Technical Training Fund” (ATTF), a competitive grant program that would focus limited investments in shorter-term job training initiatives in high-demand sectors.

This type of proposal has been an enduring theme in the President’s past budgets and was one that could be found throughout the budget request this year— proposals for a series of many new or competitive programs at the expense of existing ones. Chairman John Kline (R-MN) expressed significant concerns about this at the outset of the hearing, arguing that these proposals were untested and would lead to “chronically underfunding” existing investments in education.

House CTE Caucus co-Chair Rep. Glen Thompson (R-PA) reiterated these concerns further into the hearing. Specifically he pressed the Acting Secretary to explain why the Administration had proposed the ATTF— which would only support 5-25 programs in the country according the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) own estimation— when it had reported the same week that many Career Technical Education programs throughout the country had waiting lists due to lack of capacity. King responded by highlighting the Admisntration’s “Next Generation High School” efforts, a separate proposal from ATTF.  Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) also expressed similar concerns about the ATTF proposal, particularly related to the challenges low-income communities would face when trying to compete for these grants.

Further in the week, King returned to HEW to talk about the ongoing implementation of ESSA. Here he focused his remarks on USDE’s plans for the law’s implementation over the coming few years and the specific resources his department was developing for these purposes. A new ESSA FAQ resource was published by USDE shortly after this hearing.

Later that same day, King appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as members there considered his nomination to formally serve as U.S. Secretary of Education for the remainder of President Obama’s time in office. During his remarks the Acting Secretary highlighted his experience as Commissioner of Education in New York and his efforts to expand CTE offerings in the state through a partnership with IBM and the expansion of their P-TECH program.

King also emphasized the need to reauthorize the Perkins Act saying, “Let’s make 2016 the year we transform career and technical education for the 21st century by driving innovation and quality.” The HELP committee is set to vote on his nomination in the coming weeks and it is widely expected that the full Senate will take his nomination up sometime following that.

Ask Your Members of Congress to Support Perkins Funding!

This month, Members of Congress in both Chambers will have the opportunity to voice their support for additional Perkins funding in the upcoming FY 2017 budget and appropriations process.

CTE Caucus co-Chairs Rep. Thompson (R-PA) and Langevin (D-RI) are currently circulating a letter in the House that calls for “pre-sequester” funding levels for Perkins in FY 2017— about $5.4m over what is currently being invested in the law’s basic state grant program. Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) is circulating a similar letter in the Senate with the same ask of Congressional appropriators in that chamber.

Perkins is the sole federal investment in CTE and provides foundational support for high-quality CTE programs found in every State and congressional district. However due to difficult decisions made over the past few years, Perkins funding has declined by 13 percent since FY 2007— approximately $170 million less now goes to support high schools, tech centers, and community colleges via the Perkins Act.

Advance CTE encourages you to reach your to your Members of Congress to urge them to sign-on in support of these letters. To do so, please visit the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) CTE Action Center to email your Representative and / or Senator and voice your support!

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Congress Renews ESEA and Passes an FY 2016 Funding Bill

December 23rd, 2015

United States CapitalJust before the first session of the 114th Congress was set to conclude, lawmakers passed two key pieces of legislation before heading back home for the holiday season. The first among these was a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act— the primary federal K-12 education law which has been due for reauthorization since 2007.

The “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) substantially rolls back federal authority and responsibilities within the context of the new law by providing states and local communities significant flexibility for how to implement the various components of ESSA. Earlier this month the House passed ESSA by a margin of 359 to 64, which was then taken up and passed by the Senate on a similar bipartisan margin of 85 to 12 shortly after, and was signed by the President last week formally enacting ESSA into law.

ESSA contains many promising Career Technical Education (CTE)-related provisions such as a strengthened requirement that state academic standards be aligned with state CTE standards, expanded college and career guidance programs, and an increased focus on CTE student performance data. Notably, a “well-rounded education”—a key concept that the law seeks to promote— now includes CTE as part of the statutory definition.

Implementation of ESSA is already underway, with some of the law’s new provisions going into effect within the next year. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has already started to unpack the new law, recently sending a Dear Colleague Letter to state education agencies, and soliciting input from the public for how best to implement some of ESSA’s key provisions. Comments on this solicitation are due no later than January 21, 2016. USDE has also created a dedicated email for stakeholders to ask questions regarding ESSA implementation as the Department begins to develop guidance for the law’s implementation: essa.questions@ed.gov

Earlier this week ESSA was officially enrolled and is now available to view in its entirety here. NASDCTEc applauds the passage of this landmark legislation and is looking forward to the upcoming implementation process where states and local school districts will have several key opportunities to coordinate, align, and strengthen supports for CTE.

Congress Approves Massive $1.1t Spending Bill

Throughout most of 2015, Congress has struggled to come to consensus on how to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. After missing the initial FY 2016 funding deadline on October 1, Congress passed a series of stop-gap measures— known as continuing appropriations resolutions (CR)— that temporarily extended previous FY 2015 funding levels in an effort to avert a government shutdown this past autumn. These CRs also served the dual purpose of providing additional time for lawmakers to negotiate a broader agreement on federal spending for the remainder of FY 2016.

This negotiation process unfolded in two interrelated stages. Following the passage of the first CR in October, Congress and the Obama Administration announced and later ratified a two-year budget deal that provided much-needed relief from the Budget Control Act’s sequester caps— current legislative requirements that constrain federal spending on domestic programs, such as the Perkins Act’s basic state grant (BSG) program, into the next decade. This agreement increased these caps for FY 2016 and FY 2017, but left the important task of designating specific funding amounts for programs to separate appropriations legislation.

Last week, this type of agreement— known as an omnibus that combines several appropriations bills into one comprehensive spending package—was unveiled by Congressional negotiators last week and quickly passed by both Chambers before the President signed the measure into law.

The omnibus provides level funding for the Perkins Act BSG program for FY 2016 and restores earlier proposed cuts to the law’s national programs section, which supports CTE research and technical assistance projects. While other education and workforce development programs received modest funding increases from this legislation, those programs are largely authorized by laws that were recently renewed by Congress such as ESSA and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)— a fact that underscores the importance of Congress taking up Perkins reauthorization in the second session of the 114th Congress.

Odds & Ends

  • New Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King visited Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, PA last week to tour the school’s CTE programs. More on the visit here.
  • The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and IBM called for the reauthorization of the Perkins Act in a U.S. News and World Report Op-Ed this week. Read the piece here.
  • The Technical Education and Career Help (TEACH) Act was introduced last week in the House— a companion bill to the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act introduced earlier this year in the Senate. The bill aims to strengthen the CTE teacher pipeline by supporting partnerships between LEAs and teacher preparation programs among other positive provisions. Read the bill here.
  • USDE recently announced that they will host a webinar on their ongoing “Experimental Site” initiative for dual and concurrent enrollment programs on January 13, 2016. Letters of interest are due no later than February 1, 2016 and additional information on this particular Ex-Site effort is located here. Register for the webinar here.
  • The Workforce Data Quality Campaign recently released its second annual “Mastering the Blueprint” report which assesses state progress towards strengthening and expanding their workforce data infrastructure. Read the report here.

 Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Congress Aims to Move Past No Child Left Behind as Funding Deadline Edges Closer Once More

November 24th, 2015

United States CapitalCongressional negotiators have announced an agreement on the long overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)— the law formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Due for reauthorization since 2007, lawmakers have struggled to find consensus for how to address NCLB’s most readily apparent flaws while honoring its long legislative legacy rooted in the civil rights movement.

As we shared earlier this summer, both the House  and the Senate passed respective bills to reauthorize ESEA. Since that time both Chambers have been working on a bipartisan and bicameral basis to develop a framework agreement that would serve as the basis for a compromise between the two proposals. Last week that framework was announced along with the creation of a formal conference committee— a move that has been exceptionally rare over the past decade.

ESEA conferees were announced last week and met twice before approving this framework (along with a few amendments) last Thursday by a margin of 39-1. A summary of this framework agreement— now known as the “Every Child Succeeds Act” or ESSA— can be found here.

It is important to note that this agreed upon framework must now be turned into a final bill and Congressional staff are now busy translating the aspects of this agreement into formal legislative text. That text must then be approved by both Chambers of Congress and signed into law by the President. The conference report and final text of ESSA is expected to be available on November 30th. The House is expected to consider the legislation shortly after this followed by the Senate. Lawmakers are aiming for final passage before the end of this December.

While the official legislative text has not been finalized, ESSA seeks to significantly roll-back the federal role in K-12 education by providing states broad authority (and flexibility) for how to implement the law. A broad overview of the agreement’s main contours can be found here.

NASDCTEc will provide a detailed analysis of ESSA’s CTE-related provisions of interest once it has been finalized and will continue to keep the CTE community abreast of this ongoing reauthorization effort.

