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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

Legislative Update: Secretary Duncan Defends Administration’s FY 15 Budget Priorities before Congress, STEM Equity Bill Introduced in the House

May 2nd, 2014

CapitolOn Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the full House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) to discuss the Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget request for the Department of Education (ED). As we have previously shared, the President’s budget request calls for $1.117 billion for the Carl D. Perkins (Perkins) basic state grant program— the same amount the program is set to receive for FY 2014. It also reiterates the Administration’s request for a $100 million competitive Career Technical Education (CTE) innovation fund to be paid for out of funds already designated for this purpose.

House appropriators on the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee voiced strong concerns about these proposals several weeks ago, and the HEW Committee reinforced many of those concerns this past Tuesday. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), who was recently honored with NASDCTEc’s Star of Education Award, echoed these sentiments.

“[ED] does not propose any additional funding for the Perkins Act,” he said. “The solutions to address [the needs of the economy] are in CTE programs throughout the country funded through the [Perkins Act].” Rep. Thompson also pressed Secretary Duncan on the Administration’s proposal to fund “untested and often duplicative education initiatives when we have a tried and true solution in Perkins.”

Secretary Duncan argued that the Department’s competitive funding proposals were aimed to more effectively use limited resources and to scale-up successful CTE models.  Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) echoed many of Rep. Thompson’s concerns and also questioned aspects of ED’s 2012 CTE Blueprint, particularly its proposal to require mandatory consortia of LEAs, postsecondary institutions, and other partners in order to receive Perkins funding. After acknowledging the importance of collaboration between the secondary and postsecondary CTE learner levels, Rep. Guthrie pointed out that many “rural or smaller schools may not be able to form a consortium.”

On this point Secretary Duncan conceded that, “The consortia idea is one that we want to continue to think through. Anything we can do in that Blueprint — it’s two years out of date now —something we can do better [sic], we’d be happy to update.” While ED has not officially announced plans to update its CTE Blueprint, NASDCTEc is encouraged that a top Administration official has expressed a willingness to rethink aspects of the proposal.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) also raised concerns regarding the impact of competitive grant programs to ensure equitable access for students. “How do you plan to ensure equal opportunity and funding for all students and not just the ones from school districts with the ability to write grants?”

She also highlighted her efforts to expand Pell eligibility for high school students enrolled in early college programs. A similar proposal contained in the Department’s FY 2015 budget request would expand Pell eligibility for students as part of a career pathway and she encouraged the Administration to continue with these efforts. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), the newest member of HEW, also promoted a similar idea of using early college and dual enrollment as a model for CTE. Secretary Duncan said he was open to this idea and that the Department would look for promising strategies to encourage postsecondary credit and industry certification attainment at the secondary level.

Other members on the committee such as Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) voiced strong opposition to the Department’s new gainful employment and program integrity regulations among other similar topics.

An archived webcast of the hearing, including testimony, can be found here.

STEM Equity Bill Introduced in the House

Also on Tuesday, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) introduced the Getting into Researching, Learning & Studying of STEM (GIRLS-STEM) Act of 2014 (H.R. 4515). The bill would establish a program at the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that more female students participate in STEM education and have access to career and academic counseling. The program would provide grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) to support efforts and initiatives to encourage young women to study STEM subjects, educate parents about the opportunities for their children in STEM fields, provide mentorship opportunities for students, and prepare secondary students for transitions into postsecondary STEM programs.

“I know from personal experience that STEM careers can be personally and professionally rewarding, and we owe it to our young women to make sure they have access to the necessary education,” said Rep. McNerney, who has a Ph.D. in mathematics and worked for many years as an engineer. NASDCTEc applauds the Congressman’s efforts to promote young women in STEM programs and looks forward to working with him to more fully realize this admirable goal. A full press release on the legislation can be found here.

Performance Pilot Partnerships (P3) Update

As we shared last week, the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services and a number of other federal agencies, announced a new pilot program to better address the needs of disconnected youth in communities, states and tribal areas. The Departments released a consultation paper on this initiative which seeks to give a clearer picture as to the program’s design and purpose.

A webinar on P3 was also held this week, where it was explained that local Perkins grant recipients would be eligible to participate in these programs if an agreement is first reached with the state’s Perkins eligible agency. While funding stream “braiding” seems to be an objective of the pilots, it is still unclear at this time how reporting requirements for Perkins would be reconciled with other programs in a given project. As details on P3 become clearer, NASDCTEc will update the CTE community on the potential for collaboration.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: House Appropriators Question Administration’s FY15 Priorities, New Proposals on Perkins Emerge

April 11th, 2014

CapitolOn Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee regarding the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget request for education.  As we shared previously, the Administration requested $1.117 billion for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program— a figure that would maintain the same level of funding as in FY 2014, but would keep the program below pre-sequestration levels. The request also proposed to use a portion of these funds for a competitive “innovation fund” similar to what the Administration has previously proposed in its 2012 Blueprint for Career Technical Education (CTE).

During the subcommittee hearing, members from both parties strongly questioned these aspects of the budget request, asked why additional funds were not requested for the Perkins Act and voiced strong opposition to the Administration’s other proposals for new competitively funded programs.

“The concern is that these proposals would be made at the expense of meeting our current obligations,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), echoed these sentiments and emphasized the importance of the overall federal investment in education. The full hearing and testimony transcripts can be found here.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) questioned the Secretary further on these issues asking, “Why does the Administration continue to propose competitive grants that only benefit a few students rather than investing in proven programs like CTE that help to further the goal of career readiness for all students?”

Secretary Duncan did point out that 89 percent of the funds from his department actually go to formula programs and that the Administration on the whole has invested heavily in CTE via alternative funding streams such as the Youth CareerConnect program.

However, there was genuine skepticism from many of the members present for how these proposals would negatively impact the ability of students to equitably access CTE programs throughout the country. As Rep. Roby pointed out, “We have yet to fulfill our commitment to fully fund existing formula-driven programs.”

To that end, members of Congress on and off the subcommittee have been hard at work over the past several weeks to push for additional investments for the Perkins Act ahead of the Congressional FY 2015 appropriations process. Two Dear Colleague letters, one in the House and the other in the Senate, were supported on a bipartisan basis by 93 Representatives and 25 Senators respectively, calling for a restoration of the Perkins Act basic state grant program to pre-sequester levels.

NASDCTEc encourages its members and those in the CTE community to reach out to all of the lawmakers who supported these efforts and thank them for their strong support for the Perkins Act and CTE. Special recognition must go to Sens. Blumenthal (D-CT), Kaine (D-VA), Baldwin (D-WI) and also Reps. Thompson (R-PA) and Langevin (D-RI) who lead these efforts in both Chambers.

Don’t know how to get in touch with Congress? Find out here!

Perkins Amendment Introduced in the House

Earlier this week Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the “Perkins Modernization Act of 2014,” which seeks to more closely align CTE programs with labor market needs. Specifically it would substitute all references to “high skill, high wage, or high demand occupations in current or emerging professions,” currently found in the Perkins Act and substitute them with “employment in current or emerging in-demand industry sectors or occupations.” A definition for an “in-demand industry sector or occupation” is also proposed, which would be informed to a greater extent by labor market information culled from various sources at the local, state and national levels.

As the House Committee on Education and the Workforce (HEW) along with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) continue to work to reauthorize the Perkins Act, it is important to note that the above proposal is not a comprehensive reauthorization bill. Instead the Perkins Modernization Act introduces into the reauthorization discussion an issue important to these members of Congress.  NASDCTEc appreciates Reps. Kennedy, Kinzinger, Davis, and Polis’ recognition that CTE programs are crucial components to the nation’s economic competitiveness and agrees that a greater availability and use of labor market information is needed to ensure that CTE programs prepare students for success in the workforce.

NASDCTEc looks forward to working constructively with Congress to thoughtfully reauthorize the Perkins Act and to ensure that programs are empowering students with the necessary skills and knowledge demanded by today’s employers and affording graduates the opportunity to secure family-sustaining wages.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Moves on ESRA

The House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) moved forward on the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366). This bill, introduced by Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), reauthorizes the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). Currently, ESRA supports educational research programs such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), NAEP exams, and state longitudinal data systems. “Quality education research is critical to successful schools,” Rep. Rokita said upon the Committee’s approval of the bill by voice vote.

A particularly promising aspect of the bill would amend the authorization for state longitudinal data system grants to encourage the alignment of data across K-12, postsecondary and workforce programs. This would greatly support efforts to report on post-program employment outcomes for CTE graduates. Moreover, H.R. 4366 emphasizes the importance of using data effectively and lays out a more thoughtful approach to its use. The Workforce Data Quality Campaign, of which NASDCTEc is a national partner, supported this bill. The text of the bill, fact sheets, and other useful information can be found here.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Apprenticeship Bill

On Wednesday Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act, a bill that incentivizes employers to increase the number of apprenticeships available to young people. Specifically the LEAP Act would grant companies a $1,500 tax credit for hiring new registered apprentices under the age of 25. A $1,000 tax credit would also be offered to employers hiring apprentices older than 25 years of age. The bill would also incent the expansion of existing apprenticeship programs

The Workforce Investment Act

Both Chambers of Congress have continued discussions on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) this week. According to recent reports, the Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chairman of the House HEW Committee, John Kline (R-MN), have publicly stated that they have “resolved nearly all differences” and hope to complete the legislation when Congress returns from recess in late April.

“The likelihood is that the staff will be able to hammer out what is left while we are gone,” Chairman Kline said. “Hopefully, by the time we come back, we’ll have it all put together,” Chairman Harkin was reported as saying.

There has also been speculation that the reauthorization of WIA could possibly be attached to Congress’ consideration of extending unemployment insurance benefits. NASDCTEc will monitor this process as it evolves and will continue to work with policymakers to ensure that a thoughtful reauthorization of the law emerges from these negotiations.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: ED Introduces New Gainful Employment Regulations, The FIRST Act Moves to Full Committee

March 14th, 2014

CapitolAs we have shared previously, last December the Department of Education (ED) concluded a three-part series of negotiated rulemaking sessions regarding the Department’s proposed regulations on “gainful employment.” These proposed rules aim to introduce stricter accountability requirements for vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges across the country in an effort to ensure they are helping their student’s find gainful employment upon graduation. ED assembled a negotiated rulemaking committee, composed of representatives from for-profits institutions, community colleges, and other relevant stakeholders, to establish a consensus on these proposals.

Unfortunately, the committee failed to come to such a consensus on ED’s draft regulations during the last of the negotiated rulemaking sessions this past December. Per the Department’s policies, a lack of consensus among the rulemaking committee allows ED to introduce new regulations on its own. Today, ED released these new regulations and will soon open them up for public comment over the next two months.

The regulations—over eight hundred pages in length— introduce stricter standards for the amount of debt students can accrue while attending institutions offering career-training programs. There are three main criteria a program must pass in order to maintain eligibility to receive federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. The first two are related to loan payments. Programs which have student loan payments higher than 30 percent of discretionary income or 12 percent of total income would fail under the new rules if those ratios persisted for any two out of three consecutive years. The third criterion is tied to a program’s cohort default rate (pCDR) for both completers and non-completers. If a program’s pCDR exceeds 30 percent for three consecutive years, the program is deemed failing.

Another important feature of these new regulations affords programs the ability to appeal for those that have less than half of their completers take on debt. This is an important change from ED’s last draft proposal in December and will benefit programs at Community Colleges and elsewhere which typically offer two-year programs at a relatively lower cost to students.

Barring any major revisions between now and October 30th of this year, these regulations are set to go into full-effect in 2016. As with previous iterations of ED’s gainful employment regulations, these new rules will likely be challenged in court. As this process unfolds, please check our blog for updates on how these regulations will likely impact those in the Career Technical Education community.

ED’s full gainful employment regulations can be found here and additional information on the process can be found here.

House Subcommittee Passes the FIRST Act

Yesterday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology passed the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186). The bill would reauthorize the America Competes Act of 2010 and has now moved on to the full committee for consideration.

While some Democrats on the Subcommittee voiced concerns over reduced levels of funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Republicans highlighted the bill’s focus on better coordination of existing federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives. Among other provisions, the FIRST Act would create a STEM Education Coordinating Office to better manage STEM education activities and programs at the federal level and would be overseen by NSF.

Notably, the legislation would broaden the definition of STEM to include not only the core components laid out in its acronym, but also “other academic subjects that build on these disciplines such as computer science and other academic subjects that a State identifies as important to the workforce of the State.”

NASDCTEc will continue to monitor this legislation as it moves to the full Committee. The full bill can be found here and a statement from the Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) can be found here.

JOBS Tax Credit Act Introduced in the House

This past Tuesday, Representative Maffei introduced the Job and Opportunity Bonus (JOB) Tax Credit Act which seeks to address the nation’s persistent skills gap by creating a temporary tax credit for employers to help pay for the cost of training their employees.

According to the Congressman, “So many of our local businesses want to invest in training for current and new employees, but don’t have the resources to do it. My bill helps address this issue by providing a tax credit for worker training programs.”

Among the provisions contained in the bill, the JOBS Tax Credit Act would pay for 50 percent of the cost to train employees in an approved program which would include apprenticeship programs, training offered by vocation or technical schools or community colleges, and a variety of industry or labor union-sponsored training programs. The tax credit would only be able to be utilized by employers with 500 employees or less and would last between 2015 to 2017.

NASDCTEc applauds Rep. Maffei’s work to better address the nation’s skills gap and urges Congress to take up this important piece of legislation.  His office’s full press release on the JOB Tax Credit Act can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: College Ratings Proposal Continues to Take Shape, Senators Show Support for CTE

February 14th, 2014

CapitolAs we shared last year, President Obama has made college affordability a priority of his Administration’s education agenda. To better combat the increasingly high costs of higher education, the President has proposed a college ratings system which would link federal financial aid to institutional performance on a variety of measures. Metrics such as average tuition, loan debt, graduation rates, and graduate earnings have all been suggested as possible ways to measure how effectively postsecondary institutions are utilizing federal financial aid.

The Administration’s proposed ratings system, known officially as the Postsecondary Institutional Ratings System (PIRS), has been open to formal comment by the public since last December. Since then many institutions and associations have taken the opportunity to provide valuable feedback and insight for how such a system should be developed, what metrics it should or should not incorporate, and ultimately if such a ratings system is an appropriate responsibility for the Department of Education (ED) to take on. These wide-ranging responses can be found here. Many respondents voiced strong concerns regarding the potential negative consequences such a ratings system could have while others highlighted the transformative possibilities increased transparency could have on the postsecondary education marketplace.

The Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC), of which the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) is a national partner, also issued a set of recommendations for PIRS. These recommendations focused mainly on the importance of disaggregating institutional and program-level data, as well as how best to utilize employment and wage record data to gauge graduate outcomes.

The proposed ratings system is complimentary in nature to the Department of Education’s ongoing efforts to develop stricter regulations regarding “gainful employment” in vocational education programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions. More information on those efforts can be found here. As these dual initiatives continue to take shape, NASDCTEc will continue to track and monitor the progress of these efforts and their potential impact on CTE throughout the country.

Senator Rubio Highlights CTE’s Role in Higher Ed

Earlier this week Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered a speech at Miam-Dade College highlighting his proposals for reforming America’s higher education system. He called for universal income-based repayment for federal student loans and a reshaping of the current postsecondary accreditation system to better utilize competency based education programs and online course offerings. Speaking about a “growing opportunity gap” between those who have access to quality education and those who do not, Senator Rubio argued that “the source of an employee’s education is far less important than many previously thought.” He went on to argue that “those who have the skills and the aptitude to be successful in a job deserve the opportunity to be considered for employment, even if they learned the trade from a non-traditional source.”

Career Technical Education (CTE) was a central component in the Senator’s remarks and he used a CTE program in Miami as a successful example for his proposed reforms. “We should make career and vocational education more widespread and more accessible” he said. “For instance, here in Miami, the local school district has partnered with a car dealership to create an innovative approach to career education. . . When they finish high school, they graduate not just with a high school diploma but with a job-ready industry certification from an automobile manufacturer.” Senator Rubio went on to highlight the importance of apprenticeship programs and business and industry partnerships as strategies for expanding the development and access to high-quality CTE programs. NASDCTEc applauds these encouraging remarks from Senator Rubio and looks forward to working constructively on ways CTE can further promote the shared economic opportunity he has called for in this speech.

A full transcript of the speech can be found here and a video can be found here.

JOBS Act Introduced in the Senate

Yesterday, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 2033). The proposed legislation would amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to expand eligibility for the act’s Pell Grant program. Under current law the Pell Grant program— like other federal financial aid— 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 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.

Senator Landrieu’s bill would expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in CTE programs by reducing current time-related eligibility requirements by half (150 hours of instruction over a minimum of 8 weeks). As Senator Landrieu pointed out, “The JOBS Act makes a smart update to expand the eligible uses of Pell Grant funding for short-term job training so we can build a strong and skilled workforce to fill the thousands of jobs that are being created in Louisiana and are currently empty.” NASDCTEc strongly supports this legislation and is encouraged to see a renewed focus on expanding access to postsecondary CTE programs for those who need it most.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

CTE Month Special: What Do the State of the States Mean for CTE? (Part II)

February 13th, 2014

mapYesterday, we released a summary of several state of the state addresses, focusing on their implications for CTE in the year ahead. Below is the second installment in this CTE Month special series, highlighting more governors who took time out of their state of the state address to endorse programs for high-quality CTE in their state.

During the State of the State Address in Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy embraced “hands-on learning,” committing his administration to working with private-sector partners and educators to provide for early college and dual enrollment initiatives. He also commended the P-Tech program, a collaboration between IBM and a number of New York City high schools that guides students through high school and provides for an additional two years of instruction. Graduating students complete the P-Tech program with advanced credentials and Governor Malloy expressed his desire to emulate this in Connecticut by offering a comprehensive, skill-centered pathway for students to credentials above and beyond a high school diploma.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal touted the state’s High Demand Career Initiative, designed to bring together leaders of the University System of Georgia, technical colleges and schools, and state industry leaders to understand labor market needs, as well as a $10M loan program for students attending technical colleges.

In Indiana, Governor Mike Pence outlined his desire to make CTE an option for every Hoosier student. He encouraged not only the development of programs to allow secondary students an easier path into postsecondary CTE programs, but also for adult education that would allow professionals to seek retraining to improve their skills and competencies making them more competitive in today’s labor market.

Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa promoted his Iowa Apprenticeship and Job Training Act, entailing a number of initiatives to increase student access to apprenticeships by tripling funding for apprenticeships under the state’s 260F worker training program.  He also cited his state’s recent success expanding STEM education, anticipating 60,000 or more students will have access to STEM programs in the state as a result of the efforts of the STEM Advisory Council, an initiative led by Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas touted a 75 percent increase in enrollment in CTE since the state launched its Career Technical Education Initiative. The sweeping plan from 2012 included $8.75 million for CTE programs, covering tuition for students taking postsecondary CTE courses, $1.5 million to high schools that encourage students to earn industry recognized credentials and allotting funds to spread the word about job opportunities for CTE graduates.

In Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley announced his desire for every high school student in Maryland to graduate with a modern technical skill and a year of college credit already earned.

Governor of New Hampshire Maggie Hassan embraced developing STEM education in the Granite State as a response to the needs of the state’s high-tech industry. Governor Hassan cited restoring previously cut funds to New Hampshire higher education as a strategy to entice business to the state, and indicated that a well-trained and career-ready workforce was key to economic development in the granite state.

In the Oklahoma State of the State Address, Governor Mary Fallin called education beyond high school “the new minimum” for Oklahomans entering the workforce, and expressed her desire to increase the number of graduates seeking qualifications beyond a high school diploma “…either by attending college or a career technology center.” She also cited increasing numbers of Oklahomans seeking degrees or certificates as a result of collaboration with CareerTech in the Complete College America initiative.

In South Dakota, Governor Dennis Daugaard focused heavily on CTE, which he labeled “…the intersection of education and economic development.” In a series of proposals to enhance CTE and draw more students into technical fields the governor advocated for $5 million in Governor’s Grants for CTE to improve collaboration between secondary schools offering CTE courses, along with $3.8 million in Future Fund grants to technical institutes for workplace priority areas and extra funds for scholarships for students in high need fields.  He also touted Building South Dakota, the economic development fund that incorporates infrastructure, housing, and development funds along with CTE funding.

Continuing with his year-old Drive to 55 initiative, (a program to ensuring 55 percent of his state’s citizens possess credentials above a high school diploma by 2022), Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee voiced his support for expanded CTE and career readiness programs. Adding onto Drive to 55’s expanded dual enrollment, workforce readiness and curriculum alignment initiatives, Governor Haslam announced the “Tennessee Promise” program. Tennessee Promise will provide Tennessee secondary graduates with the opportunity to go to two years of community college or college of applied technology education free of charge. Continuing his push for expanded educational opportunity, Governor Haslam included in his address further funding for college expansion and renovation across the state, including $65 million for expanding two of the largest community colleges in Tennessee.

Evan Williamson, Communications Associate

 

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