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Legislative Update: Cromnibus Edges Through Congress, Administration Announces New Apprenticeship Grants

December 15th, 2014

CapitolBy narrow margins in both the House and the Senate, Congress managed to pass omnibus appropriations legislation over the weekend to fund most of the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Totaling $1.1 trillion, the legislation will fund the majority of the federal government until October 1, 2015.

Earlier in the week, House Republicans had introduced the 2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 83)— hybrid legislation that combined aspects of a continuing appropriations resolution (CR) and more comprehensive appropriations for all federal departments and agencies with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Known as a cromnibus, this legislation was heatedly debated in the House on Thursday night and passed by a margin of 219 – 206. Following the vote the Chamber adjourned for the rest of the 113th Congress and is not expected to return until the start of the new 114th Congress beginning in early January.

With the December 11th deadline for the most recent CR having come and gone, Congress also passed another short-term CR to avert a government shutdown while the bill worked its way over to the Senate for further debate this past Friday and Saturday. Despite strong opposition from conservatives and liberals alike, the cromnibus was approved in the Senate by a 56 – 40 vote late Saturday night.

On the whole, H.R. 83 largely maintains funding levels from the previous fiscal year for most programs and departments, although it cuts approximately $166 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) discretionary budget. Fortunately the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program (BSG) was excluded from these reductions. Instead this legislation level-funds the BSG program at $1.118 billion— the same amount the program received in FY 2014.

Although NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) recently urged lawmakers to fund the program at slightly higher levels, maintaining current investment levels for the BSG program is a minor victory in the context of the changing political and fiscal dynamics on Capitol Hill— particularly at time when other programs in the discretionary side of the federal budget have been forced to shoulder even larger reductions over the past several years.

H.R. 83 also contained a number of controversial policy riders— provisions unrelated to appropriations— that were the focus of much debate on the legislation. Nearly all of the most contentious riders, such as changes to campaign finance and banking laws, were ultimately included in the legislation. Despite these riders, President Obama has publicly committed to signing the legislation into law sometime this week.

Of particular interest to the CTE community was the partial restoration of the federal Pell Grant program’s “ability-to-benefit” (ATB) provision— something that NASDCTEc has been advocating for in the context of the Higher Education Act’s reauthorization. This change affords students who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, access to the federal financial aid program if they are also enrolled in a career pathways program as defined in the new law. An additional $6 million in funding was also set-aside for a competitive grant program under ED to improve data system coordination and quality at the local, state and national levels and is expected to roll-out in the coming year.

Despite the late night passage of the bill in the Senate, the Chamber remains open today and possibly further into the week as lawmakers there work on last-minute legislation and confirmations for many Obama Administration nominees for various government posts.

DOL Unveils Apprenticeship Grants

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new $100 million competitive grant program to support the expansion of apprenticeship programs in high-growth and high-skill occupational areas. The American Apprenticeship Grant (AAG) program, is the successor to last year’s Youth CareerConnect grants and are funded through H-1B visa fees. Administration and Department officials hope the program will spur an expansion of apprenticeship programs into sectors of the economy which has not traditionally used them, such as information technology, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.

Approximately 25 grants will be awarded to public-private partnerships consisting of at least one public and private entity. Eligible entities include employers, industry associations, joint labor-management organizations, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, non-profits and faith-based organizations. Grant amounts will range from $2.5 million to $5 million each and must make efforts to align and coordinate with other postsecondary education programs and career pathways available in a state or local area.

Applications are due April 30, 2015 and more information on how to apply, including program factsheets and checklists, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Congress Considers a Cromnibus, ED Announces Start of P3 Initiative

December 5th, 2014

CapitolA new term is quickly entering the beltway lexicon this holiday season— a hybrid funding approach known as a “cromnibus” is now under consideration by House Republicans which would fund most, but not all of the federal government for the remainder of the 2015 federal Fiscal Year (FY). As we have shared previously, Congress failed to enact the necessary appropriations legislation earlier this summer to fund governmental operations in FY 2015.

To avert another government shutdown, lawmakers passed a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) in late September which temporarily extended FY 2014 funding levels into FY 2015 which began on October 1 of this year. Unfortunately, this extension resulted in a 0.054 percent across-the-board cut to all discretionary programs, including the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) basic state grant program, because of lower revenue levels and lost savings elsewhere in the federal budget in FY 2015. Since that time, Congress has struggled to come to a longer-term agreement for how to fund the federal government past the current CR’s expiration date on December 11, 2014.

NASDCTEc and its partners in the Career Technical Education (CTE) community have recently called on Congress to pass comprehensive omnibus appropriations legislation in lieu of another temporary funding measure. An omnibus would replace the current CR with a consolidated package of the necessary 12 individual appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government— a move which would give greater certainty to the CTE community regarding future funding levels for the Perkins Act’s basic state grant program.

Despite a number of obstacles over the past several weeks, House Republicans now seem to be coalescing around the legislative strategy of a cromnibus—legislation which fuses an omnibus and a CR into one bill. In this proposal, eleven out of the 12 annual appropriations bills— including the legislation which funds the U.S. Department of Education and relatedly the Perkins Act— would receive funding for the remainder of FY 2015. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the primary federal agency tasked with implementing President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, would receive another temporary funding bill into the early part of next year.

In pursuing this strategy, House Republicans hope to leverage future concessions on immigration policy from the Obama Administration using a series of CRs to fund DHS moving forward. While a final version of this legislation has yet to be released, Congressional Democrats and President Obama have not said whether they would accept such a deal, although more recently both have signaled they may be open to such an approach. Democratic receptiveness to the cromnibus approach will likely hinge on the inclusion of other “policy riders” in the legislation— something that both parties in Congress are currently negotiating.

Check back here early next week when NASDCTEc expects further Congressional activity on federal funding.

U.S. Department of Education Announces P3 Initiative

As we shared earlier this year, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Labor (DOL), and Health & Human Services (HHS) announced a new initiative to more effectively support disconnected youth by granting additional flexibility to existing federally-funded programs to develop innovative solutions and strategies in local communities across the country.

Dubbed Performance Pilot Partnerships, or P3 for short, the agencies will select ten local applications to launch pilot projects using additional flexibility for existing discretionary grant programs administered by the agencies. Local Perkins grant recipients are among the programs eligible to participate in these pilots. An additional $700,000 in funding will be available for successful applicants who the departments hope will “braid” existing funding streams together in new ways to more effectively support disconnected youth.

Applications are due by March 4, 2105 and the winners of the project will be announced further into next year. More information on P3 can be found here and application details can be accessed here.

Senator Harkin Introduces HEA Proposal

Just before Thanksgiving last week, soon-to-be-retired Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, formally introduced the Higher Education and Affordability Act. The bill seeks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act which is set to expire in the coming year.

Although the bill will not move out of the HELP Committee prior to the new 114th Congress set to begin next year, the legislation does contain a number of promising proposals which NASDCTEc has been supportive of including:

  • Restoring the Pell Grant Program’s “Ability-to-Benefit” and “Year-round Pell” provisions
  • Repealing the ban on the creation of student unit record system and enable accurate measurement of postsecondary student outcomes
  • Strengthening support for early college and dual enrollment programs
  • Encouraging employer-community college partnerships

NASDCTEc applauds the Senator’s commitment to affordable high-quality postsecondary education and looks forward to reauthorization process of HEA in the New Year. More information on the bill can be found here and the text of the legislation is located here. The next incoming Chairman for the HELP Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), is widely expected to prioritize the reauthorization of HEA in the next Congress.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Congress Continues to Struggle on Appropriations Ahead of Presidential Announcement, VP Biden Talks CTE

November 20th, 2014

CapitolFollowing the midterm elections earlier this month, Congress reconvened last week to begin their final “lame duck” session of the 113th Congress. As the Republican Party prepares to take control of the Senate and with it the entire Congress, lawmakers must still grapple with a number of pressing issues before setting to work in the 114th Congress beginning in the New Year. Topping the list of Congressional to-do’s over the next several weeks is the need to pass legislation to fund the government to avert another shutdown of federal operations— something that only too recently happened late last year.

As we have previously shared, Congress failed to pass the necessary appropriations legislation to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Instead, lawmakers passed a temporary stopgap funding measure known as a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extended FY 2014 spending levels into the current 2015 federal fiscal year that began on October 1, 2014. However due to differences in revenue levels and lost savings elsewhere in the federal budget, this extension resulted in an across-the-board cut of 0.054 percent to all programs, including the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins).

Until recently, it was widely anticipated that a comprehensive omnibus appropriations bill— legislation that combines all of the necessary 12 appropriations bills into one package— would be passed by Congress sometime before the expiration date for the CR on December 11 of this year. Doing so would replace the current CR with a long-term agreement on federal spending until the next fiscal year and could possibly restore some of the funding reductions that were a result of the CR’s passage this past September. Senator Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), the current Appropriations Committee Chairpersons in both the Senate and the House, have been working to finalize such a bill for the past several weeks and appear to be close to a final agreement.

However, it remains uncertain at this time if lawmakers will be able come to such an agreement before the December 11th deadline. Congressional Republicans and the Obama Administration are currently at odds over a widely expected Executive Action from the President on immigration— an announcement that will likely occur this evening. Many Republican lawmakers are opposed to such a move and have debated a number of responses including passing another short-term CR or possibly passing an Omnibus, but eliminating funding for federal departments or agencies which carry out aspects of the President’s expected action on immigration. Publicly, the Republican Party remains divided on how they will respond— whether through the appropriations process or otherwise.

Nonetheless, as Chairman Rogers recently pointed out, “We need to do an omnibus bill funding the entire government for the rest of the year, and get that whole business behind us, so that come January, [we] will have a clean slate rather than looking backwards to old fights that we could look forward to making positive changes.” NASDCTEc applauds this sentiment and remains hopeful that Congress will pass a comprehensive omnibus bill for the remainder of FY 2015. Along with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), NASDCTEc has recently called on Congress to pass this much needed legislation and restore the remaining cuts to the Perkins Act.

As this process unfolds we urge you, the Career Technical Education community, to do the same. Don’t know who your members of Congress are? Find out here.

AFL-CIO & AFT Host Vice President Biden for CTE & Workforce Development Summit

vpbidenLate last week, the AFL-CIO, along with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), hosted a “Career and Technical Education (CTE) Workforce Development Summit” which explored the ways CTE and workforce development programs can create multiple pathways for student success. “CTE has the promise and potential to help equip a new generation of workers with the skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and to forge a new path to college and life,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

Vice President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address for the event, emphasizing the importance of education and employer partnerships. “These partnerships provide a seamless transition so folks can go from a classroom to a job, and from job to job within the industry they’re in,” he said, adding, “We have to maintain and enhance our workforce so we have the most sophisticated, best-trained workforce in the world.” Later on in the day, Snap-on Inc. Chairman and CEO, Nicholas Pinchuk couched this in even clearer terms declaring, ““We are in a global competition for jobs and the single best weapon is CTE. We need to out-skill the competition.”

During the all-day summit, several panels explored a number of CTE and workforce development issues, including employer engagement, apprenticeship programs, effectively using labor market information and strategies for scaling up other innovative education and workforce program models. Yet, the most common theme throughout the day centered on CTE’s evolution over the past several decades from vocational education and into today’s modern conception of CTE. Nearly every panelist agreed that today’s CTE has made extraordinary progress and is now very much a viable pathway for any number of postsecondary and career ambitions.

U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, capped off the day with a rousing address on the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) work on apprenticeships. Perez made a number of references to DOL’s upcoming grant program, the America Apprenticeship Initiative.  Grantees for this $100 million program— the successor to last year’s Youth CareerConnect grants— are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

More information on the summit can be found here.

NASDCTEc Finalizes Higher Education Recommendations

With the next Congress widely expected to take up the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the consideration of the nation’s primary legislation governing the nation’s postsecondary education system presents a unique opportunity for the CTE community to have their voices heard as this process unfolds. To that end, NASDCTEc has recently finalized a set of recommendations for the reauthorization of the legislation which can be viewed here.

Odds & Ends

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) recently released a document outlining the “pillars” of his vision for a new Republican Congressional majority. Although education is part of this platform, the Perkins Act and CTE more generally were notably absent.

Yesterday the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education hosted a town hall listening session on the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to aid in implementation of the new law. More recently, the Department of Education released a short video outlining the various intersection points between WIOA and Perkins IV.

The U.S. Department of Education’s recently finalized regulations defining “gainful employment” have been challenged in court by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Pending action by the court system, these regulations are still set to go into effect next year.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Legislative Update: Congress Passes Temporary Funding Measure, Obama Administration Unveils Round IV of TAACCCT

September 29th, 2014

CapitolAs we shared earlier this month, Congress continued to struggle to pass the necessary appropriations legislation needed to fund the federal government in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 set to begin October 1st, 2014. Despite topline spending caps put in place by the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA) earlier this year, widespread disagreement on individual funding levels for certain programs ultimately derailed the budget and appropriations process which had been ongoing since the release of President Obama’s budget request to Congress this past March.

In order to avert another federal government shutdown similar to what happened this time last year, Congress passed a short-term Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extends current FY 2014 spending levels through December 11th, 2014. Currently, federal programs are being funded via the 2014 Omnibus spending package passed this past January which increased funding for the Perkins act by $53.2 million over FY 2013 levels.

President Obama has recently signed this legislation into law which will continue funding the Perkins Act at this level, at least until a longer-term agreement is reached. This is likely to occur sometime after the conclusion of the Congressional midterm elections this November. Following the passage of this legislation, both Chambers of Congress adjourned until after these elections— the results of which will largely determine the ability of Congress to accomplish its remaining legislative agenda for the year.

It is important to note that while this CR extends current funding levels, imbalances between FY 2014 revenue levels and those projected for FY 2015 will result in a small across-the-board reduction to all discretionary programs, including the Perkins Act for the duration of this CR. For the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the programs it oversees, this cut translates into a 0.0554 percent reduction in funding, which will require revisions to the FY 2015 budget estimates released to states for the Perkins Act basic state grant program.

As ED revises these estimates, NASDCTEc will keep the CTE community abreast to changes in Perkins funding and will continue to advocate for a full-year appropriations bill when Congress reconvenes in November.

Obama Administration Announces TAACCCT Grants

This morning, Vice President Joe Biden unveiled the winners of the fourth and final round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants worth $450 million in total. This initiative traces its roots back to 2009, as part of the Obama Administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which allocated roughly $2 billion in competitive grant funding for community colleges and other eligible postsecondary institutions to expand career training programs lasting two years or less.

Since 2009, three rounds of grants have been awarded to a variety of institutions seeking to strengthen and expand workforce training partnerships across the country. This last round focused on bringing to scale in-demand job training programs through industry partnerships, promoting seamless transitions between education and training, and improving upon statewide employment end education data use.

In all nearly 270 community colleges partnering with more than 400 employers received 71 grants, which is co-administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor. More information can be found here.

Senators Introduce CTE Teacher Training Legislation

Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act this month, legislation that aims to address an ongoing CTE teacher shortage in many states and local communities throughout the country. Specifically, this bill would amend the Higher Education Act to create a CTE teacher-training grant program to encourage partnerships between high-need secondary and postsecondary CTE institutions to recruit and train high-quality CTE teachers. Presently, HEA has a similar program in place to promote these efforts, but it does not currently focus on CTE specifically.

NASDCTEc applauds this legislation and is encouraged by the Senators’ continued commitment to the CTE enterprise. A press release with additional information on this bill can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

New CTE Legislation Introduced in the Senate, Caucus Event Highlights Confluence of CTE & Literacy

September 15th, 2014

CapitolLate last week Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), co-Chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced the Career and Technical Education Opportunity Act (S. 2795)— legislation aimed at expanding eligibility for federal student aid programs to postsecondary CTE students. Co-sponsored by fellow Senate CTE Caucus co-Chair Tim Kaine (D-VA), the legislation amends the Higher Education Act (HEA) to allow students enrolled in shorter-term CTE programs that lead to an industry-recognized credential to qualify for federally backed student loans made available under Title IV of the law.

Specifically the CTE Opportunity Act amends current program eligibility requirements under HEA to incorporate programs that have at least 250 clock hours offered over a minimum duration of five weeks of instruction (a lower threshold than current law), so long as the program culminates in an industry-recognized credential in demand within a local, regional or state economy. NASDCTEc has supported this legislation and applauds the Senators’ ongoing commitment to ensure equitable access to federal student aid programs for postsecondary CTE students.

“As our nation works to educate and train students of today for the jobs of tomorrow, it is critical that we afford them the necessary resources to complete education and training programs that are most demanded by employers” said NASDCTEc Executive Director, Kimberly Green during the bill’s introduction last week. A press release and additional information on the bill can be found here.

Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Briefing on CTE and Literacy

Last Thursday, the Senate CTE Caucus hosted a briefing on strategies and approaches for integrating literacy services with Career Technical Education (CTE) coursework. The event aimed to highlight the interdependency between CTE and literacy programs—particularly technical literacy— provided by schools as a way to combine efforts to prepare students for the demands of the workplace. Three distinguished panelists, including Sheila Harrity Principal of Worcester Technical High School and a recent Principal-of-the-Year participated in the event.

The briefing began by highlighting an ongoing collaborative effort between two experienced CTE practitioners from the Arlington Career Center who have successfully integrated their Information Technology (IT) program with the school’s English Language Learners (ELL) department in a number innovative ways. For instance, students from Arlington’s IT programs developed a mobile app dictionary for students in ELL programs to use and also developed related games for ELL students to hone their vocabulary and grammar. For her part, Harrity highlighted her school’s journey to becoming a leading national CTE school, while highlighting the importance of strong partnerships with community businesses and other employers to the school’s success to date.

Following the panel’s presentations, Senators and CTE Caucus Co-Chairs Kaine (D-VA) and Baldwin (D-WI) gave remarks on several new bills they had recently introduced, including the CTE Opportunity Act outlined above and the Middle STEP Act introduced last week. Summing up the overall narrative of the briefing, Senator Kaine captured it succinctly in his remarks saying, “I detect an ongoing transformation in how we view Career and Technical Education.”

Odds and Ends

As we shared in May, the full House approved legislation which aims to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). Titled the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA), the bill continues its support of education research programs and, of particular note to the CTE community, grants for state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is set to hold a mark-up of this legislation this Wednesday, September 17th. The Chamber is also expected to bring last week’s Continuing Resolution (CR) to the floor for a House-wide vote tomorrow or Wednesday of this week.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded $14.7 million to 40 school districts in 20 states across the nation late last month to create or expand school counseling programs in elementary and secondary schools. More info on the program and project abstracts can be found here.

Next Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services will host a National Dialogue on Career Pathways. Leaders from these agencies will provide insights into how to effectively develop and sustain these promising models. More information can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: House Delays Action on CR, CTE Legislation Introduced in the Senate, OCTAE Hosts RPOS Briefing

September 11th, 2014

CapitolHaving 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 

National Dialogue on Career Pathways Approaches

September 5th, 2014

ndcpSave the date: September 23, 2014 at 9 a.m.!

The Department of Education, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services are convening the National Dialogue on Career Pathways. Presenters, panelists and participants (including NASDCTEc President and Colorado State CTE Director Scott Stump) will discuss the crucial role of career pathways in ensuring that today’s students are tomorrow’s high-skilled, employed workforce. Leading voices in CTE and workforce development will discuss lessons learned and best practices, mapping both onto the future of career pathways. The departments have also promised “information about a new technical assistance opportunity to help states, local areas, and discretionary grantees to develop or expand their efforts around career pathways system building will be announced during the meeting.”

Among the diverse array of confirmed participants include Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary for Labor’s Employment and Training Administration; Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education; Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families; David L. Casey, Vice President for Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer at CVS Caremark and Maura Banta, Director of Global Citizenship Initiatives at IBM USA

The event will be livestreamed here on September 23, 2014, beginning at 9 a.m. Don’t miss it!

Evan Williamson, Communications Associate

Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 6)

August 8th, 2014

Catching Up SeriesEditor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislative activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here as well as the previous installments. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.

Within K-12, state legislatures were very active this year, making several changes to programs and high school graduation requirements, to name a few.

Programmatic Changes

Georgia lawmakers amended the state’s Youth Apprenticeship Program through the “Work Based Learning Act,” to increase the number of students and employers participating in such programs in order to produce a “successful twenty-first century workforce,” according to the bill’s text.

Florida also expanded its collegiate high school system by requiring each Florida College System institution to work with the district school board in its designated service area to establish one or more of these programs beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. Additionally, the programs must include an option for students in grades 11 or 12 to earn a CAPE industry certification and to successfully complete 30 credit hours through dual enrollment toward their first year of college.

In Mississippi, lawmakers approved a new pilot program for middle school dropout prevention and recovery. School districts that receive a “D” or “F” rating are eligible to participate if selected by the state Board of Education. The pilot’s purpose is to reengage students and increase the state’s graduation rates through an educational program that provides vocational technology and other instructional models that are self-paced and mastery-based, provide flexible scheduling and a blended learning environment with individualized graduation plans.

Graduation Requirements

Washington lawmakers directed the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop curriculum frameworks for a selected list of Career Technical Education courses with content in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that is considered equivalent to high school graduation requirements in science or math. The law also requires that course content must be aligned with industry standards and the state’s academic standards in math and science. Increasing CTE course equivalencies has been a priority of Washington Governor Jay Inslee. The frameworks are to be submitted to the state Board of Education for approval and implementation for the 2015-16 academic year.

Much like Florida’s change to its graduation requirements in math, Arizona school districts are now allowed to approve a rigorous computer science course to fulfill a mathematics credit for graduation.

As part of its “Alaska Education Opportunity Act” and Governor Sean Parnell’s priorities for this year’s legislative session, lawmakers repealed the state’s high school exit exam and replaced it with a college or career ready assessment such as the ACT, SAT or WorkKeys.

As districts look to implement these new requirements, a new report from ACT may bear some useful insight. In 2005, Illinois lawmakers changed the states’ graduation requirements to a minimum of three years of math and two years of science. ACT found that these new requirements had no significant impact on college-readiness test scores in math and science, though there was a slight improvement in college enrollment. ACT says that these findings suggest that advanced coursework alone isn’t enough to improve student learning.

Next time in the “Catching Up With…” series

This will be the last post for legislatures that wrapped their sessions by May 9. In the weeks to come, we’ll take a closer look at major CTE-related bills from the remaining 25 state legislatures. Stay tuned to learn more!

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

 

Legislative Update: WIOA Becomes Law, VP Releases Federal Job Training Review as Competency-Based Education Gains Support

July 30th, 2014

CapitolLast Tuesday, President Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), historic legislation which supports workforce development activities throughout the country and funds job training programs for displaced youth and adults. This legislation reauthorizes and modernizes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and makes a number of positive improvements to that law. Over the past two months, WIOA was approved in both the House and Senate by overwhelming majorities before making its way to the President’s desk for signature.

Following its enactment into law, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education have now set to work developing the necessary policies and regulatory guidance for states and local areas to implement the provisions of WIOA.  NASDCTEc will continue to engage in this process and keep the CTE community up-to-date as the law is implemented. Additional information from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education can be found here and here. Important dates and key deadlines for WIOA’s implementation can be found on this timeline.

Vice President Releases Review of Federal Job Training Programs

On the same day that President Obama signed WIOA into law, Vice President Joe Biden released a long anticipated review of federal job training programs. Following his 2014 State of the Union address President Obama directed the Vice President to lead an across-the-board review of these programs, working closely with members of the President’s Cabinet. This review is the result of that months-long process. In Vice President Biden’s remarks, he called the passage of WIOA an opportunity to outline in greater detail “how to keep and maintain the highest-skilled workforce in the world.”

The  report titled “Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity” presents a number of findings on the effectiveness of existing job training programs and makes a series of recommendations for how to improve on those efforts. Among the many actions steps proposed in the report is a seven-component “Job-Driven Checklist,” which will guide the Administration’s efforts to strengthen existing workforce programs and supplement the positive steps taken in WIOA:

  • Employer engagement/involvement for determining local or regional labor market needs;
  • Establish opportunities for work-based learning as a clear pathway to employment;
  • Leverage data more effectively to drive program accountability;
  • Measure and evaluate employment and earnings outcomes for program participants;
  • Promote pathway systems which provide opportunities for additional training or credentials;
  • Increase access for high-need populations through the promotion of additional support services;
  • Promote regional partnerships between workforce and education systems and other stakeholder groups.

Beginning on October 1, all eligible applicants for 25 different federal competitive grant programs across federal agencies will be required to incorporate each of these elements into their application. In total, these programs represent approximately $1.4 billion in annual funding for workforce development activities throughout the country. Additionally, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education will begin to encourage states to incorporate this checklist into their unified state plans— a new requirement introduced under WIOA.

The report goes on to highlight a number of other Administration-led initiatives which have already been announced, such as the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC), the Performance Pilot Partnerships for Disconnected Youth (P3), and the American Apprenticeship Grant among a handful of others. As part of the report’s release, the Department of Education also announced that it will launch the Career Pathways Exchange, “an online information dissemination service that will give all states and interested stakeholders access to resources and guidance to develop, expand, and strengthen their career pathways systems.” Read the full report here.

Support for Competency-Based Education Grows

In conjunction with the Vice President’s report, the Department of Education (ED) also announced a new round of its “experimental sites” (ex-sites) initiative, which aims to test and showcase innovative strategies and approaches to delivering postsecondary education. These experimental sites hope to demonstrate that it is possible to transition away from “seat time” in favor of demonstrated student competency— an approached widely known as competency-based education.

Since the early 1990s, ED has had the ability to waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements under the Higher Education Act (HEA). These restrictions determine if postsecondary institutions can receive funds from federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of HEA. Through the ex-sites initiative, ED will waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements under the Higher Education Act (HEA) requirements which affect Title IV federal student aid funding to provide institutions greater flexibility when implementing competency-based programs. Learn more about this announcement from ED here and Department’s official notice with detailed application instructions can be found here.

Activity around competency-based programs is also happening in Congress. Following a voice vote from the House Education and Workforce Committee, H.R. 3136 – also known as the Advancing Competency-based Education Demonstration Act – went before the full House and passed unanimously. This bill is part of the House committee’s larger strategy of reauthorizing HEA through a series of smaller bills aimed at renewing the law. The legislation has similar objectives to ED’s ex-sites initiative by allowing up to 20 institutions to offer competency-based education programs without meeting existing federal aid requirements under Title IV HEA. Eleven amendments were proposed and adopted during the bill’s vote. Among them was one offered by Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), encouraging the greater dissemination and collection of enrollment and employment information of students participating in programs supported by the legislation.

Congressional Appropriations Lose Steam

Both the House and the Senate Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 appropriations processes have stalled after months of negotiations. Congress looks set to pass a Continuing Resolution, a move that would temporarily extend current FY 2014 funding levels past the October 1 deadline when current federal funding is set to expire. Encouragingly, the Senate Appropriations Committee released the text of its intended FY 2015 Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education appropriations bill which included a $5.4 million increase for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program.

Although the appropriations process has since stalled and this funding increase is unlikely to be realized in the upcoming fiscal year, the release of the subcommittee’s text is an encouraging demonstration of Congress’ commitment to the Career Technical Education (CTE) enterprise. It is also important to note that Senate appropriators rejected the Obama Administration’s proposal for a new competitive CTE “innovation fund”- a sign that Congress largely remains opposed to a shift from the current formula-funded structure in the Perkins Act to a competitive model.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 5)

July 25th, 2014

Catching Up SeriesEditor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislative activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here andthepreviousinstallments. For a comprehensive look-back at the 2013 legislative sessions, check out the “2013 CTE Year in Review,” which was published jointly by NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education in March.

Credentials

Florida lawmakers added a few more provisions to the state’s Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE), adding to the major changes from last year’s session. The law now requires school boards to inform parents of the projected return on investment should their child complete an industry-recognized certification during high school versus completing one after graduation. It also directs the state Department of Education and Workforce Florida, Inc. to begin collecting return-on-investment information for industry-certified CTE programs and career-themed courses as part of its broader collection of student achievement and performance data. The law creates two new features as well – CAPE Acceleration and CAPE Innovation – which will take effect in the 2015-2016 school year, and further incentivizes school districts to offer industry-recognized credentials for articulated college credit.

In a separate bill, the legislature also permitted computer science courses to count for one high school graduation requirement in math or science if the course is deemed of sufficient rigor and a related industry certification is earned. Similarly, a computer technology course in 3D rapid prototype printing with a related industry certification may satisfy up to two math requirements.

In an effort to support and integrate technology in the classroom, the same legislation also provided that grades K-12 will give students the opportunity to earn digital tool certificates and grade-appropriate, technology-related industry certifications.

Military experience for academic credit

Washington and Utah joined a growing number of states that will now offer academic credit for veterans’ military experience as well as in-state tuition. The Connecticut General Assembly directed the state’s licensing authorities to certify, waive, or award certain licenses, examinations or credit to veterans or National Guard members who have military experience similar to the existing requirements.

In Washington, a new law requires the state’s higher education institutions to adopt policies that would award academic credit for military training applicable to the student’s certificate or degree requirements. Meanwhile, Utah lawmakers modified a 2013 law to require that veterans receive college and career counseling before the credit is awarded. According to an analysis by the Education Commission of the States, seven state legislatures also passed similar laws in 2013 related to prior learning assessments for veterans.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

 

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