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Legislative Update: House Holds Perkins Hearing, DOL Announces New Grant Program

CapitolToday the House Education and Workforce Committee held a full committee hearing on the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins). Titled, “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: Improving the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act,” the hearing provided committee members the opportunity to discuss and consider a wide range of proposals to improve and strengthen the main piece of federal legislation that supports Career Technical Education (CTE) throughout the United States.

The hearing was very well attended and members of the Committee along with their witnesses expressed enthusiasm for the historically bipartisan legislation and support for CTE. An archived webcast of the event can be accessed here.

Four distinguished witnesses participated in the hearing and provided insights and expert opinions on how to improve upon existing legislation. They included:

  • The Honorable Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Adult and Vocational Education for the Department of Education
  • Mr. Stanley Litow, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs for IBM and President of the IBM International Foundation
  • Dr. Blake Flanders, Vice President of Workforce Development for the Kansas Board of Regents
  • Dr. Bryan Albrecht, President of Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Dann-Messier was the first to speak and began by laying out the four broad themes in the April 2012 Obama Administration’s proposal for Perkins reauthorization – Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education. She argued for:

  • Increased alignment between CTE programs and the labor market
  • Better accountability measures for programs
  • More support for innovation
  • Improved collaboration between secondary and postsecondary learner levels

Litow’s testimony primarily revolved around IBM’s Pathways to Technology program, commonly known as P-TECH, and highlighted some of the successes currently being observed there. He advocated for programs to be better aligned to the labor market and emphasized the importance of business and industry relationships with CTE programs and called for more robust partnerships that provide students with meaningful experiential learning opportunities.

Flanders highlighted Kansas’ ongoing efforts to support and grow CTE programs throughout his state and emphasized areas in which those successes could be replicated on a national scale. A main theme throughout his remarks focused on the need for CTE students to finish programs with industry recognized, nationally portable credentials or certificates.  To help with this, Dr. Flanders proposed a centralized clearinghouse for credential data which could be accessed by states. He also voiced his support for increasing the allowable amount for a state reserve fund from 10 percent to 50 percent of a state’s local fund allocation to support greater flexibility for states.

Albrecht spoke last and focused his comments on the need for stronger relationships between secondary and postsecondary institutions. He stressed the value of his institution’s relationship with the Kenosha Unified School District saying, “Students beginning in grade 9 are exposed to college faculty and curriculum throughout their high school experience” and by the graduation they “will have earned between 18 [and] 40 college credits, building a pathway to college and career success.” Albrecht also spoke about the importance of employer engagement and listed the many ways in which Gateway has partnered with businesses to supplement CTE programs at his institution.

Committee members asked a great deal of questions following the testimony, which allowed witnesses to expand on various aspects of their remarks. Many Committee members took the opportunity to voice concern over the Administration’s proposals for competitive funding. Questions regarding equitable access to CTE programs and the unintended negative consequences that could arise from that type of distribution were raised throughout. Members also asked witnesses for recommendations and insights for how best to encourage CTE program partnerships with business and industry. Although no clear consensus was made regarding that, witnesses did reiterate the importance of private sector engagement with CTE programs and stressed that partnerships— rather than sponsorships— were indicative of quality business engagement.

Chairman Kline concluded the hearing by saying the committee intends to continue its work on reauthorizing the Perkins Act and that he looks forward to, “working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in hopes we can craft smart, bipartisan proposals to strengthen career and technical education in America.” NASDCTEc and the CTE community welcome the renewed Congressional interest in Perkins and CTE and look forward to working with the committee throughout the process. Check our blog for details as reauthorization continues to take shape.

Department of Labor, Education, Announce Youth CareerConnect

Today President Obama announced Youth CareerConnect, a competitive grant program administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) in collaboration with the Department of Education (ED). The grant program seeks to bring to scale models for high school transformation that emphasize public-private partnerships. Inspired loosely by IBM’s P-TECH model, Youth CareerConnect has already been compared to the Administration’s Race to the Top program and seems to be a pilot of the Administration’s Perkins Blueprint. According to DOL’s application information, successful applicants will incorporate six core elements:

  •  Integrated Academic and Career-Focused Learning
  • Employer Engagement
  • Individualized Career and Academic Counseling
  • Work-based Learning and Exposure to the World of Work
  • Program Sustainability
  • Program Performance and Outcomes

Over $100 million from DOL’s discretionary funds, drawn from H1-B visa fees, will be made available to approximately 25-40 grantees in its first year. Eligible recipients will likely include local education agencies, public or nonprofit local workforce entities, or nonprofits with experience in education reform.

Awards will range between $2 million to $7 million and will require a 25 percent match to be eligible. Grant applications are due January 27, 2014 and are expected to be awarded shortly thereafter ahead of the 2014-15 school year.

More information can be found here .The Obama Adminstration has also made additional information available here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

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