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Legislative Update: Senate Passes WIOA, Introduces Perkins Amendment and HEA Legislation

June 27th, 2014

CapitolOn Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a bicameral and bipartisan legislative compromise to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). Due for reauthorization since 2003, WIA supports workforce development activities throughout the country and funds job training programs for displaced adults and youth. WIOA reauthorizes this critically important piece of workforce development legislation and the Senate’s strong vote in favor of the compromise legislation constitutes a significant milestone in the bill’s pathway towards becoming law.

NASDCTEc’s initial overview of WIOA can be found here. The legislation makes substantial changes to the nation’s workforce development system and would streamline existing employment and workforce-related education and training systems via unified planning and delivery, common measurements for program performance and more uniform data collection and usage among many other positive new elements contained in the bill.

A procedural agreement reached between both parties late last week significantly reduced the time for debate, and a “managed amendment” process was established to consider three separate amendments to the bill. The first of these, put forward by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), would have permitted Governors to restructure a local workforce board if a local area failed to meet its performance target after just one year. This amendment was ultimately voted down 33-63. As passed, WIOA would allow this type of restructuring to take place after three years of missing these targets.

A second amendment, introduced by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), would have withheld funding by 5 percent to the U.S. Department of Labor if it failed to submit certain evaluations by statutory deadlines in WIOA. The Senate rejected this amendment as well by a margin of 40-58 before proceeding on one put forward by WIOA’s original co-sponsors. This “manager’s amendment” was a package of minor technical modifications to the original text of the bill which did not alter the fundamental content of the legislation. This amendment was adopted, before the chamber began its final vote on the passage of WIOA.

Encouragingly, the Senate voted 95-3 in favor of WIOA, which has now been sent over to the House for consideration. The strong vote from the Senate will likely improve the bill’s prospects in the House. NASDCTEc expects this will occur sometime after the July 4th Congressional recess and as early as July 9th. While there is still a long pathway for WIOA to become law, the Senate’s overwhelming support for the legislation constitutes a significant step forward in that process. NASDCTEc is encouraged by these developments and is hopeful that WIOA will move swiftly through the House next month on its way to becoming law later this year.

Senator Warner Introduces Perkins Proposal

Earlier this week, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced S. 2524 or the Pathways to Prosperity Act of 2014 (Pathways). The bill proposes a number of modifications to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins) and seeks to more closely align Career Technical Education (CTE) programs of study to the needs of the local, regional and state economy. Pathways introduces new statutory definitions for CTE programs of study, credit transfer agreements, labor market information and industry-recognized credentials and then seeks to promote these elements through various portions of current Perkins law.

The bill also directs the National Research Center for CTE (NRCCTE) to provide technical assistance to states to help develop their capacity to collect information on industry-recognized credentials earned by students in an effort to promote their use and help students, parents and policymakers understand their value relative to the labor market. Pathways would also make a small amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to ensure that rigorous, state-identified CTE standards are included alongside academic standards, a shift that is aimed at more closely aligning Perkins and CTE to ESEA and the activities supported under that legislation.

NASDCTEc applauds Senator Warner’s support and dedication to the CTE enterprise, and is hopeful that many elements of his Pathways bill will be included in the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Read the full bill here.

HEA Proposals Begin to Emerge

On Wednesday, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced a discussion draft for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The proposal focuses on four main objectives:

  • Increasing college affordability
  • Assisting student loan borrowers
  • Strengthening accountability
  • Improving transparency

There are a number of positive elements contained in this draft proposal supporting the above goals; however, the Community College and Industry Partnerships Program (CCIPP) is of particular interest to the CTE community. This proposed competitive grant program seeks to support education and career training programs at community colleges and other types of eligible postsecondary institutions. It also seeks to build upon early college high school models and improve linkages between secondary, postsecondary and adult education programs including programs supported by the Perkins Act.

While this draft proposal is a long way from becoming law, these types of programs and other such provisions are encouraging developments for the CTE community as Congress begins to more fully consider the reauthorization of HEA. NASDCTEc will continuing to follow HEA’s progress in the Senate and is tentatively expecting further consideration of this proposal by the HELP committee in the late summer. The text of Chariman Harkin’s proposal can be found here and a factsheet can be found here.

In other HEA news, earlier in the week in the House, Chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) released a white paper outlining key principles that will guide the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in that chamber. The paper centers on four primary goals, many of which have been the subject of Congressional hearings on HEA over the past year:

  • Empowering students and families to make informed decisions
  • Simplifying and improving student aid
  • Promoting innovation, access, and completion
  • Ensuring strong accountability and a limited federal role

The white paper includes a number of policy proposals the committee would like to take up during the reauthorization process and the full paper can be found here.

Three legislative proposals were introduced as part of the release of this whitepaper in an effort to more fully realize the goals outlined above.  More information on these bills can be found here and additional legislation is expected to be introduced in this space in the coming weeks and months.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 3)

June 26th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislative Catching Up Seriesactivity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here and the previous installments here and here. 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.

Workforce development received a lot of attention from state legislatures this spring as lawmakers across the country created new apprenticeship programs, and called on state workforce boards, businesses and education entities to collaborate in order better address local labor market needs and skills gaps.

Apprenticeships, Career Pathways and Tax Credits

Several states created or expanded their apprenticeship programs in an effort to create a stronger pipeline of skilled talent in specific fields. Both Indiana and Connecticut seized on tax credits as a means to encourage businesses to offer qualified apprenticeships.

In Indiana, school districts and charter schools can now receive grants to support career pathways for high-wage, high-demand jobs that require an industry-recognized credential and includes a cooperative agreement with a business. Also, an employer that hires a student who has completed such program is eligible for a tax credit. Indiana also set aside an additional $5 million for its Pathways for Academic Career and Employment, a program first started in 2013 to provide partnerships between community colleges, industry and nonprofits.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s proposed apprenticeship program also passed the legislature, committing about $6 million for the Apprenticeship Training Program Fund and a job training program.

Sector Partnerships, Alignment and Coordination

Several state legislatures directed their workforce investment boards and other entities to determine local and regional workforce needs and to better align their work with counterparts in education and commerce.

In Alabama, the state’s workforce board was allocated $4.3 million for regions to determine local skill needs, develop seamless educational pathways and align funding with identified local workforce needs. The law also sets aside $600,000 for career coaches and an additional $200,000 for regional leadership planning efforts. In a separate bill, the state also created a workforce council to promote industry-focused coordination between businesses and its P-12 and higher education systems.

Kentucky lawmakers required the state’s Office of Education and Workforce Statistics to gather and disseminate employment and earnings data of public, postsecondary graduates. Meanwhile Oregonian lawmakers passed a bill to define “a robust and effective workforce system” by promoting coordination and collaboration of the state’s employment, economic development, job training services and education sectors – in particular community colleges and public and private universities.

Connecticut’s manufacturing industry received a boost from the state legislature through the new Manufacturing Innovation Fund, which can be used to support public and private education and training programs.

States also called upon their workforce boards, education systems and businesses to create sector partnerships in order to better provide industry-driven career pathways and address local and regional skills gaps.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Legislative Update: Senate Postpones Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations, WIOA Momentum Grows 

June 24th, 2014

CapitolEarlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee was set to mark-up its Labor, Health and Human Services (Labor-HHS-ED) appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, but now has abruptly halted this process.

As we shared previously, Senate appropriators had set the overall spending cap for appropriations bill— also known as a 302(b) allocation— at $156.8 billion. This figure was in line with the spending caps put in place by the Murray-Ryan budget agreement for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015. This particular appropriations bill funds the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and ultimately determines funding levels for programs such as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) and its basic state grant allocations.

Following the Senate’s 302(b) announcement, the Senate Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee approved by voice vote its mark-up of the FY 2015 funding bill, which preliminarily determines individual funding levels for the departments and programs under the bill’s jurisdiction. However these proposed funding levels— specifically for the Perkins Act and its basic state grant program— were not publicly released prior to the next step in the Committee’s appropriations process. The full Senate Appropriations Committee was set to take this bill up for consideration a few days after the subcommittee’s affirmative voice vote, but unfortunately that mark-up has been indefinitely postponed and it is still unclear why the process has been delayed.

Turning attention towards the other Congressional Chamber, the House Appropriations Committee also recently set its FY 2015 302(b) allocation at $155.7 billion— roughly $1 billion below the Senate level, which was on par with the FY 2014 allocation level. No date has been set for the House bill’s mark-up, but Committee staff are optimistic that the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill will be considered sometime in July.

NASDCTEc remains hopeful that both Chambers will pass their respective Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bills, but as the summer wears on progress in this area will become more difficult. More recently, Congressional appropriators have talked about a “minibus” approach to passing these funding bills— a strategy that would combine a handful of other appropriations bills together in an effort to speed up passage. As this process unfolds, check our blog for information on what the FY 2015 appropriations process will mean for the Perkins Act in the coming year and beyond.

WIOA Update

Late last week, the Senate announced it had reached a procedural agreement to move forward with its consideration of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) legislation that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The agreement sets out a framework for which the bill will be taken to the entire chamber for a vote. Three amendments will be considered— two from Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and another package of minor changes from the bill’s original co-sponsors. The agreement also limits debate significantly, which means the process should move rather quickly once it is brought to the Senate floor.

NASDCTEc is expecting WIOA to be brought to the full Senate sometime this week and possibly as early as tomorrow. Although the likelihood of the three above amendments’ passage remains relatively low, strong concerns have been raised among the education and workforce development communities surrounding some of the possible negative ramifications from elements contained in the first two of these amendments. As this process unfolds, stay up to date with WIOA’s progress here.

Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Inaugural Briefing

Earlier this month, the recently formed Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus held its first public event featuring a panel discussion on CTE and its role in preparing students for entry into the 21st century economy. As the reauthorization process for the Perkins Act begins to gain momentum, the caucus has planned several other events to familiarize Hill staff and members of the public with the legislation and its role in supporting high-quality CTE throughout the nation. NASDCTEc Executive Director Kimberly Green participated in the event along with three other panelists:

  • Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education
  • Robert Chiappetta, Associate Director of Government Relations, Toyota
  • Steve DeWitt, Deputy Executive Director, ACTE

Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) attended the standing room-only briefing and delivered remarks to the audience regarding their interest and continued support of the CTE enterprise.

Odds & Ends: NGA, BUILD CTE Act, President’s Worchester Commencement Address

Yesterday, the National Governors Association (NGA) released its principles for the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. The document lays out NGA’s positions on governance and leadership, alignment and collaboration, state flexibility, accountability, funding and more with regards to Perkins. The full set of principles can be found here.

Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced H.R. 4782 a bill that would establish a career and technical education exploration pilot program for middle and high school students. The Building Understanding, Investment, Learning, and Direction (BUILD) CTE Act is a companion proposal to S. 1293, legislation that was introduced July of last year in the Senate by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Both proposals seek to create a competitive grant program for local education agencies which do not already receive Perkins funds to establish career exploration programs for these students.

President Obama delivered the commencement address on June 11th for the 2014 graduating class of Worchester Technical High School in Worcester, Massachusetts. The President focused his remarks on the importance of engaging the local community and private sector which has helped to support the high-quality career technical education (CTE) experiences on offer in Worcester. He also highlighted the long list of accomplishments the school and its students have had since it more fully embraced a CTE model throughout the high school. The full speech and transcript can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 2)

June 12th, 2014

Catching Up SeriesEditor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislature activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here and the first installment here. 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.

With more than 80 percent of high schools now enrolling students in dual enrollment coursework, it’s not a huge surprise that dual enrollment continued to expand its reach during the 2014 legislative sessions across the country.

In Alabama, the governor signed a bill that seeks to incentivize a CTE dual enrollment scholarship program. The scholarship program was first proposed by Gov. Robert Bentley’s College and Career Ready Task Force in January and further championed in the governor’s State of the State address.

The scholarship program is intended to be funded by private donations from businesses and individuals, who in turn would receive a 50 percent tax credit on their donations. The law sets aside $5 million dollars for tax credits each year, providing $10 million in scholarships for 9,500 students each year. Additionally, businesses that donate to the program can direct up to 80 percent of their donation to train students for a particular field.

In Alaska, this year’s legislative session was dubbed “the education session” by Gov. Sean Parnell in his State of the State address in January. Whether that focus was achieved still appears unclear, but one large omnibus education bill did pass both chambers and was signed by the Governor last month. Expanded CTE dual credit options were among the bill’s final contents. Institutions that receive funding through the state’s Technical and Vocational Education Program (TVEP) must establish and maintain partnerships with Alaska schools for dual credit in high school and toward certification.

Florida and Oregon also expanded eligibility for dual enrollment. Now, Florida students can begin enrolling in dual-credit courses starting in the sixth grade, and in Oregon, students in the 9th and 10th grades are now eligible.

Finally, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced recently that educators who teach dual enrollment classes will earn coupons to pay for their own college credits. Gov. Bullock said the program is designed to increase the number of dual credit courses available by providing an incentive to instructors themselves. Under this new credit-for-credit program, which will be funded by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, an educator with a master’s degree teaching a dual-credit course will receive a coupon that can be used toward classes in the Montana University System as well as tribal and community colleges. These credits are also transferrable, meaning teachers can give these credit coupons to friends, family or even their students. The pilot program will start this fall and end in spring 2016.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

 

Legislative Update: Senators Call for Presidential CTE Award, FY15 Appropriations Process Moves Forward

June 9th, 2014

Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) recently sent a letter to President Obama asking him to create a Presidential Career and Technical Scholars award through executive order. Currently the Presidential Scholars program recognizes up to 121 high school graduates in the nation based on a combination of academic achievement, community leadership and extracurricular activities. The program also identifies an additional 20 students in the visual and performance arts or creative writing fields centering on participation in the national YoungArts program.

NASDCTEc applauds the Senators’ request to expand the Presidential Scholars program for Career Technical Education (CTE). Such an expansion would more fully acknowledge the level of high-quality CTE work currently under way in high schools throughout the country and highlight the strong academic and technical achievements of individual CTE students. As with the current awards, the application and eligibility requirements for a CTE component to this program would be determined by the Presidential Scholars Commission.

NASDCTEc encourages those in the CTE community to send President Obama a message urging action on this issue here. If you have not done so already, please take the time to thank Senators Kaine, Portman and Baldwin for their continued dedication to the CTE enterprise. While no official response has been sent from the White House as of today, NASDCTEc is hopeful that later this week the CTE community will have an answer to this request.

Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations Outlook
As we shared last month, the House Committee on Appropriations passed a measure setting the 302(b) allocation for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) Appropriations bill. The Department of Education and the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) basic state grant program it administers, falls under this spending bill which the Committee set at $155.7 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. This figure is approximately $1 billion below FY 2014 levels. The Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee must still “markup” an appropriations bill conforming to this cap for FY 2015. This essentially amounts to deciding how that sum will be divided up between the various agencies, departments and programs falling under the jurisdiction of the subcommittee.

While no date has been set in the House, the Senate Committee on Appropriations has embarked upon much the same course. Recently, the committee in that Chamber set its 302(b) allocation for the Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations bill at $156.8 billion for FY 2015— $1 billion above the House level, but still on par with the FY 2014 allocation. The Senate subcommittee has scheduled markup for this bill for tomorrow, June 10th, when funding levels for individual programs— including Perkins— will be determined. The full Committee is also expected to hold a markup on the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill sometime later this week, but an official time and date have not been released.

As a reminder, NASDCTEc supported two Dear Colleague letters in both Chambers calling for a restoration of the remaining sequester cuts to the Perkins Act basic state grant program. In addition to this, NASDCTEc also submitted a formal request for additional funding for the Perkins Act to the Senate Committee on Appropriations based on its FY 2015 call for additional investments for the basic state grant program. As this process unfolds, check back here for updates and analysis on the appropriations process as it relates to Perkins.

Upcoming Webinar: Wage Record Interchange System (WRIS) 2
NASDCTEc encourages those interested to join the Workforce Data Quality Campaign this Thursday at 2:00 – 3:00p.m. ET for a discussion on the Wage Record Interchange System (WRIS) 2. This system allows states to exchange wage records for performance reporting on a variety of programs, including career and technical education, adult education and TANF. The webinar will include information about: why it is important to share wage records across state lines; how WRIS2 operates and ways that states can use the system; and examples of states that are using WRIS2.

Panelists:
• Rachel Zinn, Director, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
• John Glen, Oregon Employment Department
• Ruben Garcia, Texas Workforce Commission

Please click here to register and attend. In case you are unable to attend at that time, WDQC will share a recording of the webinar following the live event.

Odds & Ends: WIOA, ATB, and Hill Staff School Visit
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the bicameral, bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is expected to be taken up by the full Senate sometime during the week of June 16th. The compromise legislation proposes to substitute the House-passed SKILLS Act with the agreement language and will likely be open to some amendments if and when the legislation is considered by the full Chamber.

NASDCTEc recently supported a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and Labor-HHS-ED Subcommittees, calling for the reinstatement of the “Ability to Benefit” (ATB) provision in Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Following Congressional austerity measures in 2012, students who do not have a high school diploma or an equivalent— even if they can demonstrate college-readiness— have not been able to utilize the Pell Grant program to pay for the costs of their postsecondary education. Read the full letter here.

Last week, NASDCTEc participated in a school visit to Edison Academy in Alexandria, Virginia. Hosted by the Association of Career Technical Education (ACTE) and the newly formed Senate CTE Caucus, the visit gave House and Senate staff the opportunity to see a CTE program first-hand and illustrated the vital role the Perkins Act has in supporting the types of high-quality programs on display on the doorstep of the nation’s Capital. Do you have a program you would like to see featured on the Hill? Please contact Steve Voytek at [email protected] or Evan Williamson at [email protected] to learn more.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Catching Up With … State Legislatures (Part 1)

May 27th, 2014

Catching Up Series

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series that will highlight some of this year’s major state legislature activity as it relates to Career Technical Education (CTE). Further explanation of the series can be found here. 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.

There was significant legislative activity related to postsecondary education this spring – with a couple of landmark bills that even caught the attention of national media.

Postsecondary Funding

One of the most notable higher education bills to pass thus far hails from Tennessee, where Governor Bill Haslam recently signed into law the, “Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act.” The law, which will largely be paid for through lottery revenues, guarantees two years of free tuition at a community college or college of applied technology for all graduating high school seniors starting in 2015. Gov. Haslam first proposed in this year’s State of the State address as the cornerstone of his year-old Drive to 55 initiative to increase Tennessean higher education attainment to 55 percent by 2025.

Two other states also made forays into this arena. The Oregon state legislature directed its Higher Education Coordinating Commission to explore the possibility of a free tuition program. The commission is expected to submit its report by September 30. A similar effort in Mississippi, however, died in committee.

Colorado gave its higher education system a much-needed infusion of funds after years of budget cuts. The legislation known as the “College Affordability Act,” was signed by Governor John Hickenlooper in early May and increases higher education funding by $100 million for the 2014-2015 academic year (AY). The bill also institutes a six percent cap on tuition increases for the next two years.  Of that $100 million, 13 percent will be directed to community colleges, 40 percent to student aid and the remaining 53 percent to other higher education institutions.

Colorado’s legislature also passed a measure that would use outcome measures such as student retention and completion rates to determine an institution’s state funding. Currently, the bill has been sent to the governor for signature. Much of the proposed legislation is vague, and if signed into law, such details would be determined by the Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Postsecondary Attainment Plans

Oregon lawmakers added apprenticeships to its higher education attainment plan, also known as the “40-40-20” goal. The plan, which was launched in 2011, states that by 2025 all adult Oregonians will hold a high school diploma or equivalency (the remaining 20 percent), 40 percent will have an associate’s degree or meaningful postsecondary credential, and 40 percent will hold a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree. Under this newest addition, apprenticeships registered with the State Apprenticeship and Training Council now qualify as a meaningful postsecondary credential.

Washington adopted two statewide education attainment goals as part of its 10-year higher education roadmap, which was originally unveiled in 2013. The Washington Student Achievement Council detailed these goals in a report it sent to the legislature in December and includes benchmarks necessary to reach them. The goals are for all Washington adults will have a high school diploma or equivalent and at least 70 percent of Washington adults will have a postsecondary credential.

Bachelor’s Degrees at Community Colleges

Following in the footsteps of more than 20 other states, Colorado also authorized community colleges to offer applied science bachelor’s degrees. While one more state joined a growing list, another decided to step back, momentarily.  The Florida legislature placed a one-year moratorium that prohibits the state’s community colleges from adding any new four-year degree programs. With 24 colleges offering a total of 175 degree programs and the number of such degrees awarded doubling in 2013, lawmakers became concerned that colleges were overstepping their bounds.

Did we miss something related to higher education in your state? Drop us an email!

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

Legislative Update: Congress Announces Agreement on Workforce Development Legislation

May 23rd, 2014

CapitolMore than a decade has passed since the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was originally due for reauthorization. In that time, Congress has come close to an agreement a few times for overhauling the law, but never got as far as it did this past Wednesday. After months of negotiations between both parties in the House and Senate, lawmakers announced they had reached a deal on the long anticipated reauthorization of the federal government’s largest piece of workforce development legislation.

Dubbed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the bicameral, bipartisan legislation is a compromise between the House-passed SKILLS Act (H.R. 803) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s WIA reauthorization legislation (S. 1356). A side-by-side comparison of the proposals can be found here.

The compromise legislation unveiled on Wednesday, contains a number of promising provisions that NASDCTEc and the broader Career Technical Education (CTE) community have been urging Congress to take up since the reauthorization process for WIA began. Specifically, NASDCTEc had raised concerns regarding provisions in both the Senate and House proposals to alter how one-stop infrastructure is funded. Proposals contained in each would have impacted state and local Perkins recipient’s capacity to effectively administer CTE programs and activities.

One-Stop Infrastructure Funding

Currently, WIA does not provide direct funding for the operational costs of one-stop centers and WIOA proposes to follow in that same vein. Much like the current system, WIOA would require that all mandatory partners contribute to the infrastructure costs of one-stop centers, but would do so with more vigor than in current law. The main impetus behind this is to spur greater collaboration among the WIA one-stop system and its partners. Additionally, funding the costs of one-stop infrastructure in this fashion will allow a greater portion of federal appropriations under this act to go towards direct training costs.

Postsecondary CTE programs which receive funding from the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) are among the required partners in the WIA/WIOA one-stop delivery system—  a central point of service for state and local WIA/WIOA training and employment activities where activities with partner programs must also be coordinated. Funding for infrastructure would pay for the operational costs of these one-stop centers.

Under this proposal, local Workforce Development Boards (currently known as local workforce investment boards) are first directed to come to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on infrastructure funding contribution levels, other shared costs, and how the partners would deliver services under the system. Put another way, an MOU is a consensus agreement on those issues among the local board, chief elected officials and one-stop partners in a local area. If such an agreement is not reached, a funding mechanism would be used to require each one-stop partner to contribute up to 1.5 percent of total grant funds available for administrative purposes. However, the contribution level could vary as the Governor must first make a determination for each local one-stop partner’s individual contribution based on a number of factors. By default, these funds would be sent to the Governor, who would then use the contribution to pay for costs of one-stop infrastructure in a local area.

During the process of determining a one-stop partner’s contribution, the Governor must take into account the existing statutory obligations and ability of a program to meet those requirements. Additionally, contributions are required to be calculated based on a “proportionate use” of the one-stop system. Both of these provisions were proposals NASDCTEc and its partners called for as Congressional negotiators worked towards this bipartisan compromise.

Significantly, if a state places the authority of a partner program’s funding outside of the Governor’s office, then the chief official within that agency or entity would execute the above responsibilities on behalf of the Governor. Since Perkins funding in many states flow through an eligible agency fitting this description, the state agency responsible for Perkins would still retain significant oversight  and input into how postsecondary CTE programs receiving Perkins funding would contribute to the one-stop system. While a separate funding stream for infrastructure funding would have been ideal to fully meet the infrastructure costs of the one-stop system, this compromise was needed given the tight fiscal and budgetary constraints under which this bill was negotiated and written.

To recap, only postsecondary CTE programs receiving funding from the Perkins Act would be required partners in the WIOA one-stop system. All of the one-stop partners in a local area must first attempt to come to a voluntary agreement, in the form of an MOU, to fund the costs of infrastructure and to decide how partners would deliver services in the one-stop system. Failure to reach an MOU would trigger the above funding mechanism which would be imposed only on local partner programs in a particular local area where an MOU was not reached. Additional provisions have also been added to this mechanism that would take into consideration partner programs’ statutory obligations and their ability to meet those requirements along with their proportional use of the one-stop system. Most importantly, if a state places Perkins funding authority outside of the Governor’s office, then the chief official in that agency or department would have a significant amount of oversight and input into how these contribution levels are determined.

Sequence of Services Eliminated, Along With 15 Existing Programs

WIOA also proposes to eliminate the “sequence of services” provision contained in current law that requires individuals to go through a prescribed sequence of core services before gaining access to more relevant training. This has been consolidated into “career services,” which holds as a goal to more effectively assess the unique needs of individuals seeking services from the various programs authorized under this legislation. WIOA also consolidates 15 existing programs, many of which are currently authorized, but have been unfunded for a number of years. In total, 14 workforce programs and one higher education program would be consolidated under the proposed legislation.

Board Size, Composition and Direct Contracting

State and local workforce development boards would also be reduced in overall size in an effort to increase their efficiency. Business majorities have been maintained on each and the local iterations encouragingly require representation from adult education and literacy provides, institutions of higher education and can also include representatives from local education agencies. CTE representation is also encouraged, but not a requirement for either board.

Another promising aspect of WIOA is the new found ability of local workforce development boards to directly contract with community colleges. Such contracted training supports faster development and implementation of training programs, and would help to better address current and emerging labor market trends while also quickly increasing capacity during times of high demand. Additionally, WIOA would designate area career and technical education schools as eligible Job Corps operators. This designation allows area CTE centers, along with a host of other institutions such as those in the higher education space, to receive funding under the legislation to operate as a Job Corps center.

Accountability, Career Pathways and State Leadership

WIOA completely revises the accountability section of the existing law, introducing common performance metrics for all the programs authorized under the act. Primary metrics center mainly on employment after program exit, postsecondary education after program completion (for youth programs), median earnings, credential attainment, skills gains and employer engagement. The proposed legislation would also prioritize industry recognized certifications and credentials, another encouraging aspect of the proposal.

There is also a renewed focus on career pathways within WIOA and it introduces a statutory definition seeking to align education, training and other programs into a coherent path towards employment or further postsecondary education. Many of the elements contained in this definition integrate well into a CTE program of study (POS) framework and could compliment stronger aspects of a program of study structure in a newly reauthorized Perkins Act.

Congressional negotiators also sent a strong message regarding the importance of state leadership in education and workforce training programs. WIOA would re-instate the 15 percent set-aside for Governors to carry out statewide initiatives tailored to the individual needs of their particular state.

Outlook and Prospects for WIOA

This overview is by no means exhaustive and there are still many details and aspects of the bill that could change WIOA as it makes its way through both the Senate and the House over the coming weeks and months. Nevertheless, this is the furthest Congress has come in reauthorizing this critical piece of federal workforce development legislation. While not perfect in every respect, WIOA is a positive step in the right direction and NASDCTEc applauds the efforts of Congress to move forward on these critically important issues.

WIOA is currently in the Senate, where it has been introduced as a substitute amendment for the House-passed SKILLS Act (H.R. 803). Senate leaders have hotlined the bill — a parliamentary maneuver which they hope will speed up the Chamber’s consideration of the legislation before it moves on to the House. Congressional aides expect legislative action surrounding WIOA to begin in earnest following the Memorial Day recess. As this process unfolds, NASDCTEc will keep the CTE community informed as to its progress.

Information on the bill, including the full text, one-pagers and factsheets, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Coalition Pushes Perkins Reauthorization with Letter to Legislators

May 21st, 2014

With a rapidly evolving labor market and increasing economic pressure from overseas, interest in the ability of Career Technical Education (CTE) to modernize the American workforce and maintain our country’s economic primacy is steadily mounting. The pending reauthorization of the Perkins Act – the landmark piece of legislation that represents the vast majority of federal investment in CTE – offers an unparalleled opportunity to build upon the tremendous innovation in CTE taking place right now in states across the country.

The CTE Vision Paper encapsulates the goal of CTE today: to prepare students of all ages to succeed in education and careers—and enable the United States to flourish in a dynamic and increasingly competitive global economy. Principally, the Vision Paper outlines five principles critical to setting priorities and blazing a new trail for CTE.

Among those five principles is to actively partner with employers to design and provide high-quality, dynamic programs. Today’s letter reconfirmed broad support for CTE that acknowledges and seeks input from all stakeholders, including employers. The letter cites three points of emphasis for reauthorization:

  • Align CTE programs to the needs of the regional, state, and local labor market;
  • Support effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers;
  • Increase student participation in experiential learning opportunities such as industry internships, apprenticeships and mentorships; and promote the use of industry-recognized credentials.

“What stands out is not only the sheer number of signatories in agreement with the priorities outlined in this letter, it’s the diversity of stakeholders represented,” said NASDCTEc Executive Director Kimberly Green. “CTE is critical to American competitiveness and our economic health – it’s very encouraging to have that acknowledged by such a broad and diverse group. Hopefully Congress agrees that we can’t afford to wait for a full, thoughtful reauthorization of this critical legislation.”

Full text of the letter can be found online here. For more on Perkins and CTE, visit www.careertech.org.

Evan Williamson, Communications Associate

Legislative Update: House Moves Several Education Bills Forward, Appropriations Committee Sets FY 15 Spending Level

May 16th, 2014

CapitolLast week, the House approved through voice vote the Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA). The bipartisan vote and legislation reauthorizes the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), which supports educational research programs such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams and state longitudinal data systems.

“The Strengthening Education through Research Act will improve education research and help ensure more schools and students can benefit from effective educational practices,” said Rep. Rokita (R-IN) upon passage of the legislation.

Of particular interest to the CTE community is SETRA’s authorization for state longitudinal data system (SLDS) grants which encourage the alignment of data across K-12, postsecondary and workforce programs. These grants support the capacity of states and programs to report on post-program employment outcomes for CTE graduates. Additionally, the bill strongly emphasizes the importance of using data effectively for continuous program improvement. As Rep. Rokita pointed out during debate on the House floor, “what good does the data do us if it can’t be used?”

NASDCTEc is very supportive of this legislation and looks forward to SETRA’s future progress in the Senate. The text of the bill, fact sheets, and other useful information can be found here.

In addition to moving forward on SETRA, the House also passed the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 10), which streamlines two existing charter school programs into a single $300 million annual program to support the development and expansion of high-quality charter schools — a $50 million increase over current funding levels.  The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support on a margin of 360-45. House CTE Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) also successfully passed an amendment to the bill before its final passage, which added comprehensive career counseling to the criteria the Secretary of Education must consider when making grants under this legislation.

“This amendment recognizes that career counseling is a critical tool we must promote in order to assure that students are informed and prepared to meet their next educational or career challenge,” Rep. Thompson said upon the amendment’s adoption.

Rep. Langevin echoed these sentiments saying, “Investments in education are repaid many times over through the creation of a skilled, educated workforce. That investment is made exponentially stronger when we provide young people with career counseling programs that enable them to make smart decisions about their futures.”

NASDCTEc applauds this renewed focus on career counseling in our nation’s schools and looks forward to similar proposals to further strengthen these critical student support systems. More information on this legislation can be found here.

House Appropriations Committee Sets Levels for FY 15

Late last week the House Committee on Appropriations passed a measure confirming the topline spending cap for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 at $1.014 trillion for the entire federal discretionary budget. This figure conforms to the spending caps put in place by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. The committee also set about dividing up this figure into 12 separate allocations — known as 302(b)s — to be used by each of the relevant subcommittees as they craft the necessary spending bills to fund the various departments, agencies and programs that compose the federal government.

Discouragingly, the 302(b) allocation for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education — under which the Carl D. Perkins Act’s basic state grant program falls— was set at $155.7 billion. This figure is roughly $1 billion below what was allocated in FY 2014 and will put additional pressures on appropriators as they decide how to divide that sum among the various programs under the jurisdiction of the Labor-HHS-ED bill. As this process unfolds, NASDCTEc will be working with appropriators in both Chambers to ensure that adequate investments are made in our nation’s CTE system. The Senate is expected to undertake this process in the next several weeks.

Does the budget and appropriations process sound confusing? Check-out NASDCTEc’s on-demand webinar unpacking this complex process.

The CREDIT Act

Yesterday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the Credentialing Improvement for Troop Talent (CREDIT) Act of 2014 to help members of the armed services acquire credentials for use in the civilian labor market. The bill would expand the authority of the Tuition Assistance program currently available to servicemembers by allowing the program to cover expenses stemming from obtaining a civilian credential. Under the program’s current rules, the program only provides financial assistance for postsecondary programs and does not cover fees from certification or licensing programs.

“The CREDIT Act will provide servicemembers with the resources they need to obtain civilian credentials while on active duty, easing their entry into the civilian workforce and improving their chances of getting quickly hired by a private sector employer,” said Sen. Kaine upon the introduction of his bill. NASDCTEc strongly supports this legislation and applauds the Senator’s commitment to expanding federal financial aid eligibility for CTE programs that help prepare students in all walks of life for further education and careers.  More information on the bill can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Catching Up With … State Legislatures

May 16th, 2014

Across the country, almost half of state legislatures have rapped the gavel for the last time to close their regular sessions for 2014. Given the strong focus on issues relating to Career Technical Education (CTE) throughout 2013 and in many governors’ state of the state addresses, we’ve decided to take stock of how CTE fared in the first quarter of the year.

Over the next few weeks, we will launch a series of blog posts catching up with highlights from the 2014 session. The first series will focus on the 25 legislatures that had finished as of May 9 and will be divided thematically. Another round will roll out this summer once the remaining sessions end. Legislatures in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin conduct business throughout the year, and activity will be covered as it is passed, along with other relevant policies enacted by State Boards of Education, Governors’ Offices and key state agencies.

This series is not meant to be all-encompassing but rather a high-level overview of the states’ legislative activity. 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.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

 

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