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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 

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Senate Begins Consideration of Perkins Reauthorization as House Elects a new Speaker and Congress Inches Closer to Budget Deal

October 30th, 2015

United States CapitalLast week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee formally began to consider the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). As has been the case since the 113th Congress, Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Bob Casey (D-PA) have been designated by the committee to lead efforts to renew this important law.

These two Senators, along with HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), have all recently agreed to a set of eight bipartisan principles that will be used to guide their efforts to reauthorize the Perkins Act:

  1. Make it easier for States and locals to run their CTE programs to serve all students who desire to gain access to CTE coursework, including students with disabilities;
  2. Increase access to, and support of, career counseling for all CTE students;
  3. Maintain Perkins as a formula program;
  4. Align with ESEA and WIOA (where applicable) to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the education and workforce development programs;
  5. Support the expansion of public/private collaborations with secondary and post-secondary programs, including alignment with State or locally-determined in-demand industries and occupations;
  6. Support efforts to integrate into and strengthen career pathways at the state and local levels;
  7. Address unfunded programs; and
  8. Improve evaluation and research to support innovation and best practices.

 

This week groups were asked to submit specific recommendations to the committee for the law’s renewal. NASDCTEc, in conjunction with the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), submitted substantial legislative recommendations to the committee earlier this week based on our board-approved Perkins recommendations. A crosswalk of this submission with the above principles is available here, information related to Title I & II recommendations can be found here and here, and a document highlighting points of intersection between this proposal and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act can be accessed here.

So far no firm timeline has been set for a formal bill to renew Perkins. As with the Perkins-related hearing in the House this past Tuesday, these are just the first steps in what will likely be a much longer reauthorization process.

As things continue to evolve, be sure to check back here for more Perkins updates and analysis.

House Resolves Leadership Impasse and Passes a Bipartisan Budget Deal

As we’ve been sharing, the House of Representatives has been struggling to find a replacement for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) following his surprise resignation announcement in September.

Last week the House GOP began to coalesce around House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as their preferred replacement for Speaker Boehner. Yesterday morning, the full chamber moved to elect Rep. Paul “D.” Ryan, elevating him to the Speaker of the House.

Competing for attention during the month-long melodrama of the House leadership race has been continued partisan disagreements on how to fund the federal government past December 11th and avert a catastrophic national debt default. Both of these issues, and many more, seem set to be resolved with the announcement earlier this week that Republican Congressional leaders and President Obama had reached a wide ranging agreement on federal spending and the nation’s borrowing limit.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA) would provide approximately $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. These increases would be split between defense and non-defense discretionary programs, potentially providing additional funding for programs—such as the Perkins Act basic state grant— over the next two years. The deal also suspends, but does not raise the nation’s “debt ceiling” through March 15, 2017. Both aspects of the BBA would push ongoing partisan disagreements over federal spending and the nation’s debt limit until well after the upcoming Presidential election.

This Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to pass the BBA on a margin of 266-167—a move made possible by Speaker Boehner’s imminent departure (a substantial portion of the House Republican Caucus did not support the measure which is at odds with an informal Republican Caucus rule that no legislation be considered unless a majority of the majority supports a bill).

The BBA now moves to the Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has filed a cloture motion that will allow the full chamber to vote on the legislation sometime this Sunday or late on Monday.

While the BBA is an extremely positive step in the right direction, the legislation simply creates a broad framework for federal spending. Once passed, Congressional appropriators will need to establish new 302(b) allocations— the amount of money made available for each portion of the federal budget— for each of the necessary individual spending bills. This includes the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill where the Perkins Act draws its funding.

Put another way, the BBA will make more money available for federal discretionary programs like Perkins, but Congress must pass separate appropriations legislation to make that a reality. The new availability of funds should make it easier for appropriators to restore the massive cuts to education that were proposed by both the House and the Senate earlier in the year. However, the discussions over specific funding levels for programs like Perkins will only get started once Congress passes the BBA, so full restoration is by no means assured. These pieces of legislation, or a larger package including all or some of them, would replace the current “continuing resolution” that is funding federal programs through December 11th.

As the Congressional appropriations process continues, be sure to check back here for the likely impact on Perkins funding and much more.

Odds & Ends

  • Last week, the Senate CTE Caucus hosted a briefing with CNA Education who presented findings from a comparative case study on CTE programs in Tennessee and Florida. An executive summary of the report can be accessed here.
  • First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative recently announced a campaign to encourage more 14-19 year olds to pursue some form of education beyond high school. More can be found at bettermakeroom.org.
  • The Obama Administration is facilitating a national conversation on transforming high schools to better serve all students. Additional information can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: House Education Committee Holds Perkins Reauthorization Hearing

October 28th, 2015

United States CapitalYesterday morning, the House Education and the Workforce (HEW) Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education hosted the chamber’s first hearing related to the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) in the 114th Congress. This hearing is part of the HEW Committee’s larger efforts to reauthorize the law which has been due for renewal for several years.

The hearing titled, “Improving Career and Technical Education to Help Students Succeed in the Workforce” gave a platform to four expert witnesses to provide insights and perspectives on a number of important issues related to the CTE enterprise:

  • Dr. Deneece G. Huftalin, President, Salt Lake Community College (SLCC)
  • Dr. Douglas Major, Superintendent/CEO, Meridian Technology Center (MTC)
  • Dr. Irelene Ricks, Director, Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Mr. Tim Johnson, Director of Government Relations, National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)

On the whole, the hearing focused primarily on specific efforts, initiatives, and programs in the CTE space that could be looked to as models for renewing aspects of the Perkins Act. Subcommittee Chairman, Todd Rokita (R-IN) framed the day’s discussion by talking about Congress’ bipartisan effort to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) last year and the need to align Perkins to portions of that law in order to address the nation’s skills gap.

Dr. Huftalin kicked the day’s panel off by talking about SLCC’s innovative partnership with the Boeing Company—a relationship that evolved into the impressive Utah Aerospace Pathways program which strongly aligns secondary and postsecondary CTE coursework with the needs of the state’s aviation industry. As Dr. Huftalin pointed out in her remarks that, “Perkins funding was crucial for SLCC’s ability to maintain and grow key CTE programs for our students at a time when our enrollment was rapidly increasing.”

Former ACTE President and current leader of Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Dr. Major followed by highlighting the critical importance of career exploration to his center’s success and called for the next iteration of Perkins to increase flexibility in supporting career awareness and guidance activities.

Dr. Ricks focused her comments on the need for Perkins to more seamlessly connect with state and local efforts to develop career pathways. She also emphasized CTE’s significant impact on student graduation rates, noting that minority student populations who have higher rates of high school non-completion would stand to benefit immensely from strong support for CTE programs via the Perkins Act.

Rounding off the opening statements was Mr. Johnson of NCCER who focused his remarks on the need for CTE programs to partner closely with members of the local business community. He also touched on the need to strengthen the CTE teacher pipeline in future legislation succinctly noting in part that, “. . . it’s easier to turn a pipefitter into a teacher than it is to turn a teacher into a pipefitter.”

Following these opening statements, the hearing was opened up to questions from committee members. HEW Chairman Kline (R-MN) questioned the witnesses on the extent to which they have partnered or engaged with the Workforce Development Boards authorized under WIOA. HEW Ranking Member Scott (D-VA) pursued a line of questioning focused on the need to ensure that CTE and core academics were appropriately integrated.

A large part of the discussion centered on the need to adequately fund CTE and the Perkins Act with House CTE-Caucus co-chair Rep. Langevin (D-RI) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Fudge (D-OH) each noting the negative impact that sequestration has had on the Perkins Act basic state grant program and the ability of CTE programs to meet increasing demand. Rep. Carter (R-GA) questioned whether moving Perkins to a competitive funding structure would address these concerns—all four witnesses strongly rejected this idea as it would undermine Perkins’ foundational support for CTE programs throughout the country.

Rep. Fudge, along with Reps. Clark (D-MA) and Bishop (R-MI) each had questions on how to effectively harness labor market information to ensure CTE programs relate to the needs of the economy. Another important dynamic of these discussions focused on how to appropriately balance the short-term job training needs of employers with the longer-term educational needs of students.

While much of the day’s conversation revolved around Perkins and CTE’s role in workforce development efforts, Rep. Bonamici (D-OR) reminded her colleagues that “the ‘E’ part in CTE stands for education, so we’re not trying to convert education into job training. This is about educating students to be prepared for whatever path they choose” as a way to bring the conversation back to how to most effectively support students for lifelong career success.

House CTE-Caucus co-chair and long-time champion of CTE in Congress, Rep. Thompson (R-PA) expanded on Dr. Major’s earlier point on the need for greater federal support for career counseling and advisement. He also emphasized the importance of engaging parents and families as a way to overcome lingering stigmas related to CTE.

Subcommittee Chairman Rokita ended the hearing with a simple question to the witnesses—‘what needs to be fixed in the Perkins Act?’

Dr. Huftalin focused her answer on future legislation more effectively aligning current Perkins accountability metrics to other federal programs and Dr. Ricks spoke about the need to better engage minority serving institutions at the secondary and postsecondary levels. Significantly, Dr. Major recommended to lawmakers that the next Perkins Act should focus on quality and called for future legislation to fund programs that are meeting minimum thresholds of excellence to ensure that students and employers alike benefit from high-quality CTE.

Watch the archived video of the hearing here. More information on everything else, included written testimony, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

New State Policy Resources: Work-based Learning, State Snapshots

October 27th, 2015

Setting a Statewide Vision for Work-based Learning WBLthumbnail

In recent years, work-based learning has been garnering much attention at the national, state and local levels as an effective strategy for connecting students’ classroom learning to their career interests.

In a new series, “Connecting the Classroom to Careers: The State’s Role in Expanding Work-based Learning,” NASDCTEc explores the important role for states in expanding high-quality work-based learning opportunities for all students, with a particular focus on untangling the major barriers at the K-12 level.

Today, we are releasing our first installment in this series, “Setting a Statewide Vision for Work-based Learning,” with key questions and resources for policymakers and a closer look at how one state used a progressive, skills-based vision to overhaul work-based learning.

NASDCTEc State Policy Tools Updated

On careertech.org, we offer state policy resources that help demonstrate what CTE looks like across the country. We have recently updated some of these resources, including our state-specific snapshots and state web profiles.

State Snapshots
Our newly revamped State Snapshots are great resources to help illustrate what CTE looks like in your state, and are designed to be great printable “leave-behind” documents when making the case for CTE. The snapshots use state and national data to show how CTE works for students, the economy and the nation.

You can find your state’s snapshots here. While you’re there, be sure to check out NASDCTEc’s entire suite of fact sheets and case-making materials designed to help explain CTE’s most important issues including student achievement, programs of study and the skills gap.

State Web Profiles
We have also provided some new updates to the CTE in Your State tool, which provides data and information about CTE in each state. Our newest round of updates includes the most recent secondary and postsecondary enrollment, institutional and performance data from the U.S. Department of Education. We’ve also added a section to explain how CTE is delivered in each state. As a special feature of NASDCTEc members, you can compare multiple states to see trends.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Focus Shifts to Higher Ed as ESEA Work Continues Amid Duncan Retirement

October 16th, 2015

United States CapitalA lot has happened over the past few weeks on Capitol Hill, particularly with regards to Congressional efforts to reauthorize key pieces of legislation for K-12 and postsecondary education. With fall in full swing, we wanted to take a moment to re-cap all of the activity over the past few weeks as we look ahead for what the rest of the year has in store for the Career Technical Education (CTE) community. Below is Part II in a two-part series of autumnal legislative updates.

Senate CTE Caucus Highlights Importance of CTE within HEA

Late last month, the Senate Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus hosted a briefing for congressional staff titled “Postsecondary Pathways to Success: Strengthening Career and Technical Education in the Higher Education Act.” John Cech, Deputy Commissioner for Academic and Student Affairs for the Montana University System who is also a NASDCTEc member and State CTE Director for Montana, participated in this briefing.

John’s remarks grounded the panel’s discussion with a sense of relevancy and urgency saying, in part, “. . . the basic infrastructure of our society depends largely on our nation’s ability to produce new graduates at the two-year college level, in addition to the university degrees that are the traditional focus of the national postsecondary dialogue.”

The panel had four overarching recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) which would infuse the law with a much-needed focus on CTE:

  • Expand Title IV financial aid access to support shorter-term CTE programs that lead to high-growth, high-demand industries and careers
  • Reinstate year-round Pell and introduce other provisions that expand student access to federal financial aid to accelerate student learning and increase rates of completion
  • Ensure that the next iteration of HEA supports innovative practices in postsecondary education such as competency-based education
  • And finally, give strong consideration to dedicated funding opportunities within HEA for two-year colleges similar to the now expired Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program

Duncan Makes for the Exit as ESEA Work Continues

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that he will resign from his post at the end of the year. Duncan is the longest serving cabinet member in the Obama Administration and came into the position after serving as CEO of Chicago Public Schools for seven years.

John B. King Jr., who has been Deputy Secretary of Education since January of this year, will replace Duncan as the next Secretary of Education pending Senate approval.

Duncan’s tenure as the head of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), particularly the ESEA flexibility system granting waivers to states from many provisions contained in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has been one of the main motivations behind Congressional activity to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this year.

As we have shared previously, both Chambers of Congress were successful in passing rewrites of the law earlier this summer. Currently, lawmakers from the Senate and House Education Committees have been engaged in conference negotiations to reconcile the differences between the two bills. These discussions are still ongoing.

More recently, Democratic Senators Murphy (D-CT), Warren (D-MA), and Booker (D-NJ) hosted a roundtable discussion with Secretary Duncan and Deputy Secretary King focused on accountability issues within ESEA reauthorization. Holding states and local communities accountable for student achievement has been one of the most polarizing issues during the reauthorization process for ESEA and many Congressional Democrats, along with the White House, hope to strengthen such accountability provisions in a final bill when conference negotiations wrap-up.

Despite the progress being made in ESEA conference negotiations, a pathway forward for a bill containing stronger accountability requirements than what is currently in either the Senate or the House rewrites— something the Obama Administration and many Democrats would like to see— remains an uphill battle. As with much of the Congressional agenda this fall, the outcome of the race to replace Speaker Boehner will likely have a significant impact on ESEA’s chances of passage in the 114th Congress. As the Thomas B. Fordham Institute points out, ESEA’s chances are a hard “maybe” at this point.

Obama Administration Pushes Forward on a Number of Higher Ed Initiatives

Congressional efforts to reauthorize HEA are still ongoing and in lieu of a comprehensive proposal from Congress, the Obama Administration has continued to prioritize higher education issues. For instance the Office of Management and Budget, recently released the Admisntration’s final set of ‘Agency Priority Goals’ which outlines ED’s objective to increase the percentage of adults aged 25-34 who have an associate’s degree or higher to nearly 50 percent by 2017.

Late in September, ED also released much anticipated guidance for experimental sites who are pursuing innovative models of awarding federal financial aid for competency-based education (CBE) programs. These sites were first announced in 2014 as part of the experimental sites initiative authorized under HEA. The new “CBE Experiment Reference Guide” can be used both for the institutions and accrediting bodies participating in the initiative, as well as for institutions who might like to pursue CBE programs in the future. More information on the guidance can be found here. U.S. Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell has also announced that ED intends to expand this initiative by the end of the year.

Another round the experimental sites initiative was announced earlier this week. Named the “Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships” (EQUIP) experiment, ED is currently soliciting applications to support partnerships between colleges and universities and “non-traditional” providers of education, such as shorter-term job training programs or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Eligible programs would need to lead to a degree or certificate, articulate to academic credit, and be aligned to high-demand, high-growth economic sectors. More information on the announcement here.

Earlier this summer, the White House celebrated innovation within CTE and First Lady Michelle Obama announced that ED and her office’s “Reach Higher Initiative” would work together to launch a mobile app development challenge to create a user friendly tool for students to learn more about career pathways and other educational opportunities available to them. This month the First Lady officially launched the competition, making available $225,000. Applications are due no later than December 6, 2015—more information on the challenge can be found here and here.

Odds & Ends

  • More than eighty colleges and universities announced their collective commitment to a new, more holistic, college application process that focuses more on student portfolios of work and less on entrance exams. More on the effort here.
  • Senators Bennet (D-CO) and Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Higher Education Innovation Act, a bill that would create a five-year pilot program that offers an alternative pathway, focused on student outcomes, for institutional accreditation and related access to federal financial aid. Read the press release here.
  • Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs, Kaine (D-VA), Portman (R-OH), and Baldwin (D-WI), along with Senator Capito (R-WV), introduced the “Creating Quality Technical Educators Act”. The bill would expand HEA’s teacher residency grant program to support more schools in recruiting and preparing CTE teachers by strengthening partnerships between secondary and postsecondary institutions. NASDCTEc endorsed and supported this legislation and more on the bill can be found here.
  • The STEM Education Act was signed into law by President Obama late last week. The legislation formalizes computer science within the statutory definition for “STEM education” which is used for grant making opportunities through many federal agencies. More on the bill can be found here.
  • The Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), and Higher Ed for Higher Standards (HEHS) announced yesterday that they will partner together to implement higher academic standards in secondary school to more effectively prepare students for college and career success. More information is available here and here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Retirements and Resignations Abound as Deadlines Loom and Congress Passes Short-Term Perkins Funding

October 15th, 2015

United States CapitalA lot has happened over the past few weeks on Capitol Hill, particularly with regards to Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding and recent shake-ups in Congressional leadership. With fall in full swing, we wanted to take a moment to re-cap all of the activity over the past few weeks as we look ahead for what the rest of the year has in store for the Career Technical Education (CTE) community. Below is Part I in a two-part series of autumnal legislative updates.

Speaker Boehner Announces His Retirement 

Late last month, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced that he we would resign from Congress at the end of October. This surprise announcement set off a chain of events over the past several weeks that has already begun to have wide-ranging consequences for nearly every facet of the Congressional agenda—a list that has grown increasingly long as lawmakers delay action on important issues such as raising the nation’s debt limit and funding federal government operations past this December.

Up until last week, Speaker Boehner’s likely successor was current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). McCarthy was favored by most of the Republican establishment to replace Boehner, but a vocal conservative bloc of the Republican Party— known as the “Freedom Caucus”— strongly opposed his candidacy. Despite this opposition and with a few other less plausible candidates in the running for Speaker, McCarthy was set to announce last Thursday that he had secured the necessary 218 votes within his Party to ensure his rise to Speaker of the House.

However instead of making this announcement, the Majority Leader abruptly announced that he was no longer seeking the Speaker’s gavel. Since that time there has been an extraordinary level of uncertainty regarding who will lead the House Republican Caucus moving forward. Speaker Boehner has made clear that he will stay on in his current role until a replacement is found, but an election to determine who that will be has been postponed indefinitely.

At present it is unclear who will fill this role in the coming weeks or even months. Any viable candidate for the job will have the unenviable task of balancing the increasingly opposed interests of two influential wings of the Republican Party all while trying to avoid a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt if Congress does not act to raise the federal government’s borrowing limit by November 5th—a deadline laid out by the U.S. Treasury Department that is fast approaching.

The intraparty division in the Republican Party is equal parts ideology and political approach. Staunch conservative elements in the GOP are pushing for a new Speaker who would be willing to use the debt limit deadline and the need to fund the federal government later this year as leverage to advance a legislative agenda that is completely anathema to Congressional Democrats and President Obama. More “establishment” Republicans have been less willing to use these twin deadlines as a political tool, calculating that the risks of going over a “fiscal cliff” (failing to raise the debt ceiling and / or causing a government shutdown) far outweigh the potential benefits.

Finding a candidate for Speaker who is able to placate these opposing factions has resulted in the current impasse in finding a suitable replacement candidate and has had a rather ironic short-term consequence— ensuring that Speaker Boehner remains in the top post of the House Republican leadership for the foreseeable future.

Congress Passes Short-Term Perkins Funding Bill

Right after Speaker Boehner’s announcement late last month, Congress was still struggling to pass appropriations legislation to fund the federal government. As we shared previously, both Chambers of Congress completed the 12 necessary funding bills that fund all federal programs. Despite this progress, these pieces of legislation all adhered to the sequester caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA)—a harmful program of austerity that imposes tight restrictions on federal spending well into the next decade.

Because these bills would maintain sequestration and continue to perpetuate a path of federal disinvestment in education and programs like the Perkins Act, President Obama signaled that he would not sign them into law. Since that time, the bills have been in limbo and lawmakers have been unable to come to an agreement for how to fund the federal government for the upcoming 2016 fiscal year—something that was set to begin on October 1st.

With only days left to pass legislation to fund these programs and avert a government shutdown, the Senate acted first passing a measure known as a continuing appropriations resolution (CR) to provide temporary funding for the federal government through December 11th. After passing through the Senate by a wide margin (78-20), Speaker Boehner’s resignation announcement helped to ensure that this short-term stopgap measure was able to pass through the House (277-151), albeit with significant Republican opposition.

While this CR is meant to extend current FY 2015 spending levels for the next few months—including for the Perkins Act basic state grant program— a 0.2108 percent across-the-board spending reduction was needed to keep funding levels within the BCA sequester caps. Since Perkins funding is treated a bit differently than most other federal funds, this spending cut has retroactively impacted state grants from FY 2015 which were just distributed on October 1st. As a result, thirty states received slightly lower allocations than what they had previously budgeted for, all because Congress failed for the second year in a row to pass comprehensive legislation funding federal programs for the full fiscal year.

As mentioned this particular CR will fund the federal government until December 11th at which time Congress must act again to pass additional legislation to avert another wasteful government shutdown. As a reminder the last time Congress failed to act to fund the federal government it cost U.S. taxpayers $24 billion.

While the reduction to Perkins funding and other education programs may be small, future legislation is still needed to replace this CR. NASDCTEc is continuing to work with its partners in D.C. to urge lawmakers to pass comprehensive funding legislation that would replace the current CR (and the related 0.2108 percent cut) while possibly providing relief from the harmful effects of the sequester caps.

Complicating Congress’ ability to accomplish this is the continued uncertainty regarding House Republican leadership and an even more pressing deadline that is fast approaching—the need to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by November 5th. The last time Congress flirted with the idea of not raising this limit as way to extract political concessions on unrelated issues, credit agencies downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time ever and Congress passed through the BCA legislation and with it sequestration—something lawmakers at the time did not expect would ever go into full effect.

In order to move forward constructively, Congressional leaders and President Obama must come to a broader agreement on federal spending that would empower Congressional appropriators to design longer-term comprehensive legislation that would fund federal operations for a year or even two years—a scenario that is still very much fluid as of today.

As things continue to evolve, be sure to check back here for additional updates and analysis. Part II of this legislative update will be available tomorrow.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Obama Administration Announces College Scorecard and Apprenticeship Grants as Congress Edges Closer to Funding Deadline

September 17th, 2015

United States CapitalEarlier this year, the Obama Administration announced its intention to create a college ratings system where postsecondary institutions would be sorted into three broad categories of high, medium, and low performing schools. Many stakeholder groups, including NASDCTEc, provided feedback on this proposal to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and many groups had significant reservations about the newly proposed effort.

After taking these comments into consideration, ED announced earlier this summer that they would change direction with this initiative and create a new public-facing information tool that would make institution specific information available to consumers to make more informed choices about their postsecondary education options without making a value judgement.

Last week, the Department released this tool, known as the College Scorecard which is now available on their website. The tool offers information on an institution’s costs, graduation rates, the percentage of students receiving federal aid, and significantly, the median earnings of graduates 10 years after completion. Most of this information comes with caveats—as a related technical paper from ED notes, the earnings information only covers those students receiving federal grants or loans, includes graduates and non-completers alike, and excludes currently enrolled students.

More detailed information on the scorecard can be found via the Workforce Data Quality Campaign of which NASDCTEc is a national partner.

While the scorecard is a significant step in the right direction, more can still be done to improve upon this work such as refocusing the effort to look at program-level data where it would be far more useful to students and their families. In the coming weeks, NASDCTEc plans to work with its partners to provide comment on the scorecard and will continue to think through ways in which the tool could be improved.

Administration Announces More Funding for Apprenticeships

Another big development happened last Wednesday when President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced the 46 grantees for this year’s U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) American Apprenticeship grant program (AAG). Using Macomb Community College in Michigan as a backdrop for the announcement, this $175 million investment is part of the Admisntration’s wider effort to double the number of apprenticeships in the country—a realistic goal considering the U.S. lags behind nearly every other advanced country when it comes to participation in apprenticeships. While this is the second year for the AAG program, the Admisntration’s move to increase the amount of funding available by an additional $75 million underscores their strong commitment to what they’ve dubbed the “earn and learn” model for the coming years.

The grantees plan to create training opportunities for 34,000 apprenticeships at these 46 public-private partnerships, mostly in areas such as advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology while scaling up many existing programs in construction, transportation, and energy over the next few years. Many of the grantees plan to develop or build upon existing state or local career pathways, sector partnerships, and the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium initiative that have boosted activity in this area throughout the country in recent years.

For instance, the Illinois Advance Apprenticeship Consortium grant, which will receive $3.9 million in grant funding, plans to create 600 new apprenticeship positions that link to the state’s career pathway initiative, in order to create new on and off ramps for students to pursue these opportunities.

NASDCTEc applauds the Admisntration’s commitment to investing in the nation’s workforce and looks forward to the work that lies ahead as these grants start to reap benefits for students across the country. More information on the announcement can be found here and here.

Administration Launches “Heads Up America” Campaign and Continues to Push College Promise Proposal

Apprenticeships were only half of the conversation when President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden spoke at Macomb Community College last week. The President has continued to advocate for his America’s College Promise proposal which would make the first two years of college tuition free for qualifying students.

As part of that effort, the President has announced the creation of an independent advisory board for this effort, chaired by Dr. Jill Biden and former Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer, to convene like-minded postsecondary leaders, share best practices and models for the effort’s expansion, and to serve as recruiting tool to get more individuals involved in the work to expand the initiative throughout states and local communities. A full list of the board members is located here.

To that end, one of the core functions of this new board will be to spearhead a public awareness and grassroots campaign called “Heads Up America”. The goal of this effort is to spread awareness about community colleges and to create a nationwide movement to support the President’s call for lawmakers to take action on his America’s College Promise proposal. More information on this effort can be found here.

Odds & Ends

  • With the Fiscal Year 2016 funding deadline on September 30th fast approaching, lawmakers are currently working to avoid a government shutdown over Republican opposition to any funding measure that contains support for Planned Parenthood. While no deal has been reached as of today, the likelihood of a temporary stop-gap spending measure, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, is growing increasingly likely. NASDCTEc will provide further information about that process next week.
  • The Workforce Data Quality Campaign hosted a Congressional briefing on the need to more effectively leverage education and workforce data to improve education and employment outcomes for students. The briefing also examined ways in which data systems could be improved, from local, state, and federal perspectives. More information on the event can be found here.
  • Chairman John Kline (R-MN) of the House Education and Workforce Committee recently announced that he will not seek reelection in 2016. While he will remain Chair of the Committee through next year, his likely replacement still remains uncertain, but includes among others, Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Joe Wilson (R-SC).
  • The U.S. Secretaries of Labor and Education recently wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer calling for a renewed focus on improving the K-12 education experience. The piece highlights IBM’s P-Tech model as one way to improve student learning and outcomes. More here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

CTE on the Campaign Trail

August 19th, 2015

2014-11-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-washington-dc-back-Marko-BerndtThe 2016 Presidential election has, unsurprisingly, begun nearly a full year before voters are expected to go to polling booths next November. As the primary season begins in earnest, candidates from both Parties have begun to touch on Career Technical Education (CTE) in a variety of ways.

Earlier this year the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as part of the teacher union’s candidate endorsement process, had the current three Democratic candidates for President—Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)— fill out a candidate questionnaire on a wide array of education topics. Of particular note was a question pertaining to CTE and the federal government’s role in supporting high-quality CTE programs.

Bernie Sanders voiced incredibly strong support for CTE in response to this question saying, “[CTE] programs are vital pathways to middle-class, family-supporting jobs. I believe it is in our national and economic interest to ensure quality CTE programs are available to every American, and effectively aligned with the needs of the 21st century workforce. Accordingly, I strongly support fully-funding the Perkins CTE program. In addition, if elected, I would work to revolutionize our nation’s approach to workforce development and technical education to build effective, attainable pathways for young people to pursue middle class careers.”

Martin O’Malley gave a similarly compelling answer, pointing to his work as Governor of Maryland saying, “My administration would launch a new, comprehensive national program for CTE, starting in high schools, and in partnership with community colleges and employers. This builds on successful efforts launched by the Obama Administration, where schools partner with employers – who also provide financial support – to train students and workers for the positions they need to fill now. Our program will require greater federal investment, but we will see far greater returns – in good jobs created and filled, and in reduced spending on higher education. CTE training is an equal alternative to a four-year college degree, and we must treat it as such.”

AFT eventually ended up endorsing the former Secretary of State and First Lady, Hillary Clinton, who promised to lay out a clear CTE plan for her campaign in the coming months stating, “. . . I will lay out my ideas for a comprehensive proposal to train millions more workers over the next decade. I am exploring a number of options to incentivize CTE [sic] programs and help provide grants to train workers for the 21st century economy.”

Turning our attention to the Republican candidates for President, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), declared at a campaign event this past weekend at the Iowa State Fair that he plans to be “the vocational education president.” Emphasizing the importance of middle skilled jobs, he went on to say that “These are good paying jobs”— “a welder makes more than a political science major, and you borrow a lot less money and go to work a lot sooner.”

Throughout the day today, the Seventy Four, a new non-profit news website co-founded by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, hosted six of the Republican Candidates for President for 45 minute interviews exploring a broad swath of issues facing K-12 education today. While most of these interviews focused on hot-button topics such as the common core state standards, the role of teachers unions, school choice, parental involvement, and the appropriate role of the federal government in education, most of the candidates devoted some of their time to issues related to CTE.

Jeb Bush started things off speaking about his various education achievements as Governor of Florida. In particular he noted that student disengagement remains an enormous problem in high schools and that allowing students to “major” in secondary school, as they can in college, could be a way to address the “boredom” issue. He argued that if classwork were contextualized more effectively and delivered in an applied fashion, that students would be more engaged with their coursework. The former Florida Governor also spoke highly of the potential competency based education has in ensuring that students are learning and for holding schools and teachers accountability for that progression. Later on in the day, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal echoed these same sentiments.

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HP), was up next speaking about the need to support innovation to drive continuous improvement in education. Taking a page from her private sector experience, she focused a portion of her remarks on the need for employers to engage with schools and educators to deliver a high quality education for students. Internships and mentorships—something that HP supported in certain local school districts during her time as the CEO— were key elements of what she had to say on how to improve the U.S. education system.

Governor John Kasich followed, focusing his interview answers on many of his state’s educational programs and achievements, particularly in the urban areas of Ohio. He began by declaring that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to education—a recurring theme throughout the day— does not work for the 21st century economy. Noting that students learn at different rates and in different ways, he championed “personalizing” the high school experience by contextualizing classwork to spur student excitement for their education. Further into his interview, Governor Kasich highlighted the importance of employer engagement with schools, pointing to a successful corporate-sponsored mentorship program in a school in Cincinnati which now boasts a 97 percent graduation rate.

Governor Scott Walker’s interview focused quite a bit on the role of teacher tenure and unions, as well as how technology has changed the way students learn. Walker went on to say that technology is an important catalyst for innovation in education and argued that it should be used in a way that tailors curriculum to students’ particular interests and needs as a way to personalize their learning experience—something that was vocally supported by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who participated right after.

Walker went on to say that education is both a moral and an economic obligation for the next President. Much like Senator Rubio this past weekend, the Wisconsin Governor spoke at length about the important role education should have in preparing students for middle skilled jobs. He pointed to the significant contributions community and technical colleges make to the available pool of talent in the U.S. and argued that they were essential to ensuring that the skills needs of employers are effectively met. He ended his remarks on an aspirational note, suggested that more students should consider postsecondary and career pathways that may not require a four-year degree.

All of the interviews have now been posted and can be viewed here. This October, the Seventy Four will be hosting the Democratic Presidential candidates for the same sort of conversation. Be sure to check back here when they take the stage and for more coverage of the wider 2016 field as they continue to talk about CTE within their respective platforms.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

 

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