Congress Passes Budget Agreement Providing Temporary Relief from Sequester Caps

As we shared previously, Congress passed and the President signed into law the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015” (BBA) which provides $80 billion in sequester relief over the next two fiscal years by temporarily raising current limits on federal spending (known as sequester caps) through FY 2017 for both defense and non-defense discretionary programs.

The deal also suspends, but does not raise the nation’s “debt ceiling” through March 15, 2017 putting the twin issues of federal spending and the nation’s debt limit off until after the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

Currently the federal government is operating on a “continuing appropriations resolution” (CR) which temporarily extended FY 2015 funding levels into the current 2016 federal fiscal year which began on October 1st of this year. This CR expires on December 11th, 2015 and Congress must act before that time to pass funding legislation to avert another government shutdown.

Although the BBA agreement provides an overall increase for how much funding is available to Congressional appropriators for federal Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017, those same lawmakers must still pass separate legislation designating specific dollar amounts for individual agencies and departments which administer federal programs such as the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins).

That process is currently underway and ahead of it NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees urging them to restore Perkins funding to at least pre-sequestration levels or $1.123 billion for the law’s basic state grant program.

As a reminder Perkins derives its funding from the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill whose subcommittee has been given an overall allocation of $161.69 billion—a $5 billion increase over the FY 2015 level. That extra $5 billion in the FY 2016 Labor-HHS-ED 302(b) allocation must now be divided up among many programs, including Perkins, that are all competing for a portion of these newly available funds.

In an effort to ensure that Perkins funding is restored through this process, please be sure to contact your member of Congress to remind them about the importance of investing in CTE.  As the federal appropriations process continues and the December 11th deadline draws closer, be sure to check back here for more updates on Perkins funding.

Postsecondary CTE Bills Introduced in the House

Earlier this month two separate proposals to boost federal financial aid support for postsecondary CTE programs were introduced in the House.

The first of these, known as the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, was introduced by Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI). The JOBS Act is a companion bill to an earlier Senate proposal sponsored by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The legislation aims to change current program edibility requirements for the federal Pell grant program to serve more students who are enrolled in qualifying shorter-term postsecondary CTE programs.

The CTE Opportunity Act, another companion bill to an earlier Senate proposal, was recently introduced by Reps. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Ryan Costello (R-PA). House CTE Caucus co-Chairs Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) also cosponsored this bill which would increase access to federal financial aid available under Title IV of the Higher Education Act for qualifying shorter-term postsecondary CTE programs. Read more about the legislation here.

NASDCTEc supported both of these proposals and looks forward to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act where this policy recommendation and many more can be fully realized.

Odds & Ends

  • The Obama Administration recently announced a new experimental site program (made available under HEA) that will expand eligibility for the federal Pell grant program to students who are concurrently or dually enrolled in postsecondary coursework. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) is currently inviting applications from qualifying programs for the 2016-17 academic year and hopes to support up to 10,000 students. More here.
  • USDE’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) recently announced a new initiative titled “Potential Role of Secondary Career and Technical Education Programs in Preparing Students for Apprenticeship Programs”. The National Career Technical Education Foundation (NCTEF) has been selected to provide support to this project and more on this announcement can be found here.
  • USDE has also recently unveiled a new transparency agenda aimed at improving the postsecondary accreditation system. Read more about the effort here.
  • The Obama Administration announced more than $375 million in public and private funding to support “Next-Generation” high schools—an effort to fundamentally redesign the high school experience by focusing on many of the elements contained in a high-quality CTE program of study. More on the announcement here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

This Week in CTE: ESEA Edition

November 19th, 2015

TWEET OF THE WEEK

ARTICLE(S) OF THE WEEK

House, Senate Conferees Endorse Deal to Replace No Child Left Behind
Lawmakers from the House and Senate met Thursday and by a vote of 39 to 1 endorsed legislation to replace No Child Left Behind. Next up is a vote by the House on December 2 before it heads to the Senate. The new legislation is all about the states, shifting accountability systems away from the Federal level, creating a grant program to help serve low-income children, and allowing states to cap standardized testing.
Read More

The New ESEA, in a Single Table
Though the full text won’t be released until November 30, Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute charts what provisions may have been eliminated or survived the new ESEA bill.
Take a Look

RESOURCE OF THE WEEK

Want to know where NASDCTEc stands on ESEA? Check out our ESEA recommendations and follow our Legislative Updates on the Learning that Works Blog.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

 

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