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Legislative Update: Debt Talks Continue, Labor-HHS-ED Markup Postponed, ESEA at Standstill, Bills Introduced

Debt Talks Continue

Even moreso than in the past weeks, the focus of Congress this week has been on reaching a debt limit deal. News reports earlier this week falsely stated that President Obama and Speaker Boehner had reached a $3 trillion deal, which both have since denied.

If Congress fails to come to an agreement on the debt ceiling by August 2nd, Americans may face, among other things, higher interest rates, decreases in the value of the dollar, and unstable financial markets. Key Members of Congress and the President plan to continue talks through the weekend.

The Senate voted down Republicans’ “Cut, Cap and Balance” measure this morning which proposed a plan to cut spending by $111 billion in 2012, cap spending over the next decade, and forbid borrowing until Congress reached an agreement on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

House Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee Markup Postponed

The House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED), the subcommittee responsible for appropriating funds to discretionary programs such as CTE, has pushed back its markup from July 26th until further notice. Due to the House schedule, this means that the earliest the markup for the FY 2012 Labor-HHS-Ed bill will occur is on September 7th.

ESEA at Standstill

Three bills passed by the House to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – on repeals, charter school expansion and innovation, and funding flexibility – have seen little movement in the past weeks. Senate markup will occur after August recess at the earliest.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has not given any additional information on the details of the ESEA waivers that would allow states to bypass aspects of the current law. Duncan stated last month that he planned to grant waivers to states if Congress does not reauthorize ESEA before the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

Bills Introduced:

National Youth Summer Jobs Act

Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH) introduced H.R. 2539, the National Youth Summer Jobs Act of 2011, that would award competitive grants to entities for the creation of job placement summer programs for out-of-school youth. Programs would be targeted toward basic-skills deficient and unemployed or underemployed young people. The goal of the bill is to increase GED attainment and job placement for participants.

Jobs for Urban Sustainability and Training in America Act

Rep. Steve Cohen (TN) introduced H.R. 2537, the Jobs for Urban Sustainability and Training in America Act, to provide grants for job training, public work and economic development programs in cities with high unemployment rates.

21st Century Readiness Act

Rep. Tom Petri (WI) introduced H.R. 2536, the 21st Century Readiness Act, to help students acquire 21st Century Skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, communicating, collaborating, and creativity. The bill aims to fuse higher-order thinking skills with core academic knowledge to create content knowledge attainment in real-world contexts. The bill is being offered as an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Public Private Vocational Partnership Act

Rep. Don Young (AK) introduced H.R. 2549, the Public Private Vocational Partnership Act, an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. The build would allow a business credit for donations for vocational educational purposes.

Jobs Now Act

Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL) introduced H.R. 2574, the Jobs Now Act, to amend the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The bill would create a pilot program that would award grants to local government and community organizations to retain, employ, and train jobs. Funds used to provide training for veterans, individuals with disabilities, unemployed individuals, and dislocated workers would receive priority.

Promoting Partnerships to Transform Opportunities Act

Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ) introduced H.R. 2611, the Promoting Partnerships to Transform Opportunities Act, a bill that would amend the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to prepare individuals with barriers to employment to enter the workforce by receiving job training, education and support services. The bill would grant resources to nonprofit organizations and institutions serving underrepresented minorities to increase skills training, job placement, and on-the-job training.

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