After a flurry of legislative activity in the Senate early last month, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee successfully reported out the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) from the committee—legislation aimed at reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Read our earlier coverage of the legislation here and the text of the bill, as reported out of committee, here. ECAA is the product of bipartisan negotiations between HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and marks the closest either Congressional chamber has come towards reauthorizing ESEA in several years.
Since clearing the HELP committee last month, lawmakers on and off the committee have been gearing up for the Chamber’s full consideration of the legislation, finalizing a series of amendments that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle hope will improve the largest annual federal investment in K-12 education. As currently written and amended, ECAA has a number of notable Career Technical Education-related provisions:
- A requirement that state academic standards be aligned with relevant state-identified CTE standards
- Provisions requiring at least one metric in the state’s accountability system that is indicative of student postsecondary or workforce readiness
- The elimination of the harmful “highly-qualified teacher” provision
- Explicit support of elementary and secondary school counseling in Title IV of the bill
- A new provision that requires the inclusion of student attainment rates of CTE proficiencies, as currently defined by the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins), in state and local report card systems
NASDCTEc expects ECAA to most likely be brought up for full Senate consideration shortly after the July 4th Congressional recess, but the possibility of the bill being brought to the floor sooner still remains a goal of many in the Chamber. However, with defense-related legislation currently up for debate, the window for consideration is quickly closing. Lawmakers will have to decide between ECAA and additional trade legislation later today which will ultimately determine the timeline for ECAA’s consideration. Nevertheless, NASDCTEc is continuing to work and support a number of promising CTE-related amendments in the upcoming debate, whenever that may be.
Shifting over to the House, H.R. 5 or the Student Success Act still remains on hold after the Chamber pulled the bill from floor consideration earlier this year. In May, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) released a memo outlining his caucus’ June agenda which included the possibility of further consideration of the bill. However, no formal action has been taken since that time. Nevertheless, there has been new talk about the legislation being brought to the floor under a new rule relatively soon that will allow members of the House to vote on several amendments before final passage. If both Chambers pass their respective ESEA proposals, the next hurdle will be reconciling the two bills—a challenging feat considering the large differences between ECAA and the Student Success Act.
As both of these processes unfold, be sure to check back here for updates on ESEA activity and what that means for the wider CTE community.
NASDCTEc & ACTE Weigh-In on WIOA NPRM
Late last year, Congress passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—legislation that reauthorized the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, the bill’s passage was only the first step in what will be an extensive implementation process. Since that time, the U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Education (USDE), and Health and Human Services (HHS) have been hard at work drafting proposed rules for carrying out WIOA’s new provisions. After missing their statutory deadline earlier this year, the Departments finally released these proposed rules in what is known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The regulations, which can be viewed here, were released in five separate releases, each focused on different aspects of WIOA and were opened up to the public for comment and further discussion.
NASDCTEc, along the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), participated in this comment period and issued a joint response that can be viewed here. It is important to note that the NPRM’s remain simply a proposal until the Departments finalize these rules by January 2016. So long as the Departments adhere to this statutory deadline, the CTE community can expect much more clarity regarding the law’s implementation at that time.
Nevertheless, throughout the NPRMs, the Departments make many references to “future joint planning guidance” as it relates to WIOA’s combined state planning provisions—a state plan option available under the new law that could allow Perkins programs to be included in a state’s overall plan for its WIOA activities. While a specific release date for that guidance remains uncertain, NASDCTEc remains hopeful that the Departments will expedite its release to support further state planning and a greater degree of cross systems collaboration.
Postsecondary Education Updates
In addition to prioritizing the reauthorization of ESEA, the education committees in both the House and the Senate have also set to work to renew the Higher Education Act (HEA)— legislation that governs the nation’s largest investment in postsecondary education among many other important features. As the reauthorization process for ESEA continues, lawmakers from both Chambers have reiterated their desire to pursue HEA reauthorization later this autumn.
Since that time, HEA activity has primarily centered in the Senate where HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) recently solicited public input on a series of white papers focused on three broad issues the committee would like to tackle in a newly reauthorized HEA:
NASDCTEc and ACTE provided formal comments on the accreditation and consumer information pieces as a supplement to the comments both organizations endorsed and supported from the Postsecondary Data Collaborative. Following the comment period, the HELP Committee has hosted two hearings on issues related to the topics covered in these papers. A helpful overview of the hearing on consumer information can be found here and more information related to yesterday’s hearing on accreditation can be found here. In between these hearings, both the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the HELP Committee announced staff working groups to address four major issues related to the reauthorization process on accountability, accreditation, financial aid, and campus safety.
One of the most critical issues for NASDCTEc during the HEA reauthorization process has been repealing the ban on the creation of a postsecondary student unit record system (read NASDCTEc’s full HEA priorities here). In May, Senators Rubio (R-FL), Wyden (D-OR), and Warner (D-VA) reintroduced the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act (S. 1195) which would do just that. By amending HEA, the bill would require postsecondary institutions who are Title IV eligible to submit student-level data to USDE. This data would then be matched with tax data from the Social Security Administration to produce aggregated information on median student earnings for programs at two, six, and 15 years after completion. The information would be disaggregated by various student groups with the aim of sharing this information with the broader public who could then make more informed choices about postsecondary education. NASDCTEc was strongly supportive of this legislation and it is important to note that elements of this bill have begun to gain some traction in the wider HEA reauthorization process.
In the postsecondary regulatory arena, USDE’s final “Gainful Employment” regulations have cleared a significant legal obstacle, with a U.S. District Court judge tossing out the Association of Proprietary Colleges’ lawsuit over the new rules. A separate lawsuit, from the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, is still ongoing and barring any further judicial interventions stemming from that case, the new regulations will go into effect starting July 1, 2015.
USDE also recently released important institutional guidance on student eligibility for Pell Grants and other federal financial aid programs authorized under Title IV of HEA. The letter provides further clarification regarding the recent restoration of HEA’s “ability-to-benefit” (ATB) provision which allows students who do not have a high school diploma to receive financial aid if enrolled in an eligible career pathway program. The letter clarifies what a career pathway program must do to be eligible under this provision and clarifies the dates of eligibility for students enrolling before or after July 1, 2015. NASDCTEc has continued to advocate for ATB provisions in the next iteration of HEA and remains hopeful that this option will be strengthened for students moving forward.
House Marks Up Perkins Funding Bill
Following up on what we shared Tuesday, the House appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) successfully reported out an appropriations bill yesterday after a two hour hearing on the draft bill. USDE, along with the Perkins Act, both derive funding from this legislation. Although it still remains unclear how much funding the drafters of the bill intend to designate to CTE and the Perkins Act, the bill would dramatically reduce funding for USDE’s discretionary budget.
It is important to note that this cut is the result of Congress’ self-imposed sequester caps for this fiscal year and fiscal years into the next decade, as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). One of the main themes throughout the hearing was the need to change the underlying BCA legislation to increase these caps in order to design an appropriations bill that can adequately fund much needed investments in education and workforce development programs— a desire expressed by members of both parties.
Nevertheless, all Democratic amendments that were put forward to increase funding for various portions of the bill were voted down along party lines, ostensibly because such proposals would violate the sequester caps. The bill is now moving on to the full House appropriations committee where it is expected to be marked up sometime next week. A draft report and table for the bill— which will include more specific information related to Perkins funding— will be released 24 hours prior to this markup.
NASDCTEc is also expecting similar appropriations activity in the Senate, beginning as early as next week. Be sure to check back here for further updates and analysis of the Congressional appropriations process and what that means for the CTE community.
Odds and Ends
- USDE has recently announced the next round of its Investing in Innovation (I3) grants for high school redesign. The Department has expanded the types of schools applicants can propose to implement redesign strategies. More information on the application process can be found here.
- DOL recently announced the states eligible to apply for a portion of $9 million in WIA incentive grant awards. The funds are available for use through June 30, 2017 are intended to support innovative workforce development and education initiatives. More information can be found here.
- Recently a group of regional accreditors announced a common framework for defining and approving competency-based education programs. Find more information about the effort here.
Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager