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CTE Caucus Comes to the Senate, White House Releases Additional Information on SOTU

CapitolYesterday morning Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) announced the creation of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, a bipartisan endeavor focused on promoting CTE inside the Chamber and throughout the country. The Senate CTE Caucus, much like its counterpart in the House of Representatives, seeks to “support efforts to ensure all students have access to high-quality, rigorous career and technical education to prepare them for college and for their future careers.”

During yesterday’s announcement, Senator Kaine explained that his interest in CTE stemmed from one of his defining achievements as Governor of Virginia through the creation of CTE Academies in his home state. Expressing his passion for CTE, Senator Kaine described how CTE programs “strengthen the links between the classroom and the workplace, helping students acquire the education and skills that will help them find employment and enjoy productive, successful lives after graduation.”

Senator Portman tied his interest in the creation of the caucus to some of the priorities highlighted in President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this week. “We must close this skills gap to get Americans working again,” he said.  “One way we can do that is by focusing on Career and Technical Education that equips workers with credentials, certificates, and other training that will match them with open jobs.”

The caucus’s formation coincides with the arrival of CTE month in February and Congress’s consideration of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act— the sole piece of federal legislation which supports CTE programs throughout the country and represents the largest investment in America’s high schools. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium welcomes the strengthened interest in CTE within the Senate and looks forward to working with the newly formed caucus as they begin a drive for membership within the Chamber.

Senators Kaine and Portman have created a great new opportunity for CTE advocates to have their voices represented in Congress. You can help by contacting your Senator or Representative and urging them to join either of these CTE Caucuses. Remember, the CTE community— that is YOU— are the experts, so please share your knowledge and passion for CTE with Congress as these initiatives and much more get underway.

Don’t know who represents you in Congress? Find out here!

White House Releases SOTU Supplements

Yesterday, the White House released a supplemental fact sheet to more fully outline the proposals contained in President Obama’s State of the Union speech. The fact sheet goes into greater detail about Vice President Joe Biden’s across-the-board review of existing federal workforce training and education programs and lays out actionable next-steps for how to achieve some of the overarching objectives set by the President in Tuesday’s address.

Of particular note to the CTE community is the Administration’s refocused goals for the Trade Adjustment Assistance & Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program. The President has directed the Labor Department’s Secretary Perez to focus the selection criteria for the program on “job-driven training strategies” which seek to replicate nationally “job-driven training partnerships between regional employers and national industry associations that advance the best practices identified throughout the immediate stakeholder consultations.” TAACCCT, in its final round of funding totaling more than $500 million, is available to community colleges and other eligible postsecondary institutions throughout the country and will likely be a core element to accomplishing the President’s “Opportunity for All” agenda in the coming year.

More information on the TAACCCT grant program can be found here.

Senator Alexander Introduces School Voucher Bill

Earlier this week Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ranking Member of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Scholarships for Kids Act. This legislation proposes to consolidate a number of existing education programs to fund $2,100 scholarships for 11 million low-income students across the country in an effort to afford greater access to any public or private accredited school of their parent’s choice.

To pay for these scholarships Senator Alexander has proposed repealing Titles II through VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and a great many other programs under Title I of that Act. For instance, it proposes repealing programs that support magnet and charter schools, a move which would oddly limit the options available to many students and their families— something the bill is aiming to promote not diminish.

Most importantly for the CTE community, the entire Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) has also been included in this proposed consolidation. Unlike ESEA, Senator Alexander’s proposal would repeal the entire Perkins Act, eliminating the sole federal support for CTE programs throughout the country, undermining its global competitiveness, and hampering student access to high quality CTE programs. It is important to note, that this legislation is not likely to move out of the Democrat-controlled Senate Chamber and HELP Committee. NASDCTEc will continue to monitor this and similar pieces of legislation that impact the Perkins Act and the larger CTE community as legislation continues to be introduce this year.

The full bill’s text can be found here and a press release on the legislation can be found here.

College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014

On Wednesday, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014. The proposed legislation seeks to make higher education more affordable for students and promote innovative practices in the postsecondary space that help limit the cost of college.

Among the proposals, the bill would create a pilot program that would incentivize colleges and universities to implement programs that offer high-quality education at lower costs, and reduce the overall time for degree completion. Programs such as competency-based degrees, dual-enrollment, and other accelerated degrees were among examples specifically cited in the legislation.

The accompanying press release can be found here.

The GREEN Act

Last week, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation (GREEN) Act. The legislation would provide $100 million for a competitive grant program for the development of CTE programs of study which focus on the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. The bill would also promote increased energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy practices in CTE facilities and buildings.

The press release and full text of the law can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

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