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

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: A Pile of Work Awaits Congress in September as the CTE Presidential Scholars Program Continues to Take Shape

August 18th, 2015

United States CapitalThe annual Congressional August recess is in full swing, with most lawmakers and staff spending the time off in their districts and home states with constituents. This four week respite from the daily Congressional grind will be short-lived, as lawmakers will be faced with a tremendous amount of work upon their return to Capitol Hill. In addition to the fast approaching September 30th deadline to fund the federal government and programs, Congress will also have to raise the debt ceiling sometime later this fall, renew funding for public works and infrastructure projects, weigh in on the Administration’s Iran deal, successfully conference an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) bill, and address a host of other outstanding issues all in the coming months.

Ironically, the heavy workload this fall is a product of Congress’ own making—many of these issues were considered as recently as this year and were temporarily put aside as compromise proved to be too difficult. As a result, lawmakers will likely be grappling with many of the above issues simultaneously and the ones related to federal funding, such as the need to raise the debt ceiling and fund federal programs for FY 2016, will likely have resolutions that are closely intertwined. While a clear path forward is still far from certain, Congressional leadership will be weighing many different options. However, with only 10 legislative days left when they return, a “Continuing Appropriations Resolution” or CR—a temporary extension of current funding levels into the next federal fiscal year— is growing increasingly more likely.

Lying at the heart of this stalemate are Republicans and Democrats who remain at odds over the sequester caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). These limits on federal spending, have hampered Congress’ ability to piece together the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the federal government. Without changes to the underlying BCA legislation, a move appropriators from both Parties say they want, finding compromise on FY 2016 funding has been extremely difficult.

With the upcoming ESEA conference between the House and the Senate scheduled to follow the current recess, this current impasse over funding will likely be significant hurdle for the conferees to overcome as this battle will likely play out before or during those talks.

NASDCTEc has continued its work on both of these fronts where we have encouraged lawmakers to retain the important CTE provisions found in both the House and Senate ESEA bills while separately calling for an end to the damaging sequester caps that have undercut the federal investment in CTE.

As Congress spends its time meeting with their constituents this month, NASDCTEc invites the wider CTE community to reach out to their members of Congress to reinforce importance of these two goals as the summer draws to an end. Be sure to check back here as things continue to develop.

The JOBS Act—Making Pell Work for Students

Prior to the August recess, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), co-chair of the Senate CTE Caucus and a long-time champion of CTE, introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 1900)—a bill that would extend Pell grant program eligibility to students enrolled in qualifying short-term training programs.

Under current law the Pell Grant program— like other federal financial aid available under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA)— is not available to students taking “noncredit courses.” Postsecondary CTE programs, which typically offer certifications or other postsecondary credentials, often fall under this category. Current Pell Grant program eligibility requirements have a minimum seat-time of 300 instruction hours over the course of at least 16 weeks. This frequently leaves out short-term postsecondary CTE programs which are essential to equipping students with the relevant skills needed for the 21st century economy— something that NASDCTEc encourages Congress to address during the reauthorization of HEA.

The JOBS Act seeks to address this issue by reducing those program length requirements by half, to at least 150 clock hours over a period of 8 weeks. In order to qualify, programs must be offered at a postsecondary institution, which would include area CTE centers and community colleges, lead towards the completion of a recognized postsecondary credential (as defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), and be aligned to area workforce needs.

NASDCTEc was extremely pleased to support and endorse this legislation upon its introduction and remains hopeful that these ideas make their way into the wider reauthorization of HEA. Read more about the bill here.

Presidential Scholars Program Continues to Take Shape

As we shared a few months ago, President Obama signed an amendment to Executive Order 11155—a move that expanded the existing Presidential Scholars program to include up to 20 CTE students each year in the program.

The first year of this expansion will take place in the upcoming 2015-16 school year where the Chief State School Officers will nominate CTE scholars based on five criteria: academic rigor, technical competency, ingenuity / creativity, and the degree to which the student represents “the nation’s economic sectors and demographic characteristics.”

Student nominations are due from each Chief State School Officer by October 15, 2015 where the next step of the process will require additional application materials from selected students. By May 2016, the Commission on Presidential Scholars will announce the list of students to be honored at the White House in June.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) has encouraged State CTE Directors to engage with their State’s chief school officer ahead of the nomination process and to more widely disseminate the announcement. More detailed information can be obtained on OCTAE’s PCRN website and general information about the expansion can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

State Policy Update: Workforce Development, Job-driven Training and More

July 30th, 2015

This week, the National Skills Coalition released its roundup of this year’s major state legislative actions aiming to close the middle-skills gap across the country. Be sure to check out the full paper and related webinar, which includes deep dives on new workforce development efforts in Virginia and Minnesota, to learn more.

Here are some of the workforce-related highlights from this year’s legislative sessions:

  • Implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): Sector partnerships, career pathways and job-driven training are among the key strategies that WIOA requires states to use. Some states – including California, Florida and Virginia – enacted legislation to help implement the new federal workforce law.
  • Career Pathways: Along with Colorado’s new career pathways legislation, which we talked about earlier this year, Minnesota also expanded its adult career pathways efforts and FastTRAC up-skilling program with a combined $11.2 million appropriation for the 2016-17 biennium budget.
  • Tuition Assistance: We already know that in July, Oregon became the second state to offer free community college. Nebraska has also approved a tuition gap assistance program to help residents enrolled in certain associate degree and certificate programs as well as non-credit, job-driven training programs. Recipients can use the funds to cover the costs of tuition, direct training, fees, required books and equipment.
  • Work-based Learning and Job-driven Training: Washington, Colorado and California all expanded work-based learning opportunities, in particular apprenticeships. In California, lawmakers allocated $29.1 million to grow new and existing apprenticeship programs in high-growth industries. Arkansas and Maine also established new employer-driven training programs.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Federal Funding Deadline Looms as Congress Looks to Higher Ed after ESEA Push

July 29th, 2015

United States CapitalSeptember 30th is quickly approaching and with it an end to the current 2015 federal Fiscal Year (FY). With only 12 legislative days left on the Congressional calendar until this deadline and the Congressional August recess set to begin later this week, lawmakers and the Obama Administration are still grappling with how to fund the federal government beginning on October 1st—the first official day of FY 2016.

Congressional appropriations committees in both the House and the Senate successfully passed the 12 necessary funding bills to fund federal programs—an achievement not seen in over six years and aided by unified Republican control of both Chambers of Congress. Despite this accomplishment, these funding bills all adhere to the Budget Control Act of 2011’s (BCA) statutorily mandated ‘sequester caps’ that dramatically reduce funding for many domestic programs, including education and relatedly the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) which would receive approximately $3.6 million in reduced funding for national activities while providing level funding for the law’s state grant program.

These caps significantly limit the amount of funding available for all federal discretionary programs, severely impacting education and other domestic spending priorities that are dear to Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration. As such, lawmakers and the White House have been in a protracted stand-off over how to fund the federal government later this fall.

As September quickly approaches, the likelihood of another ‘Continuing Appropriations Resolution’ (CR) is rapidly increasing. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded as much at a recent press conference saying, “it’s pretty clear given the number of days we have here in September that we’re going to have to do a CR of some sort.”

In response to the gridlock, nearly all Congressional Democrats, and an increasing amount of Republicans, have begun to call for a broader budget deal outside the scope of the normal appropriations process.  Such a deal could address the underlying problem of the sequester caps, even temporarily, to relieve some of the fiscal pressures created by the BCA. Much like what the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 did for the previous two fiscal years, an agreement later this year would be the best case scenario for making much needed investments in education and workforce development programs possible, particularly for the Perkins Act.

NASDCTEc remains committed to this type of agreement and we encourage the CTE community to urge members of Congress to tackle this challenge head-on, rather than passing stop-gap measures such as a CR at the expense of longer term agreements that allow for greater investments in critically important programs such as the Perkins Act. Be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis as things continue to play out on Capitol Hill.

Congress Pivots to Higher Ed

As we’ve shared previously, both education committees in the House and the Senate have prioritized the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in this Congress. Due for reauthorization since 2013 and extended to this year for further consideration, the law governs nearly all federal financial aid programs for postsecondary education. Issues such institutional accreditation, supporting innovation in postsecondary education, financial aid risk sharing, the role of consumer information and data, and campus sexual assault have all been the subject of hearings and discussions in both Chambers as lawmakers gear up for the law’s renewal.

In the Senate, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced four staff-level working groups earlier this year focused on four key areas that they hope to address in the upcoming reauthorization process: accountability, accreditation, college affordability / financial aid, and campus sexual assault / safety. It is hoped that these groups can work through these issues on a bipartisan basis prior to the committee and later the full chamber considering full reauthorization legislation.

More recently, the Committee held a hearing exploring barriers to innovation in postsecondary education. Members focused on the role that regulations (and at times overregulation) have in stymieing innovation within the higher education system, how to address current funding structures that are tied to the credit hour in order to better support competency-based learning programs, and the need to expand HEA’s experimental sites initiative to allow for more experimentation, among other topics. More on the hearing can be found here.

In the House, members of the Education and Workforce (HEW) Committee introduced a series of four bipartisan higher education bills that they hope to piece together later on to form the basis for their proposal for the law’s renewal. These bills seek to simplify the student aid process, improve consumer access to relevant data and information to make informed decisions on where to go to school, and strengthen loan counseling to improve students’ financial literacy when making decisions about their financial aid. Of particular note is the Flexible Pell Grant for 21st Century Students Act (H.R. 3180) introduced by Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) which would reinstate “year-round” Pell Grants for qualifying students in accelerated programs—a move NASDCTEc supports in future HEA legislation. More on that bill can be found here and information related to the all of the bills is located here.

The Obama Administration has also repositioned itself ahead of possible HEA consideration. Speaking at UMBC earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered a speech on HEA which encouraged the higher education community to not just focus on the rising specters of college debt and cost, but also on student outcomes and educational quality. More on his remarks can be found here.

Lawmakers Seek to Give FERPA a Facelift

The Student Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 3157) was recently introduced by Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) of the HEW Committee. The bill seeks to update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by barring schools and private companies from selling student information, creating minimum data security protocols, and allowing parents greater access and control over their child’s information. The legislation is one of several proposals from both Chambers of Congress that seek to modernize the law to reflect changes in the digital education landscape. At present, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) enforces provisions under FERPA governing how companies handle student data. However, competing proposals in the Senate would hand that responsibility over to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce these rules more vigorously.

Odds & Ends

USDE and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) are requesting public comment on proposed templates and data definitions for performance information required under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The comment period is open for 60 days and must be submitted by September 21 at: www.regulations.gov (Docket ID is ETA-2015-0007). Last week marked WIOA’s first birthday.

The final text of the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) was released this week. The bill is the Chamber’s proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and now bicameral negotiations are about to begin to reconcile it with the House’s ESEA proposal the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). More information on the debate can be found here and a great breakdown of where key issues stand in the wider discussion can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Senate Passes ESEA Rewrite

July 17th, 2015

United States CapitalYesterday afternoon, the Senate voted 81-17 in favor of the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), the Chamber’s proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While 14 Republicans and three Democrats voted against ECAA’s passage for dramatically different reasons, the Chamber’s overall support for the bill remained strongly bipartisan and marks a significant step forward in rewriting the nation’s largest K-12 education law which has been due for renewal since 2007.

The effort in the Senate to reauthorize ESEA has been driven by HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) who shepherded the bipartisan bill out of Committee in April. A total of 66 different amendments, including Senator Alexander and Murray’s comprehensive substitute amendment, were passed as part of yesterday’s vote with 13 being rejected.

On the whole, ECAA completely reimagines ESEA’s accountability system, removing No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) “adequate yearly progress” requirement. It would maintain the law’s annual assessment schedule and would require states to develop “challenging academic standards” for all students. Notably, the bill would require states to report disaggregated data on student subgroups and identify low-performing schools, however it does not place a requirement for state or local intervention if achievement gaps are identified—something that has been a point of strong contention for many civil rights groups and the Obama Administration.

During the five calendar days that the Senate devoted to the bill’s consideration, there were a number of Career Technical Education (CTE) amendments that were adopted before ECAA’s final passage. While the final text of S. 1177 will not be available until sometime next week, here’s a short breakdown of a few of the new additions that found their way into the final bill (a listing of ECAA’s CTE provisions that were already in the bill can be viewed here):

  • CTE is now included in ECAA’s definition of “Core Academic Subjects”—ensuring that CTE is recognized as a strong contributor to students’ college and career readiness
  • Strengthened accountability language that would allow states to include measures of student postsecondary or career readiness in their accountability systems
  • An expansion of the Pell grant program to help low-income students complete early college and dual / concurrent enrollment programs
  • Strengthened state and local plan language requiring the development of effective strategies to promote student transitions between learner levels
  • New state plan language referencing the need to create “college and career pathways” for students
  • Additions to the local application section of ECAA encouraging the support of programs that promote integrated academic and CTE instruction, including experiential learning
  • Greater support for educator professional development that encourages common planning time for CTE and non-CTE teachers while encouraging integrated instruction
  • New allowable uses of funds under Title IV of the bill that support college and career guidance programs, including career awareness & exploration activities, while providing greater support for the use of labor market information to be used to inform these activities

Many other big ticket amendments were considered during the Senate debate. The “A-PLUS” amendment, a proposal that would allow states to block-grant their Title I funding for “any education purpose allowed under state law”, was voted down mainly along party lines. One of Chairman Alexander’s amendments supporting school vouchers for low-income students had a similar fate. Another “opt-out” amendment that would have allowed parents to opt their children out from the bill’s mandated assessments also did not pass. Towards the end of the debate, a significant proposal from Senate Democrats to hold states accountable for their lowest performing schools and achievement gaps within student subgroups did not pass either. A compromise proposal that changes the underlying formula for Title I did pass, however the amendment’s provisions would not kick-in unless Title I is funded at much higher levels than it is currently.

On the whole ECAA rolls back the federal government’s role in K-12 education substantially, leaving many important educational decisions to states and local communities while rectifying many of the most problematic legacies ‘left behind’ by NCLB. Despite the bipartisan nature of the Senate’s process, a pathway forward for full ESEA reauthorization remains highly uncertain. As mentioned above, many Congressional Democrats, civil rights groups, and the White House are strongly opposed to the absence of a stronger accountability system in ECAA. Conversely many Republicans, particularly those in the House, are vehemently opposed to any proposal that does not do more to streamline existing programs and limit the federal role in K-12 education further.

With the Senate and the House’s work on their respective bills complete, it remains to be seen if their proposals can be reconciled via a formal conference or by way of behind-the-scenes negotiations later this year. Nevertheless, crafting a bill that can please each of these groups will prove to be extremely challenging.

Be sure to check back here as the process unfolds later this year. NASDCTEc will be sure to provide more updates and analysis for how these proposals will impact the CTE community as negotiations continue.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

 

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