National Association of State Directors of Career
Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

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 

This Week in CTE: Arne Duncan Resigns in December

October 2nd, 2015



Assistant Superintendent says CTE is Vital for State’s Future
West Virginia’s simulated workplace program has gained international attention for providing students with real-world experiences enhancing what their learning in the classroom. Kathy D’Antoni, assistant state superintendent of schools for the Division of Technical and Adult Education Services says CTE and this type of program is necessary to prepare students to for lifelong careers in West Virginia.
Read More


Southern Regional Education Board is offering 150 teacher training grants for high school teachers and technical centers to better prepare high school students for postsecondary education and careers. Contact for more information.


American Graduate Day is on Saturday, October 3, and the live seven-hour broadcast will focus on the people and organizations that keep students on track to graduate. Journalists, thought leaders and celebrities will raise awareness around such topics as college and career readiness, caring consistent adults, dropout prevention, and STEAM.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

Celebrating Excellence for Manufacturing Day

October 2nd, 2015

In honor of Manufacturing Day, we’d like to highlight one of our 2015 Excellence in Action award winners in Microsoft Word - Letter of Reference - Excellence in Action.docthe Manufacturing Career Cluster. The Welding Technology Program at Butte-Glenn Community College (BGCC) in Oroville, California is an exemplary program of study relying on rigorous program performance standards and national curriculum standards along with quality employer partnerships to produce entry-level technicians prepared to work in the industry.

BGCC has developed articulation agreements with 20 high schools in the state, and offers opportunities for high school students to complete college courses through concurrent enrollment. In 2013-2014 almost 80 students earned postsecondary credits through these agreements, creating a true pathway to postsecondary success.

Once students enter postsecondary education, they have the opportunity to earn a variety of certifications and have access to work hands on with industry leaders. For example, PG&E and the college developed the PG&E Power Pathway for welding, providing curriculum, instructor training and scholarships for welding students. “I have found Butte College’s program to be exemplary and a model for others. Frankly, I consider them to be one of the best welding programs in our state,” said Kerry Shatell, Sr. Welding Engineer at PG&E. “The graduates are considered to be more highly qualified and able to perform journeyman level work sooner than other graduates in the marketplace.”

This sentiment rings true with data showing that 92 percent of students earned a pass rate for a certification, and all students entered the workforce or military upon completion of the program.

Read more about BGCC’s Welding program of study here, and join us in celebrating Manufacturing Day! We will be on Twitter sharing exciting news, events and resources throughout the day.

 Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

Welcome to Utah’s New State CTE Director, Thalea Longhurst!

September 29th, 2015

We are pleased to welcome Thalea Longhurst, Utah’s new State CTE Director! Longhurst had an unusual introduction to the education field, beginning her career in sports medicine. While obtaining a master’s degree and working in a clinic, a local school district expressed interest in starting a sports medicine program. Longhurst started by teaching just a few hours a day, which eventually turned into a 10-year part-time teaching tenure at the local high school. Utah has the unique ability to license industry professionals to teach in the classroom, allowing her to practice sports medicine professionally, while also teaching part time.

After 10 years, Longhurst decided to dedicate her career to education and took a full-time position. After working in the district to develop standards and assessments, she transitioned to the State CTE office and rose through the ranks to her eventual appointment as State CTE Director in 2014.

As State Director, her primary goal for CTE in Utah is to take a hard look at what programs are outdated or are not aligned to the workforce needs of the state and ensure only the highest quality programs are supported moving forward. “CTE should be a part of a comprehensive approach to education that is rigorous, not less than any other type of study and is an integral part to every student’s education,” said Longhurst.

A challenge in building and supporting these high-quality programs of study has been engaging the right partners in program development. To create a program that not only focuses on high academic and technical achievement, but also provides learners with the skills employers in the community needs, the Utah CTE office has been bringing multiple partners to the table, including local industry, business, economic development agencies, workforce services, educators, and parents among others. Although engaging each partner, in addition to aligning expectations of success across these sectors, has been challenging, Longhurst is convinced this effort will strengthen the quality of Utah’s CTE programs of study.

Under Longhurst, Utah is working towards the goal of every student equipped with 21st century college- and career-ready skills with access to high-quality programs of study that are directly aligned with industry needs. Be on the lookout for exciting work happening in Utah.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

This Week in CTE

September 25th, 2015


The Alliance for Excellent Education and Asia Society are hosting a webinar, Raising the Bar for the Quality of Career Preparation Pathways: Apprenticeships on October 2 from 1 – 2 p.m. EDT. Panelists will focus on the success of the Swiss apprenticeship program and how the U.S. education system can integrate some aspects of the Swiss program.
Register today

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a new website this week where the business community can learn more about college and career ready standards. Achieving Tomorrow is complete with, videos, op-eds from chamber leaders, resources and a map with state assessment information, college completion rates and skills gap projects.
Learn more

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

This Week in CTE

September 18th, 2015



The Council of State Governments September/October issue of Capitol Ideas magazine focuses on Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) with an article specifically on how Career Technical Education intersects with STEM.
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NASDCTEc in partnership with the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center are hosting a webinar,. Reshaping Tennessee’s Work-based Learning on Thursday, October 15. The webinar will explore how Tennesee is reshaping work based learning to create a rigorous and relevant experience for all students.


Don’t Quit on Me, a report released by America’s Promise Alliance, explores how the role of relationships in a student’s life impacts their chances of graduating high school.
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The Alliance for Excellent Education opened applications for their Excellence and Innovation In Secondary Schools award. The awards will identify exemplary high schools and/or districts that are improving outcomes for undeserved students.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

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 

This Week in CTE: President Obama Announces Apprenticeship Program

September 11th, 2015



Association for Career and Technical Education released a two-page brief describing the different types of credentials including who they are awarded by, what the credential indicates, and examples of each type.


National Tech Ag Day is hosting a live webcast on September 24 from 1:45 0 4:00 p.m. EDT where the American Farm Bureau Federation Office will host panels, national and state education leaders, agriculture teachers and more.


President Obama visited Michigan Technical Education Center in Michigan this week to announce a $175 million Labor Department program that will create 34,000 apprenticeships around the country.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

This Week in CTE

September 4th, 2015



Why We Desperately need to Bring Back Vocational Training in Schools
While the four-year college system is failing many students, career technical education programs are being cut across the country leaving high school graduates with few skills and fewer job opportunities.


NCCER and Build Your Future have partnered to create the I BUILT THIS video contest for professionals and instructors to highlight their construction projects and designs. Submit by October 18!


The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation announced it’s CTE program, ProStart, which teaches culinary arts and restaurant management, is now available throughout the United States.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate