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Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

Legislative Update: Congress Passes Temporary Funding Measure, Obama Administration Unveils Round IV of TAACCCT

September 29th, 2014

CapitolAs we shared earlier this month, Congress continued to struggle to pass the necessary appropriations legislation needed to fund the federal government in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 set to begin October 1st, 2014. Despite topline spending caps put in place by the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA) earlier this year, widespread disagreement on individual funding levels for certain programs ultimately derailed the budget and appropriations process which had been ongoing since the release of President Obama’s budget request to Congress this past March.

In order to avert another federal government shutdown similar to what happened this time last year, Congress passed a short-term Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extends current FY 2014 spending levels through December 11th, 2014. Currently, federal programs are being funded via the 2014 Omnibus spending package passed this past January which increased funding for the Perkins act by $53.2 million over FY 2013 levels.

President Obama has recently signed this legislation into law which will continue funding the Perkins Act at this level, at least until a longer-term agreement is reached. This is likely to occur sometime after the conclusion of the Congressional midterm elections this November. Following the passage of this legislation, both Chambers of Congress adjourned until after these elections— the results of which will largely determine the ability of Congress to accomplish its remaining legislative agenda for the year.

It is important to note that while this CR extends current funding levels, imbalances between FY 2014 revenue levels and those projected for FY 2015 will result in a small across-the-board reduction to all discretionary programs, including the Perkins Act for the duration of this CR. For the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the programs it oversees, this cut translates into a 0.0554 percent reduction in funding, which will require revisions to the FY 2015 budget estimates released to states for the Perkins Act basic state grant program.

As ED revises these estimates, NASDCTEc will keep the CTE community abreast to changes in Perkins funding and will continue to advocate for a full-year appropriations bill when Congress reconvenes in November.

Obama Administration Announces TAACCCT Grants

This morning, Vice President Joe Biden unveiled the winners of the fourth and final round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants worth $450 million in total. This initiative traces its roots back to 2009, as part of the Obama Administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which allocated roughly $2 billion in competitive grant funding for community colleges and other eligible postsecondary institutions to expand career training programs lasting two years or less.

Since 2009, three rounds of grants have been awarded to a variety of institutions seeking to strengthen and expand workforce training partnerships across the country. This last round focused on bringing to scale in-demand job training programs through industry partnerships, promoting seamless transitions between education and training, and improving upon statewide employment end education data use.

In all nearly 270 community colleges partnering with more than 400 employers received 71 grants, which is co-administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor. More information can be found here.

Senators Introduce CTE Teacher Training Legislation

Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act this month, legislation that aims to address an ongoing CTE teacher shortage in many states and local communities throughout the country. Specifically, this bill would amend the Higher Education Act to create a CTE teacher-training grant program to encourage partnerships between high-need secondary and postsecondary CTE institutions to recruit and train high-quality CTE teachers. Presently, HEA has a similar program in place to promote these efforts, but it does not currently focus on CTE specifically.

NASDCTEc applauds this legislation and is encouraged by the Senators’ continued commitment to the CTE enterprise. A press release with additional information on this bill can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

New CTE Legislation Introduced in the Senate, Caucus Event Highlights Confluence of CTE & Literacy

September 15th, 2014

CapitolLate last week Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), co-Chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced the Career and Technical Education Opportunity Act (S. 2795)— legislation aimed at expanding eligibility for federal student aid programs to postsecondary CTE students. Co-sponsored by fellow Senate CTE Caucus co-Chair Tim Kaine (D-VA), the legislation amends the Higher Education Act (HEA) to allow students enrolled in shorter-term CTE programs that lead to an industry-recognized credential to qualify for federally backed student loans made available under Title IV of the law.

Specifically the CTE Opportunity Act amends current program eligibility requirements under HEA to incorporate programs that have at least 250 clock hours offered over a minimum duration of five weeks of instruction (a lower threshold than current law), so long as the program culminates in an industry-recognized credential in demand within a local, regional or state economy. NASDCTEc has supported this legislation and applauds the Senators’ ongoing commitment to ensure equitable access to federal student aid programs for postsecondary CTE students.

“As our nation works to educate and train students of today for the jobs of tomorrow, it is critical that we afford them the necessary resources to complete education and training programs that are most demanded by employers” said NASDCTEc Executive Director, Kimberly Green during the bill’s introduction last week. A press release and additional information on the bill can be found here.

Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Briefing on CTE and Literacy

Last Thursday, the Senate CTE Caucus hosted a briefing on strategies and approaches for integrating literacy services with Career Technical Education (CTE) coursework. The event aimed to highlight the interdependency between CTE and literacy programs—particularly technical literacy— provided by schools as a way to combine efforts to prepare students for the demands of the workplace. Three distinguished panelists, including Sheila Harrity Principal of Worcester Technical High School and a recent Principal-of-the-Year participated in the event.

The briefing began by highlighting an ongoing collaborative effort between two experienced CTE practitioners from the Arlington Career Center who have successfully integrated their Information Technology (IT) program with the school’s English Language Learners (ELL) department in a number innovative ways. For instance, students from Arlington’s IT programs developed a mobile app dictionary for students in ELL programs to use and also developed related games for ELL students to hone their vocabulary and grammar. For her part, Harrity highlighted her school’s journey to becoming a leading national CTE school, while highlighting the importance of strong partnerships with community businesses and other employers to the school’s success to date.

Following the panel’s presentations, Senators and CTE Caucus Co-Chairs Kaine (D-VA) and Baldwin (D-WI) gave remarks on several new bills they had recently introduced, including the CTE Opportunity Act outlined above and the Middle STEP Act introduced last week. Summing up the overall narrative of the briefing, Senator Kaine captured it succinctly in his remarks saying, “I detect an ongoing transformation in how we view Career and Technical Education.”

Odds and Ends

As we shared in May, the full House approved legislation which aims to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). Titled the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA), the bill continues its support of education research programs and, of particular note to the CTE community, grants for state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is set to hold a mark-up of this legislation this Wednesday, September 17th. The Chamber is also expected to bring last week’s Continuing Resolution (CR) to the floor for a House-wide vote tomorrow or Wednesday of this week.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded $14.7 million to 40 school districts in 20 states across the nation late last month to create or expand school counseling programs in elementary and secondary schools. More info on the program and project abstracts can be found here.

Next Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services will host a National Dialogue on Career Pathways. Leaders from these agencies will provide insights into how to effectively develop and sustain these promising models. More information can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: House Delays Action on CR, CTE Legislation Introduced in the Senate, OCTAE Hosts RPOS Briefing

September 11th, 2014

CapitolHaving just returned from a month-long August recess, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) introduced a Continuing Resolution (CR) late Tuesday night to extend current Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 appropriations levels through December 11th, 2014. Current federal appropriations are set to expire October 1st, 2014. Congress must act prior to that date to avert a shutdown of government operations when the new FY 2015 is set to begin. Despite the topline spending caps put in place via the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA) earlier this year, widespread disagreement on individual program funding levels has largely contributed to much of the Congressional gridlock seen throughout the year. In the later parts of the summer, with the November midterm elections fast approaching and with the Congress’ annual August recess commencing, it became apparent to lawmakers in both parties that a temporary funding measure would be necessary to fund government operations after the deadline.

After much anticipation, the Chairman introduced H.J. Resolution 124 which would extend current FY 2014 funding through December 11th, 2014 to do just that. Due to differences in FY 2014 and FY 2015 spending levels, this extension will result in a small across-the-board cut to all discretionary spending programs totaling 0.0554 percent. For the Department of Education (ED) specifically, that would result in a $37.3 million reduction in funds. However, since most ED programs such as the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program, are funded in advance (also known as forward funded) this reduction will have no impact on current funding levels for these programs until a longer-term decision on appropriations is made ahead of the extension deadline in December. Another important feature of this particular CR is that it contains no unrelated amendments or “riders”— something that would make its passage much more difficult— and will likely be considered under House rules preventing the proposal of such controversial amendments.

Although the House intended to act on this legislation yesterday, Republican leadership in the Chamber announced that they have postponed a vote until next week. This delay is being attributed to a last-minute request from the Obama administration for additional funding authority to aid Syrian rebels’ efforts in the region. However, there is also some conservative opposition to the length of the CR and the extension of the Export-Import Bank which may make its passage more difficult. Nevertheless, NASDCTEc expects a vote in the House on this CR by the middle of next week.

Senators Introduce Middle STEP Act

Yesterday Senator Kaine (D-VA), co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced the Middle School Technical Education Program (Middle STEP) Act which would promote career exploration activities in middle school. The Middle STEP Act proposes to establish a pilot program for middle schools to develop CTE exploration programs in partnership with postsecondary institutions and employers.

Co-sponsored by Senators Boxer (D-CA), Casey (D-PA), and Warner (D-VA), the Middle STEP Act aims to “expose students to a wide range of career choices through hands-on learning so they will be more informed about future paths and what they can do in high school to pursue them,” according to Sen. Kaine. “Middle school is an important time for students to explore their own strengths, likes, and dislikes, and CTE exploration programs are great tools to educate them about the type of coursework or training that goes into a career field that matches their interests.”

NASDCTEc provided input during the development of the legislation and is supportive of the Senators’ vigorous interest in promoting career exploration— a critically important feature in many successful CTE programs. The Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) also issued a statement of support for this legislation which can be viewed here.

OCTAE Briefing on RPOS

Earlier this week, the Office of Career, Adult & Technical Education (OCTAE) at the U.S. Department of Education held a briefing on the Rigorous Programs of Study (RPOS) grant, bringing together state and local educators from the grantee states – Arizona, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Wisconsin and Utah.

The briefing covered a range of local outcomes from the RPOS grant, such as new collaboration between CTE, mathematics and literacy teachers at Helena High School in Montana; a new system of stackable credentials and credits between Peoria high schools, Glendale Community College and Northern Arizona University; and industry externships for counselors in Wichita, Kansas. The common theme from the 13 secondary and postsecondary educators representing the six states was that the RPOS framework and supportive grant helped raise the rigor, partnerships and credibility of CTE in their communities.

Odds and Ends

With the recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the process for implementation of the legislation is underway. To that end, the U.S. Department of Education and Labor asked for public input into the development of accountability metrics which will eventually be required under the law. In response, NASDCTEc and ACTE submitted joint comments which can be viewed here.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced $76.3 million in YouthBuild grants in August. More information can be found here. The U.S. Department of Education also released new information regarding their Performance Partnership Pilots (P3) initiative. An updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page, recent presentation recordings, and an updated consultation paper have all been added to the department’s website.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: WIOA Becomes Law, VP Releases Federal Job Training Review as Competency-Based Education Gains Support

July 30th, 2014

CapitolLast Tuesday, President Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), historic legislation which supports workforce development activities throughout the country and funds job training programs for displaced youth and adults. This legislation reauthorizes and modernizes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and makes a number of positive improvements to that law. Over the past two months, WIOA was approved in both the House and Senate by overwhelming majorities before making its way to the President’s desk for signature.

Following its enactment into law, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education have now set to work developing the necessary policies and regulatory guidance for states and local areas to implement the provisions of WIOA.  NASDCTEc will continue to engage in this process and keep the CTE community up-to-date as the law is implemented. Additional information from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education can be found here and here. Important dates and key deadlines for WIOA’s implementation can be found on this timeline.

Vice President Releases Review of Federal Job Training Programs

On the same day that President Obama signed WIOA into law, Vice President Joe Biden released a long anticipated review of federal job training programs. Following his 2014 State of the Union address President Obama directed the Vice President to lead an across-the-board review of these programs, working closely with members of the President’s Cabinet. This review is the result of that months-long process. In Vice President Biden’s remarks, he called the passage of WIOA an opportunity to outline in greater detail “how to keep and maintain the highest-skilled workforce in the world.”

The  report titled “Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity” presents a number of findings on the effectiveness of existing job training programs and makes a series of recommendations for how to improve on those efforts. Among the many actions steps proposed in the report is a seven-component “Job-Driven Checklist,” which will guide the Administration’s efforts to strengthen existing workforce programs and supplement the positive steps taken in WIOA:

  • Employer engagement/involvement for determining local or regional labor market needs;
  • Establish opportunities for work-based learning as a clear pathway to employment;
  • Leverage data more effectively to drive program accountability;
  • Measure and evaluate employment and earnings outcomes for program participants;
  • Promote pathway systems which provide opportunities for additional training or credentials;
  • Increase access for high-need populations through the promotion of additional support services;
  • Promote regional partnerships between workforce and education systems and other stakeholder groups.

Beginning on October 1, all eligible applicants for 25 different federal competitive grant programs across federal agencies will be required to incorporate each of these elements into their application. In total, these programs represent approximately $1.4 billion in annual funding for workforce development activities throughout the country. Additionally, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education will begin to encourage states to incorporate this checklist into their unified state plans— a new requirement introduced under WIOA.

The report goes on to highlight a number of other Administration-led initiatives which have already been announced, such as the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC), the Performance Pilot Partnerships for Disconnected Youth (P3), and the American Apprenticeship Grant among a handful of others. As part of the report’s release, the Department of Education also announced that it will launch the Career Pathways Exchange, “an online information dissemination service that will give all states and interested stakeholders access to resources and guidance to develop, expand, and strengthen their career pathways systems.” Read the full report here.

Support for Competency-Based Education Grows

In conjunction with the Vice President’s report, the Department of Education (ED) also announced a new round of its “experimental sites” (ex-sites) initiative, which aims to test and showcase innovative strategies and approaches to delivering postsecondary education. These experimental sites hope to demonstrate that it is possible to transition away from “seat time” in favor of demonstrated student competency— an approached widely known as competency-based education.

Since the early 1990s, ED has had the ability to waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements under the Higher Education Act (HEA). These restrictions determine if postsecondary institutions can receive funds from federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of HEA. Through the ex-sites initiative, ED will waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements under the Higher Education Act (HEA) requirements which affect Title IV federal student aid funding to provide institutions greater flexibility when implementing competency-based programs. Learn more about this announcement from ED here and Department’s official notice with detailed application instructions can be found here.

Activity around competency-based programs is also happening in Congress. Following a voice vote from the House Education and Workforce Committee, H.R. 3136 – also known as the Advancing Competency-based Education Demonstration Act – went before the full House and passed unanimously. This bill is part of the House committee’s larger strategy of reauthorizing HEA through a series of smaller bills aimed at renewing the law. The legislation has similar objectives to ED’s ex-sites initiative by allowing up to 20 institutions to offer competency-based education programs without meeting existing federal aid requirements under Title IV HEA. Eleven amendments were proposed and adopted during the bill’s vote. Among them was one offered by Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), encouraging the greater dissemination and collection of enrollment and employment information of students participating in programs supported by the legislation.

Congressional Appropriations Lose Steam

Both the House and the Senate Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 appropriations processes have stalled after months of negotiations. Congress looks set to pass a Continuing Resolution, a move that would temporarily extend current FY 2014 funding levels past the October 1 deadline when current federal funding is set to expire. Encouragingly, the Senate Appropriations Committee released the text of its intended FY 2015 Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education appropriations bill which included a $5.4 million increase for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program.

Although the appropriations process has since stalled and this funding increase is unlikely to be realized in the upcoming fiscal year, the release of the subcommittee’s text is an encouraging demonstration of Congress’ commitment to the Career Technical Education (CTE) enterprise. It is also important to note that Senate appropriators rejected the Obama Administration’s proposal for a new competitive CTE “innovation fund”- a sign that Congress largely remains opposed to a shift from the current formula-funded structure in the Perkins Act to a competitive model.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: House Passes WIOA, Senators Introduce New Perkins Amendment

July 11th, 2014

CapitolWednesday evening, the House passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA),  bipartisan legislation that reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act. As we shared previously, the Senate approved WIOA by a substantial margin of 95-3 in June, which then sent the bill over to the House for further consideration.

The House followed in much the same way, overwhelmingly supporting WIOA’s passage by a margin of 415-6. This enormous vote of confidence from both chambers of Congress now sends the legislation to President Obama, who is expected to sign the bill into law. NASDCTEc’s initial overview of the bill can be found here and a joint press release on Wednesday’s vote can be found here.

WIOA’s passage this week is the result of more than a decade of work from members of Congress, their staff and advocates alike to overhaul and modernize the nation’s workforce system. The legislation makes many improvements that will help ensure that workers and employers have the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century economy. NASDCTEc applauds this historic legislative achievement and looks forward to additional Congressional bipartisanship in the coming weeks and months as Congress continues work on other major pieces of federal education and workforce legislation such as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

Senators Introduce Perkins Legislation

Last week, Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) announced their intention to introduce a new Career Technical Education (CTE) bill that would make several positive modifications to Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins). Yesterday, these Senators officially introduced this legislation and took to the Senate floor to voice their continued support and commitment to the CTE enterprise. An overview and press release on the Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act of 2014 (ETWA) from both Senator Kaine and Portman’s offices can be found here and here.

ETWA would introduce a more rigorous definition for CTE programs of study (POS) — a framework for delivering high-quality CTE first introduced in the 2006 reauthorization of the Perkins Act. The newly proposed definition would require alignment to state-identified college and career ready standards, support the attainment of employability and technical skills, allow for multiple entry and exit points throughout a program’s secondary and postsecondary components and ultimately result in a recognized postsecondary credential or placement in an apprenticeship.

The legislation would also create an annual needs assessment for local Perkins recipients to better enable them to identify and meet the shifting needs of local CTE students and empower programs to more effectively respond to the evolving needs of the local, regional and state labor market. ETWA would also encourage the wider adoption of career academies among programs receiving Perkins funding.

NASDCTEc supports this legislation and looks forward to a comprehensive reauthorization of the Perkins Act where elements of this bill can be incorporated into the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s efforts to renew this vitally important law.

The full text of the bill can be found here and a joint letter of support from NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education can be found here.

House Committee Moves on Competency-Based Education

Yesterday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) passed by voice vote the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136). This bipartisan legislation is part of series of bills the Committee hopes to move forward in an effort to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). As we shared previously, the HEW Committee announced a set of principles for HEA reauthorization that will guide their efforts as this process continues.

H.R. 3136 would authorize the creation of competency-based education demonstration projects through HEA and waive current statutory regulations that have acted as an impediment to a wider adoption of competency-based education models at the postsecondary level. Currently, for the purposes of federal financial aid provided under Title IV of HEA, student progress is predominantly measured and determined by credit hour rather than by other more direct methods of measuring student learning. This bill’s cosponsors hope that the legislation will reduce the amount of time it takes to work towards a degree while also reducing the financial burden placed on students seeking a postsecondary education.

NASDCTEc is supportive of competency based education approaches such as the one put forward in H.R. 3136, and looks forward to the wider utilization of these models in a comprehensive reauthorization of HEA. A factsheet on the bill can be found here and the full text here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Senate Passes WIOA, Introduces Perkins Amendment and HEA Legislation

June 27th, 2014

CapitolOn Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a bicameral and bipartisan legislative compromise to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). Due for reauthorization since 2003, WIA supports workforce development activities throughout the country and funds job training programs for displaced adults and youth. WIOA reauthorizes this critically important piece of workforce development legislation and the Senate’s strong vote in favor of the compromise legislation constitutes a significant milestone in the bill’s pathway towards becoming law.

NASDCTEc’s initial overview of WIOA can be found here. The legislation makes substantial changes to the nation’s workforce development system and would streamline existing employment and workforce-related education and training systems via unified planning and delivery, common measurements for program performance and more uniform data collection and usage among many other positive new elements contained in the bill.

A procedural agreement reached between both parties late last week significantly reduced the time for debate, and a “managed amendment” process was established to consider three separate amendments to the bill. The first of these, put forward by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), would have permitted Governors to restructure a local workforce board if a local area failed to meet its performance target after just one year. This amendment was ultimately voted down 33-63. As passed, WIOA would allow this type of restructuring to take place after three years of missing these targets.

A second amendment, introduced by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), would have withheld funding by 5 percent to the U.S. Department of Labor if it failed to submit certain evaluations by statutory deadlines in WIOA. The Senate rejected this amendment as well by a margin of 40-58 before proceeding on one put forward by WIOA’s original co-sponsors. This “manager’s amendment” was a package of minor technical modifications to the original text of the bill which did not alter the fundamental content of the legislation. This amendment was adopted, before the chamber began its final vote on the passage of WIOA.

Encouragingly, the Senate voted 95-3 in favor of WIOA, which has now been sent over to the House for consideration. The strong vote from the Senate will likely improve the bill’s prospects in the House. NASDCTEc expects this will occur sometime after the July 4th Congressional recess and as early as July 9th. While there is still a long pathway for WIOA to become law, the Senate’s overwhelming support for the legislation constitutes a significant step forward in that process. NASDCTEc is encouraged by these developments and is hopeful that WIOA will move swiftly through the House next month on its way to becoming law later this year.

Senator Warner Introduces Perkins Proposal

Earlier this week, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced S. 2524 or the Pathways to Prosperity Act of 2014 (Pathways). The bill proposes a number of modifications to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins) and seeks to more closely align Career Technical Education (CTE) programs of study to the needs of the local, regional and state economy. Pathways introduces new statutory definitions for CTE programs of study, credit transfer agreements, labor market information and industry-recognized credentials and then seeks to promote these elements through various portions of current Perkins law.

The bill also directs the National Research Center for CTE (NRCCTE) to provide technical assistance to states to help develop their capacity to collect information on industry-recognized credentials earned by students in an effort to promote their use and help students, parents and policymakers understand their value relative to the labor market. Pathways would also make a small amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to ensure that rigorous, state-identified CTE standards are included alongside academic standards, a shift that is aimed at more closely aligning Perkins and CTE to ESEA and the activities supported under that legislation.

NASDCTEc applauds Senator Warner’s support and dedication to the CTE enterprise, and is hopeful that many elements of his Pathways bill will be included in the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Read the full bill here.

HEA Proposals Begin to Emerge

On Wednesday, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced a discussion draft for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The proposal focuses on four main objectives:

  • Increasing college affordability
  • Assisting student loan borrowers
  • Strengthening accountability
  • Improving transparency

There are a number of positive elements contained in this draft proposal supporting the above goals; however, the Community College and Industry Partnerships Program (CCIPP) is of particular interest to the CTE community. This proposed competitive grant program seeks to support education and career training programs at community colleges and other types of eligible postsecondary institutions. It also seeks to build upon early college high school models and improve linkages between secondary, postsecondary and adult education programs including programs supported by the Perkins Act.

While this draft proposal is a long way from becoming law, these types of programs and other such provisions are encouraging developments for the CTE community as Congress begins to more fully consider the reauthorization of HEA. NASDCTEc will continuing to follow HEA’s progress in the Senate and is tentatively expecting further consideration of this proposal by the HELP committee in the late summer. The text of Chariman Harkin’s proposal can be found here and a factsheet can be found here.

In other HEA news, earlier in the week in the House, Chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) released a white paper outlining key principles that will guide the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in that chamber. The paper centers on four primary goals, many of which have been the subject of Congressional hearings on HEA over the past year:

  • Empowering students and families to make informed decisions
  • Simplifying and improving student aid
  • Promoting innovation, access, and completion
  • Ensuring strong accountability and a limited federal role

The white paper includes a number of policy proposals the committee would like to take up during the reauthorization process and the full paper can be found here.

Three legislative proposals were introduced as part of the release of this whitepaper in an effort to more fully realize the goals outlined above.  More information on these bills can be found here and additional legislation is expected to be introduced in this space in the coming weeks and months.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Senate Postpones Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations, WIOA Momentum Grows 

June 24th, 2014

CapitolEarlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee was set to mark-up its Labor, Health and Human Services (Labor-HHS-ED) appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, but now has abruptly halted this process.

As we shared previously, Senate appropriators had set the overall spending cap for appropriations bill— also known as a 302(b) allocation— at $156.8 billion. This figure was in line with the spending caps put in place by the Murray-Ryan budget agreement for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015. This particular appropriations bill funds the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and ultimately determines funding levels for programs such as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) and its basic state grant allocations.

Following the Senate’s 302(b) announcement, the Senate Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee approved by voice vote its mark-up of the FY 2015 funding bill, which preliminarily determines individual funding levels for the departments and programs under the bill’s jurisdiction. However these proposed funding levels— specifically for the Perkins Act and its basic state grant program— were not publicly released prior to the next step in the Committee’s appropriations process. The full Senate Appropriations Committee was set to take this bill up for consideration a few days after the subcommittee’s affirmative voice vote, but unfortunately that mark-up has been indefinitely postponed and it is still unclear why the process has been delayed.

Turning attention towards the other Congressional Chamber, the House Appropriations Committee also recently set its FY 2015 302(b) allocation at $155.7 billion— roughly $1 billion below the Senate level, which was on par with the FY 2014 allocation level. No date has been set for the House bill’s mark-up, but Committee staff are optimistic that the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill will be considered sometime in July.

NASDCTEc remains hopeful that both Chambers will pass their respective Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bills, but as the summer wears on progress in this area will become more difficult. More recently, Congressional appropriators have talked about a “minibus” approach to passing these funding bills— a strategy that would combine a handful of other appropriations bills together in an effort to speed up passage. As this process unfolds, check our blog for information on what the FY 2015 appropriations process will mean for the Perkins Act in the coming year and beyond.

WIOA Update

Late last week, the Senate announced it had reached a procedural agreement to move forward with its consideration of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) legislation that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The agreement sets out a framework for which the bill will be taken to the entire chamber for a vote. Three amendments will be considered— two from Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and another package of minor changes from the bill’s original co-sponsors. The agreement also limits debate significantly, which means the process should move rather quickly once it is brought to the Senate floor.

NASDCTEc is expecting WIOA to be brought to the full Senate sometime this week and possibly as early as tomorrow. Although the likelihood of the three above amendments’ passage remains relatively low, strong concerns have been raised among the education and workforce development communities surrounding some of the possible negative ramifications from elements contained in the first two of these amendments. As this process unfolds, stay up to date with WIOA’s progress here.

Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Inaugural Briefing

Earlier this month, the recently formed Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus held its first public event featuring a panel discussion on CTE and its role in preparing students for entry into the 21st century economy. As the reauthorization process for the Perkins Act begins to gain momentum, the caucus has planned several other events to familiarize Hill staff and members of the public with the legislation and its role in supporting high-quality CTE throughout the nation. NASDCTEc Executive Director Kimberly Green participated in the event along with three other panelists:

  • Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education
  • Robert Chiappetta, Associate Director of Government Relations, Toyota
  • Steve DeWitt, Deputy Executive Director, ACTE

Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) attended the standing room-only briefing and delivered remarks to the audience regarding their interest and continued support of the CTE enterprise.

Odds & Ends: NGA, BUILD CTE Act, President’s Worchester Commencement Address

Yesterday, the National Governors Association (NGA) released its principles for the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. The document lays out NGA’s positions on governance and leadership, alignment and collaboration, state flexibility, accountability, funding and more with regards to Perkins. The full set of principles can be found here.

Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced H.R. 4782 a bill that would establish a career and technical education exploration pilot program for middle and high school students. The Building Understanding, Investment, Learning, and Direction (BUILD) CTE Act is a companion proposal to S. 1293, legislation that was introduced July of last year in the Senate by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Both proposals seek to create a competitive grant program for local education agencies which do not already receive Perkins funds to establish career exploration programs for these students.

President Obama delivered the commencement address on June 11th for the 2014 graduating class of Worchester Technical High School in Worcester, Massachusetts. The President focused his remarks on the importance of engaging the local community and private sector which has helped to support the high-quality career technical education (CTE) experiences on offer in Worcester. He also highlighted the long list of accomplishments the school and its students have had since it more fully embraced a CTE model throughout the high school. The full speech and transcript can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Senators Call for Presidential CTE Award, FY15 Appropriations Process Moves Forward

June 9th, 2014

Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs Tim Kaine (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) recently sent a letter to President Obama asking him to create a Presidential Career and Technical Scholars award through executive order. Currently the Presidential Scholars program recognizes up to 121 high school graduates in the nation based on a combination of academic achievement, community leadership and extracurricular activities. The program also identifies an additional 20 students in the visual and performance arts or creative writing fields centering on participation in the national YoungArts program.

NASDCTEc applauds the Senators’ request to expand the Presidential Scholars program for Career Technical Education (CTE). Such an expansion would more fully acknowledge the level of high-quality CTE work currently under way in high schools throughout the country and highlight the strong academic and technical achievements of individual CTE students. As with the current awards, the application and eligibility requirements for a CTE component to this program would be determined by the Presidential Scholars Commission.

NASDCTEc encourages those in the CTE community to send President Obama a message urging action on this issue here. If you have not done so already, please take the time to thank Senators Kaine, Portman and Baldwin for their continued dedication to the CTE enterprise. While no official response has been sent from the White House as of today, NASDCTEc is hopeful that later this week the CTE community will have an answer to this request.

Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations Outlook
As we shared last month, the House Committee on Appropriations passed a measure setting the 302(b) allocation for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) Appropriations bill. The Department of Education and the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) basic state grant program it administers, falls under this spending bill which the Committee set at $155.7 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. This figure is approximately $1 billion below FY 2014 levels. The Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee must still “markup” an appropriations bill conforming to this cap for FY 2015. This essentially amounts to deciding how that sum will be divided up between the various agencies, departments and programs falling under the jurisdiction of the subcommittee.

While no date has been set in the House, the Senate Committee on Appropriations has embarked upon much the same course. Recently, the committee in that Chamber set its 302(b) allocation for the Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations bill at $156.8 billion for FY 2015— $1 billion above the House level, but still on par with the FY 2014 allocation. The Senate subcommittee has scheduled markup for this bill for tomorrow, June 10th, when funding levels for individual programs— including Perkins— will be determined. The full Committee is also expected to hold a markup on the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill sometime later this week, but an official time and date have not been released.

As a reminder, NASDCTEc supported two Dear Colleague letters in both Chambers calling for a restoration of the remaining sequester cuts to the Perkins Act basic state grant program. In addition to this, NASDCTEc also submitted a formal request for additional funding for the Perkins Act to the Senate Committee on Appropriations based on its FY 2015 call for additional investments for the basic state grant program. As this process unfolds, check back here for updates and analysis on the appropriations process as it relates to Perkins.

Upcoming Webinar: Wage Record Interchange System (WRIS) 2
NASDCTEc encourages those interested to join the Workforce Data Quality Campaign this Thursday at 2:00 – 3:00p.m. ET for a discussion on the Wage Record Interchange System (WRIS) 2. This system allows states to exchange wage records for performance reporting on a variety of programs, including career and technical education, adult education and TANF. The webinar will include information about: why it is important to share wage records across state lines; how WRIS2 operates and ways that states can use the system; and examples of states that are using WRIS2.

Panelists:
• Rachel Zinn, Director, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
• John Glen, Oregon Employment Department
• Ruben Garcia, Texas Workforce Commission

Please click here to register and attend. In case you are unable to attend at that time, WDQC will share a recording of the webinar following the live event.

Odds & Ends: WIOA, ATB, and Hill Staff School Visit
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the bicameral, bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is expected to be taken up by the full Senate sometime during the week of June 16th. The compromise legislation proposes to substitute the House-passed SKILLS Act with the agreement language and will likely be open to some amendments if and when the legislation is considered by the full Chamber.

NASDCTEc recently supported a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and Labor-HHS-ED Subcommittees, calling for the reinstatement of the “Ability to Benefit” (ATB) provision in Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Following Congressional austerity measures in 2012, students who do not have a high school diploma or an equivalent— even if they can demonstrate college-readiness— have not been able to utilize the Pell Grant program to pay for the costs of their postsecondary education. Read the full letter here.

Last week, NASDCTEc participated in a school visit to Edison Academy in Alexandria, Virginia. Hosted by the Association of Career Technical Education (ACTE) and the newly formed Senate CTE Caucus, the visit gave House and Senate staff the opportunity to see a CTE program first-hand and illustrated the vital role the Perkins Act has in supporting the types of high-quality programs on display on the doorstep of the nation’s Capital. Do you have a program you would like to see featured on the Hill? Please contact Steve Voytek at [email protected] or Evan Williamson at [email protected] to learn more.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Congress Announces Agreement on Workforce Development Legislation

May 23rd, 2014

CapitolMore than a decade has passed since the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was originally due for reauthorization. In that time, Congress has come close to an agreement a few times for overhauling the law, but never got as far as it did this past Wednesday. After months of negotiations between both parties in the House and Senate, lawmakers announced they had reached a deal on the long anticipated reauthorization of the federal government’s largest piece of workforce development legislation.

Dubbed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the bicameral, bipartisan legislation is a compromise between the House-passed SKILLS Act (H.R. 803) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s WIA reauthorization legislation (S. 1356). A side-by-side comparison of the proposals can be found here.

The compromise legislation unveiled on Wednesday, contains a number of promising provisions that NASDCTEc and the broader Career Technical Education (CTE) community have been urging Congress to take up since the reauthorization process for WIA began. Specifically, NASDCTEc had raised concerns regarding provisions in both the Senate and House proposals to alter how one-stop infrastructure is funded. Proposals contained in each would have impacted state and local Perkins recipient’s capacity to effectively administer CTE programs and activities.

One-Stop Infrastructure Funding

Currently, WIA does not provide direct funding for the operational costs of one-stop centers and WIOA proposes to follow in that same vein. Much like the current system, WIOA would require that all mandatory partners contribute to the infrastructure costs of one-stop centers, but would do so with more vigor than in current law. The main impetus behind this is to spur greater collaboration among the WIA one-stop system and its partners. Additionally, funding the costs of one-stop infrastructure in this fashion will allow a greater portion of federal appropriations under this act to go towards direct training costs.

Postsecondary CTE programs which receive funding from the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) are among the required partners in the WIA/WIOA one-stop delivery system—  a central point of service for state and local WIA/WIOA training and employment activities where activities with partner programs must also be coordinated. Funding for infrastructure would pay for the operational costs of these one-stop centers.

Under this proposal, local Workforce Development Boards (currently known as local workforce investment boards) are first directed to come to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on infrastructure funding contribution levels, other shared costs, and how the partners would deliver services under the system. Put another way, an MOU is a consensus agreement on those issues among the local board, chief elected officials and one-stop partners in a local area. If such an agreement is not reached, a funding mechanism would be used to require each one-stop partner to contribute up to 1.5 percent of total grant funds available for administrative purposes. However, the contribution level could vary as the Governor must first make a determination for each local one-stop partner’s individual contribution based on a number of factors. By default, these funds would be sent to the Governor, who would then use the contribution to pay for costs of one-stop infrastructure in a local area.

During the process of determining a one-stop partner’s contribution, the Governor must take into account the existing statutory obligations and ability of a program to meet those requirements. Additionally, contributions are required to be calculated based on a “proportionate use” of the one-stop system. Both of these provisions were proposals NASDCTEc and its partners called for as Congressional negotiators worked towards this bipartisan compromise.

Significantly, if a state places the authority of a partner program’s funding outside of the Governor’s office, then the chief official within that agency or entity would execute the above responsibilities on behalf of the Governor. Since Perkins funding in many states flow through an eligible agency fitting this description, the state agency responsible for Perkins would still retain significant oversight  and input into how postsecondary CTE programs receiving Perkins funding would contribute to the one-stop system. While a separate funding stream for infrastructure funding would have been ideal to fully meet the infrastructure costs of the one-stop system, this compromise was needed given the tight fiscal and budgetary constraints under which this bill was negotiated and written.

To recap, only postsecondary CTE programs receiving funding from the Perkins Act would be required partners in the WIOA one-stop system. All of the one-stop partners in a local area must first attempt to come to a voluntary agreement, in the form of an MOU, to fund the costs of infrastructure and to decide how partners would deliver services in the one-stop system. Failure to reach an MOU would trigger the above funding mechanism which would be imposed only on local partner programs in a particular local area where an MOU was not reached. Additional provisions have also been added to this mechanism that would take into consideration partner programs’ statutory obligations and their ability to meet those requirements along with their proportional use of the one-stop system. Most importantly, if a state places Perkins funding authority outside of the Governor’s office, then the chief official in that agency or department would have a significant amount of oversight and input into how these contribution levels are determined.

Sequence of Services Eliminated, Along With 15 Existing Programs

WIOA also proposes to eliminate the “sequence of services” provision contained in current law that requires individuals to go through a prescribed sequence of core services before gaining access to more relevant training. This has been consolidated into “career services,” which holds as a goal to more effectively assess the unique needs of individuals seeking services from the various programs authorized under this legislation. WIOA also consolidates 15 existing programs, many of which are currently authorized, but have been unfunded for a number of years. In total, 14 workforce programs and one higher education program would be consolidated under the proposed legislation.

Board Size, Composition and Direct Contracting

State and local workforce development boards would also be reduced in overall size in an effort to increase their efficiency. Business majorities have been maintained on each and the local iterations encouragingly require representation from adult education and literacy provides, institutions of higher education and can also include representatives from local education agencies. CTE representation is also encouraged, but not a requirement for either board.

Another promising aspect of WIOA is the new found ability of local workforce development boards to directly contract with community colleges. Such contracted training supports faster development and implementation of training programs, and would help to better address current and emerging labor market trends while also quickly increasing capacity during times of high demand. Additionally, WIOA would designate area career and technical education schools as eligible Job Corps operators. This designation allows area CTE centers, along with a host of other institutions such as those in the higher education space, to receive funding under the legislation to operate as a Job Corps center.

Accountability, Career Pathways and State Leadership

WIOA completely revises the accountability section of the existing law, introducing common performance metrics for all the programs authorized under the act. Primary metrics center mainly on employment after program exit, postsecondary education after program completion (for youth programs), median earnings, credential attainment, skills gains and employer engagement. The proposed legislation would also prioritize industry recognized certifications and credentials, another encouraging aspect of the proposal.

There is also a renewed focus on career pathways within WIOA and it introduces a statutory definition seeking to align education, training and other programs into a coherent path towards employment or further postsecondary education. Many of the elements contained in this definition integrate well into a CTE program of study (POS) framework and could compliment stronger aspects of a program of study structure in a newly reauthorized Perkins Act.

Congressional negotiators also sent a strong message regarding the importance of state leadership in education and workforce training programs. WIOA would re-instate the 15 percent set-aside for Governors to carry out statewide initiatives tailored to the individual needs of their particular state.

Outlook and Prospects for WIOA

This overview is by no means exhaustive and there are still many details and aspects of the bill that could change WIOA as it makes its way through both the Senate and the House over the coming weeks and months. Nevertheless, this is the furthest Congress has come in reauthorizing this critical piece of federal workforce development legislation. While not perfect in every respect, WIOA is a positive step in the right direction and NASDCTEc applauds the efforts of Congress to move forward on these critically important issues.

WIOA is currently in the Senate, where it has been introduced as a substitute amendment for the House-passed SKILLS Act (H.R. 803). Senate leaders have hotlined the bill — a parliamentary maneuver which they hope will speed up the Chamber’s consideration of the legislation before it moves on to the House. Congressional aides expect legislative action surrounding WIOA to begin in earnest following the Memorial Day recess. As this process unfolds, NASDCTEc will keep the CTE community informed as to its progress.

Information on the bill, including the full text, one-pagers and factsheets, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: House Moves Several Education Bills Forward, Appropriations Committee Sets FY 15 Spending Level

May 16th, 2014

CapitolLast week, the House approved through voice vote the Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA). The bipartisan vote and legislation reauthorizes the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), which supports educational research programs such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams and state longitudinal data systems.

“The Strengthening Education through Research Act will improve education research and help ensure more schools and students can benefit from effective educational practices,” said Rep. Rokita (R-IN) upon passage of the legislation.

Of particular interest to the CTE community is SETRA’s authorization for state longitudinal data system (SLDS) grants which encourage the alignment of data across K-12, postsecondary and workforce programs. These grants support the capacity of states and programs to report on post-program employment outcomes for CTE graduates. Additionally, the bill strongly emphasizes the importance of using data effectively for continuous program improvement. As Rep. Rokita pointed out during debate on the House floor, “what good does the data do us if it can’t be used?”

NASDCTEc is very supportive of this legislation and looks forward to SETRA’s future progress in the Senate. The text of the bill, fact sheets, and other useful information can be found here.

In addition to moving forward on SETRA, the House also passed the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 10), which streamlines two existing charter school programs into a single $300 million annual program to support the development and expansion of high-quality charter schools — a $50 million increase over current funding levels.  The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support on a margin of 360-45. House CTE Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) also successfully passed an amendment to the bill before its final passage, which added comprehensive career counseling to the criteria the Secretary of Education must consider when making grants under this legislation.

“This amendment recognizes that career counseling is a critical tool we must promote in order to assure that students are informed and prepared to meet their next educational or career challenge,” Rep. Thompson said upon the amendment’s adoption.

Rep. Langevin echoed these sentiments saying, “Investments in education are repaid many times over through the creation of a skilled, educated workforce. That investment is made exponentially stronger when we provide young people with career counseling programs that enable them to make smart decisions about their futures.”

NASDCTEc applauds this renewed focus on career counseling in our nation’s schools and looks forward to similar proposals to further strengthen these critical student support systems. More information on this legislation can be found here.

House Appropriations Committee Sets Levels for FY 15

Late last week the House Committee on Appropriations passed a measure confirming the topline spending cap for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 at $1.014 trillion for the entire federal discretionary budget. This figure conforms to the spending caps put in place by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. The committee also set about dividing up this figure into 12 separate allocations — known as 302(b)s — to be used by each of the relevant subcommittees as they craft the necessary spending bills to fund the various departments, agencies and programs that compose the federal government.

Discouragingly, the 302(b) allocation for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education — under which the Carl D. Perkins Act’s basic state grant program falls— was set at $155.7 billion. This figure is roughly $1 billion below what was allocated in FY 2014 and will put additional pressures on appropriators as they decide how to divide that sum among the various programs under the jurisdiction of the Labor-HHS-ED bill. As this process unfolds, NASDCTEc will be working with appropriators in both Chambers to ensure that adequate investments are made in our nation’s CTE system. The Senate is expected to undertake this process in the next several weeks.

Does the budget and appropriations process sound confusing? Check-out NASDCTEc’s on-demand webinar unpacking this complex process.

The CREDIT Act

Yesterday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the Credentialing Improvement for Troop Talent (CREDIT) Act of 2014 to help members of the armed services acquire credentials for use in the civilian labor market. The bill would expand the authority of the Tuition Assistance program currently available to servicemembers by allowing the program to cover expenses stemming from obtaining a civilian credential. Under the program’s current rules, the program only provides financial assistance for postsecondary programs and does not cover fees from certification or licensing programs.

“The CREDIT Act will provide servicemembers with the resources they need to obtain civilian credentials while on active duty, easing their entry into the civilian workforce and improving their chances of getting quickly hired by a private sector employer,” said Sen. Kaine upon the introduction of his bill. NASDCTEc strongly supports this legislation and applauds the Senator’s commitment to expanding federal financial aid eligibility for CTE programs that help prepare students in all walks of life for further education and careers.  More information on the bill can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

 

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