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

August 18th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

The JOBS Act—Making Pell Work for Students

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

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

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

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

Presidential Scholars Program Continues to Take Shape

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

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

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

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

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

This Week in CTE

July 17th, 2015

TWEET OF THE WEEK

ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
Top U.S.-Based Companies Launch the “100,000 Opportunities Initiative” to Create Pathways to Economic Opportunity for Young Americans
Over a dozen companies from Alaska Airlines to Walgreens have partnered for the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative with the goal of creating pathways to employment for young Americans. To kick off the initiative, Chicago hosted the first Opportunity Fair & Forum where organizations trained and made job offers to local youth.
Read More

RESOURCE OF THE WEEK
Integrating Employability Skills: A Framework for All Educators
The College & Career Readiness & Success Center in partnership with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders and RTI International developed this Professional Learning Module – a collection of PowerPoints, handouts, workbooks and various tools – to help assist state and regional educator centers and staff in increasing their knowledge and capacity in integrating employability skills in their work.
Read More

NASDCTEc RESOURCE OF THE WEEK
There’s a lot moving on Capitol Hill. Follow our Legislative Update series to find out the latest on the Early and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.
Read More

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Senate Passes ESEA Rewrite

July 17th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

Legislative Update: Congress Wrestles with ESEA

July 13th, 2015

United States CapitalThroughout last week, lawmakers on Capitol Hill began to take up their respective proposals to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—the nation’s largest K-12 education law formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

On Wednesday, the House passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5)—the Chamber’s rewrite of NCLB. After being removed from full consideration earlier this year when House conservatives began to oppose the bill for not rolling back the federal role in K-12 education enough, H.R. 5 was finally brought to a vote where it was passed along partisan lines by an extremely slim margin of 218-213. Of note to the CTE community, the final bill would repeal the “highly-qualified” teacher provision, require states and local recipients of federal funding to report on CTE-related student outcomes, and require further integration of academic and CTE coursework—all priorities for NASDCTEc in ESEA reauthorization.

However, the legislation would radically transform federal K-12 education policy and has been extremely controversial since its introduction in the 113th Congress. Several amendments, some old and some new, were considered and adopted during the debate in an effort to garner additional support needed to finally pass the bill:

  • A provision shortening the law’s authorization period to FY 2016 – 2019 (previously H.R. 5 would have gone to FY 2021)
  • Explicit language allowing States to withdraw from the Common Core without penalty from the U.S. Secretary of Education (since Common Core is not a federal requirement, this amendment is largely meaningless)
  • Additional language clarifying the importance of student data privacy
  • A new initiative to support digital learning programs in rural schools
  • New opt-out language that allows parents to opt their children out of assessments mandated under H.R. 5 and allow schools to ignore these opted-out students when calculating overall rates of participation

Most notably, the “A-PLUS” Act—a Title I portability proposal that would have allowed states to fully block grant their Title I funding for “any educational purpose allowed under state law”—was voted down by a 195-235 margin. The White House has repeatedly issued veto threats for the Student Success Act and Congressional Democrats vehemently oppose much of what is contained in the proposal. Read the House’s Education and Workforce Committee’s press release on the bill’s passage here.

In the Senate, debate on the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177)—that Chamber’s bipartisan proposal for ESEA’s reauthorization—began on Tuesday and lasted through much of the week. The bill has been shepherded by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). The process for the bill’s consideration has been much more consensus-driven than that of the House. ECAA contains a number of promising CTE-related provisions such as:

  • A requirement that states and local begin reporting on student attainment of CTE proficiencies (something already done under Perkins, so as not to create new reporting burdens)
  • A requirement that state academic standards be aligned with relevant state-identified CTE standards
  • Provisions allowing for 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
  • Support of career counseling in Title IV of the bill

NASDCTEc is currently working with a number of Senate offices on CTE-related amendments related to using CTE instructional strategies as a model for high school reform, further inclusion of CTE within ECAA’s definition for core academic subjects, strengthened career counseling language, stronger support for dual and concurrent enrollment programs, and improved professional development programs for teachers and principals.

So far, the Senate has passed a handful of amendments related to school library programs, greater support for Native American students, and a new effectiveness study to be conducted of all ESEA funded programs. Notably, Chairman Alexander’s school voucher amendment—a proposal that would have allowed Title I funds to be used by low-income students at public or private schools of their choice—was ultimately rejected by the Senate.

Further debate of ECAA begins later today and through the week with a number of other CTE and non-CTE related proposals expected to be taken up. While the passage of ECAA is likely to occur this year, the pathway forward for a full ESEA reauthorization remains unclear. Reconciling ECAA and the Student Success Act will likely prove to be extremely difficult as both bills are dramatically far apart on many key issues related to the appropriate federal role in K-12 education as well as funding levels for many programs authorized under the law.

Stay tuned throughout the week for more ESEA related action and be sure to check back here for updates and analysis of this process.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

State Policy Update: New CTE Briefs Feature Ohio and Massachusetts; Legislatures Send New Money to CTE

July 9th, 2015

Today, Achieve released two new briefs highlighting academic and CTE integration in Ohio and Massachusetts. Achieve also released a helpful compendium of its CTE resources, many of which NASDCTEc helped produce. Download the PDF compendium here.

In “Seizing the Future: How Ohio’s Career-Technical Education Programs Fuse Academic Rigor and Real-world Experiences to Prepare Students for College and Careers,” we learn about the changing face of Ohio CTE, which now focuses on integrating academics in a rigorous and relevant curriculum in high-skill, high-demand Career Clusters® and pathways and includes strong connections to postsecondary education and employers.

“Career-tech now integrates rigorous academic preparation with career education,” says Steve Gratz, senior executive director at the Ohio Department of Education and NASDCTEc member. “We are ‘mashing up’ college and career. This is a shift from the past and one that we are serious about.”

In “Best of Both Worlds: How Massachusetts Vocational Schools are Preparing Students for College and Careers,” we learn more about state policies that promote strong programming, including the state’s college- and career-ready course of study, incentives for rigorous academic standards in its accountability system, and capacity-building support for locals. The brief also highlights some of the state’s vocational-technical schools for their impressive student outcomes.

Finally, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) has also released a new brief that examines the efforts of six states — Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, New Jersey, and West Virginia – to modify their existing science standards or adopt new benchmarks such as the Next Generation Science Standards. It also explores each state’s unique path to adoption and implementation as well as the common strategies and activities used to engage stakeholders.

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State Legislative Update

With more than two thirds of state legislatures adjourned for the year, CTE has had some big wins in statehouses across the country. You can catch up with our last legislative update here. In the last few weeks, there have been a few more notable developments.

  • Earlier this week, Oregon lawmakers approved free tuition to its 17 community colleges through a $10 million last-dollar scholarship program similar to Tennessee’s popular initiative.
  • Additionally, lawmakers appropriated $35 million for STEM and CTE-related activities, including a pilot program to increase student exposure to CTE.
  • In late June, the California legislature agreed to a $115 billion budget deal – effective July 1 – that sends more than $400 million in new money to the state’s CTE programs next year. Specifically, lawmakers approved Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed CTE Incentive Grant program to the tune of $900 million over the next three years (with $400 million for Fiscal Year 2015-16), though the state’s budget adviser cited concerns about the program back in March. This additional CTE funding follows two years and a $500 million investment in the California Career Pathways Trust, which has already awarded two rounds of competitive grant funding to partnerships among schools, community colleges, and employers to create career pathways aligned to high-need and high-growth sectors. One more CTE-related proposal, The Career and Job Skills Education Fund, is still working its way through the legislature, and is focused on results-driven CTE programs. If passed, it remains unclear how this will be funded given that, as currently proposed, it is contingent upon funds appropriated in the recently passed budget.
  • Finally, Nevada and Michigan also saw significant funding bumps for CTE, middle college programs and dual enrollment.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Legislative Update: Congress Finalizes Funding Proposals for Perkins as the Obama Administration Makes CTE Scholars Announcement and Adjusts Higher Ed Agenda

June 29th, 2015

CapitolFor the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) communities, last week was busy to say the least. Congressional appropriators in both the House and the Senate marked up and ultimately approved two separate appropriations bills for the Labor-HHS-ED portion of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 federal budget—an accomplishment not seen in several years despite intense partisan disagreement over the funding levels constraining each proposal. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) both derive funding from these funding bills which would need to be reconciled and ultimately signed into law by the President before becoming law. However, both bills propose to stay within the Budget Control Act’s (BCA) sequester caps— self-imposed overall limits on how much Congress can spend on the programs falling under this and other portions of the budget.

These sequester caps have been at the center of much partisan disagreement since 2013 when they were first triggered. Democrats would like to see these caps raised in order to make much needed investments in education and related programs while Republicans largely want to stay within the caps or offset additional investments with related cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. Without changes to the underlying BCA legislation— something that the 2014 Ryan-Murray budget agreement achieved for FY’s 2014 and 2015— funding levels for the majority of programs will stagnate and be at risk of further cuts for FY 2016 and many years to come.

In light of this, the House Appropriations Committee approved their FY 2016 Labor-HHS-ED bill on a vote of 30-21. As we shared earlier, the bill would reduce ED’s discretionary budget by $2.8 billion dollars—a cut that would bring the Department’s overall discretionary budget back to FY 2004 funding levels. Final approval of this bill also gave further clarity to what lawmakers intend for the Perkins Act. While Perkins basic state grants would remain level-funded at the same amounts the program received in FY 2015, the bill would reduce Perkins’ national activities funding by $3.6 million dollars. The bill also contains a number of policy riders (both education related and otherwise) such as prohibiting ED from enforcing its recently upheld “gainful employment” regulations and its proposed college ratings system, a move that when taken together with the bill’s overall proposed funding levels virtually guarantees that the proposal will not be signed by the President.

In the Senate, the Appropriations committee moved quickly throughout the week to get a Labor-HHS-ED bill through subcommittee and to a final vote by its full membership. Approving the bill on a 16-14 vote along party lines, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s bill would cut ED’s discretionary budget by $1.36 billion. Like the House, the Senate would cut Perkins national activities by $3 million and level-fund Perkins state grants at $1.117 billion—the same amounts the program has received in FY 2014 and 2015. While these figures reflect a nearly 96 percent restoration of the FY 2013 sequester cuts imposed on Perkins, the program on the whole remains well below what it received in FY 2010 and approximately $5.4 million below pre-sequester levels.

Despite the gloomy outlook for most of the education community, the central issue in the ongoing funding debate in Congress centers on the BCA sequester caps. As lawmakers struggle to meet the needs of students and families across the country, more will need to be done to raise or eliminate these caps. Until that happens, federal investments in education, and in particular CTE, will continue to stagnate until Congress decides to act. With Congress poised to pass the necessary 12 spending bills needed to fund the government before the August recess, and with Congressional Democrats and the President making clear that they will not support the funding levels contained in these proposals, it remains unclear how this appropriations fight will play out as the end of FY 2015 on September 30th looms ever closer.

Be sure to check back here for more updates on the Congressional appropriations process and what that means for the wider CTE community.

Obama Administration Changes Direction with College Ratings Framework

Late last week the Obama Administration announced a major revision to their proposed accountability-based college ratings system originally due for release later this summer. When first announced, ED solicited public comments on the proposal and NASDCTEc, along with the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), provided feedback on the feasibility of the initiative. Many stakeholder groups within the higher education community shared substantial concerns regarding the viability of the effort and questioned the appropriate role and responsibilities Ed should have in ensuring access to and affordability of postsecondary education.

In light of these comments Jamienne Studley, ED’s Deputy Under Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, announced that the Department’s original proposal—which would have “rated” postsecondary institutions into three wide-ranging categories of low, medium, and high performing and tied federal financial aid decisions to that determination— would now be revised to be a public-facing consumer information tool, providing prospective students and their families with a information regarding postsecondary institutions in order for them to make more informed decisions when making choices about their postsecondary education.

This proposal has been a source of much partisan discomfort in Congress, particularly in the House where the most recent Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill included additional provisions that would have prevented the Administration from implementing the system. Read the House Education and Workforce Committee’s response to the announcement here.

ED plans to have the newly reimagined system available for public use by the end of the summer. Learn more about the effort here.

This announcement comes on the heels of another major development for the Administration’s higher education agenda. Last Tuesday, the U.S. District Court of D.C. ruled that ED’s “gainful employment” regulations can be implemented as scheduled on July 1st, 2015 after several lawsuits from for-profit and private institution trade groups challenged the premise of the new rules. The regulations will require career education programs to meet specific debt-to-income ratios for graduates based on their annual and discretionary income following program exit.

This is ED’s second attempt at implementing these regulations and this latest ruling paves the way for the rules ultimate adoption later this week. Read Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s formal response applauding the court’s ruling here.

President Obama Expands Presidential Scholars Program

As we shared last week, President Obama signed Executive Order 11155—a decree that will expand the existing Presidential Scholars program to include up to 20 CTE students each year moving forward. While the details of the CTE component to the program are still being determined, beginning in the 2015-16 school year, the Chief State School Officers will nominate CTE scholars who will then be selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars. Tomorrow, the White House will play host to another CTE-related event where additional details regarding the announcement are expected. Learn more about this exciting development here.

Odds & Ends

  • Following the July 4th Congressional recess, the Senate has announced that on July 7th the Chamber will take up its consideration of the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177)— legislation to reauthorization the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
  • Last Wednesday, the Senate CTE Caucus hosted a briefing on CTE’s role in middle school. The event explored issues impacting CTE in the middle grades and provided a platform for Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) to speak about his recent reintroduction of the Middle STEP Act—legislation that NASDCTEc has supported and endorsed for the past two years. Learn more about the bill here.
  • The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) is out with a useful factsheet on recently introduced House and Senate legislation for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The document focuses on each of the bills’ provisions regarding the collection of student unit record data— a feature NASDCTEc has advocated in future HEA legislation. Read the factsheet here.
  • ED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) is out with a new report titled the “Evolution and Potential of Career Pathways”. The report is part of OCATE’s wider ‘CTE within career pathways’ initiative in conjunction with Jobs for the Future (JFF). Read the report here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

Legislative Update: Reauthorization Efforts Push Ahead for ESEA, WIOA NPRM Comment Period Ends as Funding Battles in and HEA Reauthorization Continue in Congress

June 18th, 2015

CapitolAfter 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 

Legislative Update: House Subcommittee Considers Perkins Funding Bill

June 16th, 2015

2014-11-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-washington-dc-back-Marko-BerndtTomorrow morning the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) will mark-up an appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016— the portion of the federal budget that funds the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and, relatedly, the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program. While still a long way off from the House’s full consideration, reconciliation with a forthcoming Senate proposal, and ultimate enactment, the subcommittee’s mark-up of this bill is still a significant step in the federal budget and appropriations process that has not occurred successfully in several years. The mark-up process, where the bill will be further amended by members of the subcommittee, will provide insight into the committee’s funding priorities for education and workforce development programs as the Congressional appropriations process continues.

As we have shared previously, both the House and the Senate have agreed to and passed a budget framework that stays within the bounds of the Budget Control Act’s (BCA) statutorily required budget caps (also known as sequester caps) which limit the overall size the federal budget well into the next decade. Early this morning, the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor-HHS-ED released its draft of the FY 2016 Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill which adheres to these caps and would cut USDE’s budget by $2.8 billion—a figure that is larger than the reduction to USDE’s budget as a result of BCA-mandated sequestration in FY 2013.

At present, it remains unclear what the subcommittee is proposing with regards to the Perkins basic state grant program. The bill as currently written combines funding for adult education and Career Technical Education (CTE) into a single lump sum which is approximately $7 million below FY 2015 levels. What is uncertain is how this $7 million reduction will be distributed between adult education and CTE— something tomorrow’s mark-up process should make clearer.

As a reminder, the Perkins basic state grant program has been funded at $1.117 billion since FY 2014 where the program restored 96 percent of its sequestration cuts from FY 2013. Nevertheless, the state grant program remains $5.4 million below pre-sequester levels. More information on Perkins funding levels can be found here. NASDCTEc and the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) have been urging Congress to fund Perkins at pre-sequester levels in FY 2016 and we encourage you to contact your members of Congress to remind them about the importance of Perkins funding. Be sure to voice your support through ACTE’s action center here!

In addition to the above implications for Perkins state grants specifically, the draft bill also proposes to eliminate 19 existing education programs of interest to the CTE community including School Improvement grants, funding for elementary and secondary school counseling, and Investing in Innovation (I3) grants among others. It contains a few USDE-related policy riders too—provisions unrelated to funding— that would prohibit the Department from enforcing its imminent “Gainful Employment” regulations, block USDE from implementing its forthcoming college ratings system later this summer, prevent the Department from using 21st Century Community Learning Centers funds to expand learning time, and would create limitations for how USDE defines “credit hour” for the purposes of federal financial aid as well as changing program integrity rules related to how distance learning programs are authorized by states.

It is important to note that both Democrats and Republicans remain extremely divided over how to fund federal programs in FY 2016 and in particular how to grapple with the self-imposed sequester caps that are anathema to both party’s distinct funding priorities. This partisan disagreement will continue to deepen as the year continues and it remains highly unlikely that lawmakers will reach agreement on the 12 independent funding bills, including Labor-HHS-ED, that are needed to fund the totality of the federal government. While CTE and the Perkins Act remain solid, bipartisan issues, the larger debate around federal appropriations will continue to take center stage as the end of the 2015 fiscal year draws to a close on September 30th.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for additional updates on this process, along with a host other CTE-related information from the past few weeks.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Early, Strong Showing for CTE, Workforce Bills in State Legislatures

May 14th, 2015

With nearly half of the state legislative sessions adjourned for the year, it’s time to take a look at how CTE is faring in statehouses across the country.

Starting in January, there were early indications that CTE would have a strong presence in the 2015 legislative sessions given its prominence in many gubernatorial budgets and State of the State addresses. In fact, by the time 46 governors had declared their legislative priorities for the year, CTE had appeared in some capacity in nearly half of these speeches and budgets with some devoting significant time to CTE and workforce development.

Then it was the lawmakers’ turn to get down to businesses. In some states, CTE champions emerged from bipartisan legislative coalitions and business groups to help bolster funding and support. (Note: These are just some of the highlights of state CTE activity so far in 2015, and are by no means all encompassing.)

  • Colorado’s 10-bill “Ready to Work” package was part of a bipartisan pledge from more than two dozen lawmakers to help those being left behind in the state’s fast-growing economy connect to training and education that can lead them to better jobs. In the end, the legislature sent eight bills to Gov. John Hickenlooper for signature. The bills establish incentives for advanced industry companies to create work-based learning opportunities, authorize a P-TECH school to be created, funds mobile learning labs that create training areas on-site for colleges and companies, and increase the number of career pathways in in-demand industries such as construction and health care.
  • State funding for K-12 CTE in Montana doubled to $2 million annually, thanks to the efforts of a group of legislators and local education leaders. The original bill proposed raising state funding to $10 million to make Montana’s CTE funding in line with nearby states.

There were also some major governance changes that would alter the way CTE and workforce development programs are delivered.

  • South Dakota lawmakers also passed a bill that would dramatically change the governance of the state’s four technical institutes – such as the one President Barack Obama visited last week. The current governing system, described as a turf war, has the technical institutes controlled by K-12 districts but funded by the state and competing with the Board of Regents, which governs the university system for students and course offerings. The new law will allow the institutes to establish their own governing body. A separate joint resolution, which will require an amendment to the state’s constitution and go before the voters in July, clarifies the roles of the institutes and the Board of Regents.
  • In Arkansas, new Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a series of three bills that made sweeping changes to career education and workforce training. The bills did the following: created the Career Education and Workforce Development Board to establish and administer a comprehensive statewide workforce education program as well as the Office of Skills Development to award $15 million in grants for workforce training programs; started a $2 million program to provide workforce training planning grants at community colleges; and established the Arkansas Workforce Development Board, which will be comprised of industry representatives.

Despite some notable CTE funding boosts, 22 states are reportedly facing budget deficits, according to a recent analysis from the Associated Press and the effects of tight budgets are being felt.

  • In Arizona, new Gov. Doug Ducey signed a “historically lean” state budget that cut universities dramatically, eliminated state aid for Pima and Maricopa Community Colleges and cut $30 million from the state’s Joint Technical Education Districts, which is the primary delivery system for Arizona secondary CTE programs.
  • Florida lawmakers wrapped up their session in early May without passing a budget – a first for the state – and thus leaving school districts in limbo. Gov. Rick Scott in March called for historic levels of K-12 funding, but as lawmakers reconvene in June to tackle the budget, it remains to be seen where it will land.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Spring Wrap-Up Edition (Part II)

May 5th, 2015

cherry-blossoms-at-jefferson-150x150A lot has happened this season on Capitol Hill, particularly with regards to the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), new CTE-related legislation and various announcements from the Obama Administration. As summer draws closer, we wanted to take a moment and re-cap all of the exciting activity going on in Washington D.C. as we look ahead to 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 springtime legislative updates. 

Implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

On April 16th, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services (DOL, ED, HHS) formally published a long overdue series of Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). These NPRM’s are a proposed set of rules developed by the Obama Administration that would govern the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). They were released in five parts:

  1. Unified and combined plans, performance accountability and the one-stop system (DOL/ED)
  2. DOL-administered activities (DOL only)
  3. Title II adult education and family literacy activities (ED only)
  4. Miscellaneous program changes (ED only)
  5. State vocational rehabilitation services program, state-supported employment service programs and limitations on the use of subminimum wage (ED only)

 

The National Skills Coalition recently released a helpful summary and webinar overviewing the main elements of this proposal. Moreover, DOL recently released a Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) that outlines the governance-related activities that States must complete by July 1st of this year. As a reminder, all of WIOA’s required implementation dates can be found here.

While the five NPRM’s cover the full spectrum of WIOA implementation, the most relevant proposal for the CTE community is the first NPRM listed above, jointly developed and released by both DOL and ED. This NPRM seeks to provide additional guidance to states as they choose to pursue the unified or combined planning options available under WIOA, a clearer articulation of two of WIOA’s common performance metrics— “indicators of effectively serving employers” along with “measurable skills gains”— and attempts to provide clarity regarding the sharing of infrastructures costs for WIOA’s One-Stop system of which postsecondary CTE is a required partner.

Published in the Federal Register on April 16th, the Obama Administration has opened up these NPRMs for public consumption and comment. Responses to the department are due no later than June 16, 2015 and can be submitted here by following the on-screen instructions.

NASDCTEc and its partners plan to provide formal comments on the issues outlined above in the coming weeks and will continue to monitor and engage with the federal rulemaking process as it continues throughout the rest of this year.

CTE Legislation Round-Up

In March Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), co-chairs of the Senate CTE Caucus, introduced the Next Generation High Schools Act (NGHS), a bill that would create a $300 million competitive high school redesign program to increase the number of students who graduate college-and-career ready by connecting schools with comprehensive, evidence-based reform models similar to those found in CTE.

Specifically, the bill would support applied learning instructional approaches and rigorous CTE curriculum to overhaul high schools in an effort to boost graduation rates and increase student achievement. NASDCTEc supported the introduction of this bill and has fully endorsed the proposal. A press release on the legislation can be found here and more information is located here. In a recent op-ed article, Senator Baldwin reiterated her intent to introduce additional CTE-related legislation further on this year.

Last week Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Go to High School, Go to College Act which seeks to increase student access to postsecondary education. The bill would incentive early college and dual / concurrent enrollment models offered at the high school level by expanding federal Pell Grant program eligibility to qualifying students to pursue these opportunities.

A companion bill sponsored by Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Chris Gibson (R-NY) has also been introduced in the House. NASDCTEc has fully supported and endorsed this legislation and applauds these lawmakers’ commitment to providing a quality postsecondary education to all students. More information on the bill can be found here and a press release from Senator Portman’s office is located here.

Updates from the Obama Administration

Last week, ED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) released a fourth round of non-regulatory guidance for issues surrounding the implementation of the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins). Common questions regarding the law’s implementation and corresponding answers, along with the three previous versions of this Q&A, can be viewed on OCTAE’s newly renovated Perkins Collaborative Resource Network.

OCTAE has also recently released a summary report of the responses ED, DOL, and HHS received from last year’s request for information (RFI) on quality career pathway development and implementation. NASDCTEc, along with 140 other stakeholder groups, provided comment during this solicitation. View the full report here.

In March, the Obama Administration announced the launch of their “TechHire” initiative which will provide $100 million in competitive grant funding through DOL to create partnerships between employers, eligible training institutions, and local governments.  Funded by DOL’s H1-B visa fees, the initiative seeks to invest in innovative, data-driven programs that provide participants specific occupational training. More information on available grants is expected later this year, but an overview of the effort can be found here.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and the Aspen Institute announced the launch of “Communities that Work Partnership”, a new joint effort that seeks to promote industry-led training and workforce development programs. Supported by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s (Commerce) Economic Development Administration, the announcement is part of Commerce’s ongoing “Skills for Business” initiative that is aimed at preparing workings for job opportunities in in-demand occupations and industry sectors. More information on the announcement, how to engage with this work, and relevant deadlines can be found here.

Sector partnerships are one of the new points of emphasis under WIOA. In an effort to support the creation and expansion of these partnerships, DOL’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has announced in a recent TEGL the availability of $150 million in grant funding for state agencies responsible for administering Title I programs and activities under WIOA. Funds may be used for the planning of individual sector strategies, related program services, and administration. More information is available from the National Skills Coalition’s blog.

Last week, the White House hosted its first-ever “Upskilling Summit” to bring together the employer and education communities. The event also marked the unveiling of a new report on how the Administration plans to promote a series of public-private partnerships aimed at supporting workers of all ages and background’s as they seek to secure high-skill, high-wage jobs. Read the report here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

 

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