The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) held its annual Fall Meeting this past week in Baltimore, Maryland. Many State Career Technical Education (CTE) Directors and other CTE stakeholders were in attendance during the three-day event where a variety of presentations and panel discussions took place on a wide range of topics.
One subject that garnered interest among attendees was the Federal Policy Update Panel which provided an overview of the major pieces of federal legislation relevant to the CTE community. John Fischer, NASDCTEc board President and Vermont Agency of Education Deputy Commissioner, moderated the discussion. Kimberly Green, NASDCTEc’s Executive Director, also participated on the panel along with James Hermes, Associate Vice President of Government Relations at the American Association of Community Colleges and Alisha Hyslop, Director of Public Policy at the Association for Career and Technical Education.
Each of the panelists gave a broad update on how major pieces of federal legislation, such as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins), the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the Higher Education Act (HEA), and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) were progressing on the national level, when each was due for reauthorization, and how that process was likely to unfold. The panelists also discussed their organizations’ related advocacy efforts as well as the prospects for reauthorization and challenges facing each piece of legislation.
Hyslop began the panel by outlining the current political landscape and explaining in greater detail the ongoing debate between both parties over the federal budget. She contended that both Democrats and Republicans see a need to grapple with the federal deficit and related national debt, but have starkly different strategies for how to do this. In particular she highlighted that the majority of spending cuts currently underway have targeted only a small fraction of the federal budget— 16 percent — known as nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending. Of that portion merely 2 percent is spent on education. As a consequence, spending reductions made to NDD programs are felt much more strongly than in other areas of the federal budget.
Green followed by speaking about some of the positive trends currently happening on the federal level with regards to CTE. She argued that there is an increasing amount of recognition among policymakers that students should be prepared both for college and careers. Green used ESEA as an example of this, explaining that the current version of ESEA in the Senate (S. 1094) uses the phrase “college and career readiness” throughout the proposed bill. Moreover, Green expressed her optimism over renewed federal interest in Perkins, which recently culminated in a Congressional hearing last month.
Despite these promising trends, Congressional gridlock and partisanship was cited as the main reason for the slow progress made towards reauthorization much of this legislation. For instance, both Hermes and Green stressed that WIA has been due for reauthorization since 2003, but because of the politics surrounding some of its components, progress had slowed considerably. Competing versions of WIA, one still in the Senate (S. 1356) and the other passed contentiously by the House (H.R. 803), illustrate this point. However, the panel noted that unlike WIA or ESEA, Perkins continues to enjoy wide bipartisan support. Even with other federal education bills still awaiting reauthorization, Hyslop and Green expressed optimism that Perkins would be reauthorized in the coming years, possibly even ahead of others already in the queue.
John Fischer posed a number of interesting questions to the panel and asked why interest in CTE has persisted over the last few years. Hermes answered pithily saying, “Jobs.” Both Green and Hyslop agreed with his assessment. They argued that now was the time to harness much of the enthusiasm surrounding CTE as a way to address the skills gap and to reduce the lingering effects of the most recent recession. The panelists formed a consensus around this and encouraged the audience to engage their members of Congress on these important issues.
Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate