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Spring Meeting Recap: A View from the Hill – Federal Policy Impacting Career Technical Education

Earlier this week, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) held its annual Spring Meeting. One of the featured sessions had representatives from several Congressional offices and a legislative liaison from Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) discussing current and future Career Technical Education (CTE) related activity on the Hill.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AR) has introduced three bills supporting CTE and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM): the Professional Development for Educators Act (S.441), Career and Technical Education Facilities Modernization Act (S.439), and the Counseling for Career Choice Act (S.282). The Counseling for Career Choice Act, in particular, focuses on developing a strong framework for career counseling that promotes local pathways, a full array of postsecondary options, and the alignment of curriculum to locally-available jobs.

Sam Morgante from Congressman Jim Langevin’s (D-RI) office – who co-chairs the CTE Caucus – described the drivers of the Congressman’s interest in CTE and actions he currently is taking to put Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) reauthorization at the forefront. Congressman Langevin is working to coordinate a letter, signed by over 50 members of Congress, calling for Perkins to be fully funded in the 2014 budget, given the increased demand at the local level and the skills gap, which is impacting Rhode Island in particular as the state with the second highest unemployment rate in the nation.

Beth Meloy, representing U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN), discussed the skills gap and the Senator’s interest in promoting opportunities for students to have more integrated academic and technical experiences. Senator Franken plans to introduce legislation that will incentivize partnerships between community colleges and local businesses. Members of the audience cautioned against focusing only on community colleges as using such narrow language can exclude other degree- and certificate-granting institutions and technical centers that are not formally considered “community colleges.”

Brendan Desetti, a legislative liaison from the ACTE, noted that given the fact that Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) ESEA, Perkins, and Workforce Investment Act (WIA) – and soon to be the Higher Education Act (HEA) – are all up for reauthorization, there is a good chance that these bills will be better aligned, in terms of language, programs, and accountability measures, than ever before. Of course, this is still dependent on movement from Congress, which all panelists noted is still an uphill battle given the perpetual budget “crises” that are taking up most of the Congress’ and media’s attention. Throughout the entire NASDCTEc Spring Meeting, participant consistently discussed how the range of definitions – and interpretations of definitions – in Perkins and related programs is an ongoing challenge.

Finally, Brendan also raised the issue of other laws and regulations that may not be directly related to CTE but still can have a direct impact on state’s and district’s ability to deliver CTE, such as the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, which has the potential to negatively impact Family and Consumer Sciences programs.

The session ended with the panelists encouraging the participants to reach out to their senators and representatives to build relationships with staffers, communicate the importance of CTE, and highlight how programs are benefiting students and the state’s economic development. ACTE has an Action Center to facilitate direct communications between individuals and their members of Congress.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

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