Having just returned from a month-long August recess, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) introduced a Continuing Resolution (CR) late Tuesday night to extend current Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 appropriations levels through December 11th, 2014. Current federal appropriations are set to expire October 1st, 2014. Congress must act prior to that date to avert a shutdown of government operations when the new FY 2015 is set to begin. Despite the topline spending caps put in place via the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA) earlier this year, widespread disagreement on individual program funding levels has largely contributed to much of the Congressional gridlock seen throughout the year. In the later parts of the summer, with the November midterm elections fast approaching and with the Congress’ annual August recess commencing, it became apparent to lawmakers in both parties that a temporary funding measure would be necessary to fund government operations after the deadline.
After much anticipation, the Chairman introduced H.J. Resolution 124 which would extend current FY 2014 funding through December 11th, 2014 to do just that. Due to differences in FY 2014 and FY 2015 spending levels, this extension will result in a small across-the-board cut to all discretionary spending programs totaling 0.0554 percent. For the Department of Education (ED) specifically, that would result in a $37.3 million reduction in funds. However, since most ED programs such as the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program, are funded in advance (also known as forward funded) this reduction will have no impact on current funding levels for these programs until a longer-term decision on appropriations is made ahead of the extension deadline in December. Another important feature of this particular CR is that it contains no unrelated amendments or “riders”— something that would make its passage much more difficult— and will likely be considered under House rules preventing the proposal of such controversial amendments.
Although the House intended to act on this legislation yesterday, Republican leadership in the Chamber announced that they have postponed a vote until next week. This delay is being attributed to a last-minute request from the Obama administration for additional funding authority to aid Syrian rebels’ efforts in the region. However, there is also some conservative opposition to the length of the CR and the extension of the Export-Import Bank which may make its passage more difficult. Nevertheless, NASDCTEc expects a vote in the House on this CR by the middle of next week.
Senators Introduce Middle STEP Act
Yesterday Senator Kaine (D-VA), co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced the Middle School Technical Education Program (Middle STEP) Act which would promote career exploration activities in middle school. The Middle STEP Act proposes to establish a pilot program for middle schools to develop CTE exploration programs in partnership with postsecondary institutions and employers.
Co-sponsored by Senators Boxer (D-CA), Casey (D-PA), and Warner (D-VA), the Middle STEP Act aims to “expose students to a wide range of career choices through hands-on learning so they will be more informed about future paths and what they can do in high school to pursue them,” according to Sen. Kaine. “Middle school is an important time for students to explore their own strengths, likes, and dislikes, and CTE exploration programs are great tools to educate them about the type of coursework or training that goes into a career field that matches their interests.”
NASDCTEc provided input during the development of the legislation and is supportive of the Senators’ vigorous interest in promoting career exploration— a critically important feature in many successful CTE programs. The Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) also issued a statement of support for this legislation which can be viewed here.
OCTAE Briefing on RPOS
Earlier this week, the Office of Career, Adult & Technical Education (OCTAE) at the U.S. Department of Education held a briefing on the Rigorous Programs of Study (RPOS) grant, bringing together state and local educators from the grantee states – Arizona, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Wisconsin and Utah.
The briefing covered a range of local outcomes from the RPOS grant, such as new collaboration between CTE, mathematics and literacy teachers at Helena High School in Montana; a new system of stackable credentials and credits between Peoria high schools, Glendale Community College and Northern Arizona University; and industry externships for counselors in Wichita, Kansas. The common theme from the 13 secondary and postsecondary educators representing the six states was that the RPOS framework and supportive grant helped raise the rigor, partnerships and credibility of CTE in their communities.
Odds and Ends
With the recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the process for implementation of the legislation is underway. To that end, the U.S. Department of Education and Labor asked for public input into the development of accountability metrics which will eventually be required under the law. In response, NASDCTEc and ACTE submitted joint comments which can be viewed here.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced $76.3 million in YouthBuild grants in August. More information can be found here. The U.S. Department of Education also released new information regarding their Performance Partnership Pilots (P3) initiative. An updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page, recent presentation recordings, and an updated consultation paper have all been added to the department’s website.
Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate