Advance CTE Legislative Update: House Education Committee Holds Perkins Hearing while Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Career Pathways Briefing

May 19th, 2016

United States CapitalOn Tuesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing to discuss ways to improve and modernize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). Due for reauthorization since 2013, the law has been in the early stages of consideration by the committee since an earlier subcommittee hearing last October.

The hearing gave a platform to four witnesses to provide perspectives on how Perkins could be strengthened through future legislation:

  • Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Paul Tse, Project Manager, Shapiro & Duncan Inc.
  • Jason Bates, Manager, Toyota— Bodine Aluminum Inc.
  • Monty Sullivan, President, Louisiana Community and Technical College System

Chairman John Kline (R-MN) started the hearing off by emphasizing the bipartisan nature of Perkins and Career Technical Education (CTE), outlining a set of priorities he sees as important to a Perkins reauthorization effort.

During his written testimony, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) spoke at length about his passion for CTE and centered his remarks around several pieces of legislation he has introduced in the Senate to strengthen Perkins and bolster support for CTE. In particular, Sen. Kaine stressed the importance of defining and supporting high-quality CTE programs of study in the next Perkins Act, as he and his colleagues have proposed to do in the Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act (ETWA). He also emphasized the significance of appropriately aligning Perkins to the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)— a key theme throughout the day.

Another topic that was repeatedly touched upon on Tuesday related to the need to strengthen other federal programs, such as federal financial aid programs in Title IV of the Higher Education Act, to more effectively support postsecondary CTE programs. While outside the direct scope of Perkins reauthorization, several witnesses as well as members of the committee highlighted this issue as something that would further strengthen postsecondary CTE.

This last point was underscored in particular by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) who pointed out that Perkins funding has depreciated by 24 percent since 1998. Other members of the committee echoed the need for additional funding for Perkins, while others argued that improvements should be made to Perkins to more efficiently make use of the federal investment in CTE. Dr. Sullivan for instance made a compelling argument that future Perkins legislation should focus on incentivizing program and student outcomes, rather than measuring program inputs for the purposes of accountability.

Witnesses also touched upon the importance of strengthening relationships between employers and programs. Jason Bodine of Toyota for instance highlighted his company’s participation in the Advanced Maintenance Technician (AMT) program— a partnership between Jackson State Community College and a consortium of area employers.

Other subjects that came up in the hearing included strengthening supports for career guidance and advisement and the need to increase awareness of CTE opportunities at earlier stages in a student’s life. At the hearing’s conclusion Chairman Kline expressed optimism about the prospects for Perkins reauthorization in this Congress and underlined the need for bipartisan cooperation as discussions continue to take shape on the committee.

All witness testimony and the chairman’s opening remarks can be found here. To watch the archived video of the hearing, click here.

Career Pathways: Exploring the Partnership Pipeline

Last week the Senate CTE Caucus, in conjunction with the Alliance for Excellent Education, hosted a briefing dedicated to exploring partnership opportunities to develop and expand career pathways. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who opened the panel with brief remarks, framed the nature of the problem with a jarring statistic: with 300,000 individuals out of work in Ohio and 160,000 jobs unfilled, closing the skills gap is “incredibly important work right now.”

And just how do we go about equipping young people with the skills to fill these high-demand positions? Dr. Scott Ralls, President of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), described how career pathways could fan out from a 2-year degree program, enabling students to either pursue additional postsecondary education or enter the workforce after obtaining a certificate in a high-demand field like cybersecurity.

Over on the West Coast, Superintendent John Snavely described Porterville Unified School District’s (PUSD) Linked Learning approach. This model combines rigorous academics, career-based classroom learning, work-based learning, and integrated student supports to propel students through relevant career pathways. With support from third-party intermediaries like Innovate Tulare-Kings, which engages regional business partners in Central California to connect students with experiential learning opportunities, PUSD has been able to continue the learning experience outside of the classroom.

The panel discussion can be viewed in its entirety here (beginning 22 minutes in).

Odds & Ends

  • The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released a useful FAQ resource for states as they make the transition to ESSA over the coming year.
  • USDE, along with 11 other federal agencies, re-released a letter of support for career pathways systems development. The letter has been updated to reflect WIOA’s statutory definition for a career pathway, reiterates the six key elements of a career pathway system, and provides a useful toolkit for implementation. More here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager and Austin Estes, Policy Associate 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: CTE Presidential Scholars Announced as ESSA Implementation Continues and Obama Administration Makes Skills Announcements

May 5th, 2016

United States CapitalYesterday the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) announced the 52nd class of U.S. Presidential Scholars that, for the first time since the program’s inception, now counts Career Technical Education (CTE) students among the nation’s highest achievers.

“We’ve added 20 more slots to honor our highest achieving students in career and technical education, reflecting the Department’s belief that a quality education must be a well-rounded education that prepares students for college, careers and any other civic service,” USDE Secretary John King said in a statement yesterday.

As we have shared previously, President Obama signed Executive Order 11155 last June— a move that expanded the existing Presidential Scholars program to include up to 20 CTE students as part of the program. Created in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson, the U.S. Presidential Scholars program identifies the nation’s highest-achieving students and honors them at an annual award ceremony in D.C. Advance CTE applauded the CTE expansion of this program and will continue to urge policymakers to raise the profile of CTE through efforts and initiatives such as this.

More info can be found here and a full list of Presidential scholars can be found here.

ESSA Implementation Continues

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)— a law that replaced No Child Left Behind and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act— states, districts, USDE, and other stakeholders have been busy figuring out the best way forward for implementing the new law.

While the defining theme of ESSA has been a devolution of policymaking authority from the federal level to the jurisdictions of states and local districts, USDE is still responsible for facilitating the development of a limited set of regulations to assist in the law’s ongoing roll-out. Known as “negotiated rulemaking”, this is a collaborative process by which a panel of stakeholders and USDE negotiate the terms of specific regulations required for ESSA implementation.

The panel was tasked with coming to consensus on issues affecting student assessments and the law’s “supplement, not supplant” requirement— a provision that requires that federal funds from ESSA not take the place of existing state and local spending, but rather supplement those efforts.

The panel was able to reach consensus on the issues related to assessment, but unfortunately not on supplement, not supplant rules. As a result, USDE will now write its own regulations on this issue setting up a likely fight with Congressional Republicans who have been vocally opposed to USDE’s proposals for the rule to date. Before publishing these rules for public comment, ESSA requires a fifteen day Congressional review period where these disagreements will likely be highlighted further.

Separate from the formal rulemaking process, USDE is also planning to develop non-regulatory guidance to further assist states, districts, and other stakeholders in implementing the new law. Although ESSA makes clear that such guidance cannot be “legally binding”, USDE hopes that this guidance can help the public understand the law better, provide a window into how the department interprets ESSA, and to provide examples of best practices to support implementation. The department is asking for input from the field on what topics this guidance should cover and recommendations can be submitted to essa.guidance@ed.gov. Comments must be submitted by May 25, 2016.

Advance CTE will continue to monitor and engage with implementation of ESSA in the coming year. A helpful timeline for that process can be found here.

White House Announces $100 Million in Free Community College Grants

On April 25, Vice President Joe Biden announced a plan to expand upon their America’s College Promise initiative with a $100 million competitive grant. The effort, which President Obama first proposed during his 2015 State of the Union address, aims to provide two years of free community college to eligible students — an ambition that has already spurred some 27 free community college programs across 15 states. Details about the timing and process for awarding grants are forthcoming, though the White House did release a fact sheet with information about its investments in postsecondary education and its wider skills agenda.

Department of Labor Launches $90 Million ApprenticeshipUSA Program

Separately, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) announced that it is now accepting applications for ApprenticeshipUSA, a $90 million grant competition to increase “job-driven” apprenticeships in the U.S. The first competition, which closes on May 15, makes available $9.5 million for State Accelerator Grants — state-level grants to expand access to and diversify participation in Registered Apprenticeships. States wishing to apply for an Accelerator Grant can find information such as the timeline and process for awarding grants here. USDOL plans to make an additional $50 million available to states later this spring and will invest the remaining $30 million to help employers launch and grow apprenticeship programs.

Odds & Ends

  • Recently, USDE circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter outlining various available funding streams that can be leveraged to support STEM education. The letter was sent to states, districts, schools, and other stakeholders and references the several permissible used of funds within the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) that can be used to support STEM education.
  • USDE also released a guidance letter that further clarifies its position on higher education accreditation following an executive action by President Obama last November that sought to improve upon current accreditation practices. The letter encourages accreditors to use standards that are based on student outcomes such as graduation, retention, and employment rates.
  • USDE announced the second round of its “Performance Pilot Partnerships” (P3), an initiative that waives certain requirements for some federal programs, such as the Perkins Act, to allow entities to braid funding and test innovative strategies targeted at disconnected youth. State and local governments, along with other stakeholders, are encouraged to express their intent to apply by May 26, 2016 and applications are due June 27, 2016. The full application announcement can be found here and USDE plans an informational webinar May 9th.
  • In partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, USDE announced $5.7 million in new grants aimed at providing CTE programs, reentry services, and training opportunities for students involved in the criminal justice system. USDE has also released a new toolkit for educators to support successful reentry of these students.

 Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager and Austin Estes, Policy Associate 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: Secretary King Continues to Make Rounds on Capitol Hill as a Bipartisan Group of 150 Lawmakers Express Support for Perkins Funding

March 28th, 2016

cherry-blossoms-at-jefferson-150x150Although Congress is out of session until the first week of April, lawmakers continued to examine the Obama Administration’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget just before their “Easter Recess” was set to begin late last week.

Newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Education John King appeared before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee last week to discuss his department’s proposed spending priorities contained in the President’s FY 2017 budget.

As we have shared previously, the Obama Administration proposed flat-funding for the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program— approximately $1.118 billion at current levels. Rather than proposing to fully fund the core formula grants that compose Perkins (which are still $5 million below “pre-sequester” levels) the Administration renewed its call for a new competitive grant program known as the “American Technical Training Fund” (ATTF).

Thus far Congressional lawmakers have met this proposal with measured skepticism. Members have been raising a number of concerns related to the ATTF and the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) other proposed CTE-related spending priorities, all of which would be made at the expense of fully investing in the Perkins Act.

During the House hearing last week Rep. Roby (R-AL) echoed these sentiments saying, “Rather than funding a large competitive grant, it seems to me that these funds would be better used to support state formula grants which would ensure more students are able to benefit from the CTE experience.” Rep. Womack (R-AR) also reiterated these concerns, questioning why USDE was proposing to fund a “new and unproven program” while failing to fully invest in its existing CTE commitments like Perkins.

The full hearing and related testimony can be viewed here.

Although the CTE-related spending priorities in the President’s FY 2017 budget have been disappointing, a group of 150 lawmakers have taken the opportunity to champion Perkins funding in the upcoming budget and appropriations cycle. In the House 118 members of Congress signed on in support of “pre-sequester” funding levels for the Perkins basic state grant program— a record number of signatures from both sides of the aisle. In the Senate, 32 Senators signed-on in support of a similar letter calling for the same funding levels in the upcoming appropriations process.

Advance CTE applauds these lawmakers for formally expressing their support of Perkins funding and a special note of thanks goes to House CTE Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) who lead these efforts in their respective chambers.

The letters can be viewed here and here. If your member of Congress signed-on in support of either of these appropriations letters, we encourage you to visit ACTE’s Action Center to send your lawmaker a note of thanks!

Perkins Reauthorization Efforts Continue

As we shared last October, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee began to formally consider the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. While these efforts have been overshadowed by higher profile issues such as the federal budget, the Supreme Court nomination process, and the upcoming Presidential elections, the committee’s consideration of Perkins has continued behind-the-scenes for much of this year. HELP Committee members have been working to expand upon the bipartisan Perkins reauthorization principles they released last fall and it is possible that this work could culminate in a draft bill as soon as the next few weeks.

In the House, formal consideration of Perkins is still in the early stages but it remains a significant priority for the House Education and the Workforce Committee this year.

As this work continues, Members of Congress have been working on smaller pieces of legislation that they hope will inform the wider reauthorization process. One such bill, the CTE Equity and Excellence Act (S. 2718), introduced by a handful of Senators on and off the HELP Committee proposes to amend Title II of Perkins to fund high school reform efforts by harnessing the potential of CTE to support greater student achievement. Advance CTE looks forward to working with these offices on a wider reauthorization effort where proposals such as this can be thoughtfully considered in the context of the entire legislation.

Odds & Ends

  • Congress passed the “Evidenced-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016” this month which would establish a committee to make recommendations for how the federal government can use data to evaluate federal programs and more effectively spend public resources. More coverage of the bill can found on the Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s blog. Read the full bill here.
  • The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing this month to explore current federal policies related to education research and student privacy. This hearing is part of a wider effort to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). More info can be found here and here.
  • USDE convened the first round of negotiated rulemaking this month to develop regulations to govern the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A number of topics are being discussed as part of these negotiations, most notably for the CTE community specifics related to ESSA’s new assessment framework and the implementation of the law’s new “supplement-not-supplant” spending requirements.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: Acting U.S. Education Secretary Visits Capitol Hill as Perkins Funding Requests Begin to Circulate

March 8th, 2016

United States CapitalLast week, Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King participated in multiple congressional hearings to discuss the potential of the Senate formally confirming his position as Secretary (he has been “Acting” since December 2015), the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and the Administration’s most recent budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.

King first appeared before the House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) to highlight his department’s education priorities outlined in the President’s final budget request to Congress. As we shared earlier, the President proposed to fund the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program at approximately $1.118 billion in the upcoming fiscal year— the same amount the program has received since FY 2014 or about $5.4 million below “pre-sequester” levels. Instead the Administration renewed its proposal for an “American Technical Training Fund” (ATTF), a competitive grant program that would focus limited investments in shorter-term job training initiatives in high-demand sectors.

This type of proposal has been an enduring theme in the President’s past budgets and was one that could be found throughout the budget request this year— proposals for a series of many new or competitive programs at the expense of existing ones. Chairman John Kline (R-MN) expressed significant concerns about this at the outset of the hearing, arguing that these proposals were untested and would lead to “chronically underfunding” existing investments in education.

House CTE Caucus co-Chair Rep. Glen Thompson (R-PA) reiterated these concerns further into the hearing. Specifically he pressed the Acting Secretary to explain why the Administration had proposed the ATTF— which would only support 5-25 programs in the country according the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) own estimation— when it had reported the same week that many Career Technical Education programs throughout the country had waiting lists due to lack of capacity. King responded by highlighting the Admisntration’s “Next Generation High School” efforts, a separate proposal from ATTF.  Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) also expressed similar concerns about the ATTF proposal, particularly related to the challenges low-income communities would face when trying to compete for these grants.

Further in the week, King returned to HEW to talk about the ongoing implementation of ESSA. Here he focused his remarks on USDE’s plans for the law’s implementation over the coming few years and the specific resources his department was developing for these purposes. A new ESSA FAQ resource was published by USDE shortly after this hearing.

Later that same day, King appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as members there considered his nomination to formally serve as U.S. Secretary of Education for the remainder of President Obama’s time in office. During his remarks the Acting Secretary highlighted his experience as Commissioner of Education in New York and his efforts to expand CTE offerings in the state through a partnership with IBM and the expansion of their P-TECH program.

King also emphasized the need to reauthorize the Perkins Act saying, “Let’s make 2016 the year we transform career and technical education for the 21st century by driving innovation and quality.” The HELP committee is set to vote on his nomination in the coming weeks and it is widely expected that the full Senate will take his nomination up sometime following that.

Ask Your Members of Congress to Support Perkins Funding!

This month, Members of Congress in both Chambers will have the opportunity to voice their support for additional Perkins funding in the upcoming FY 2017 budget and appropriations process.

CTE Caucus co-Chairs Rep. Thompson (R-PA) and Langevin (D-RI) are currently circulating a letter in the House that calls for “pre-sequester” funding levels for Perkins in FY 2017— about $5.4m over what is currently being invested in the law’s basic state grant program. Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) is circulating a similar letter in the Senate with the same ask of Congressional appropriators in that chamber.

Perkins is the sole federal investment in CTE and provides foundational support for high-quality CTE programs found in every State and congressional district. However due to difficult decisions made over the past few years, Perkins funding has declined by 13 percent since FY 2007— approximately $170 million less now goes to support high schools, tech centers, and community colleges via the Perkins Act.

Advance CTE encourages you to reach your to your Members of Congress to urge them to sign-on in support of these letters. To do so, please visit the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) CTE Action Center to email your Representative and / or Senator and voice your support!

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

Advance CTE Legislative Update: President Obama Unveils Final Budget Request to Congress as Senate Honors CTE Month

February 17th, 2016

United States CapitalLast Tuesday, President Obama released his final budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. This document formally kicks off the federal budget and appropriations process for the coming year. As has been the case for much of the President’s time in office, this process is again shaping up to be rather contentious as both parties debate issues of spending and taxation in the context of the looming Presidential and Congressional elections this November.

Overall, the President’s budget outlines an extremely ambitious set of spending priorities for the coming year, totaling $4.1 trillion overall. The budget proposes significant new investments in a number of new and existing education and workforce development programs, but disappointingly does not propose any additional funding for states via the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state formula grant program.

Instead the President has renewed his proposal for the creation of an “American Technical Training Fund” (ATFF) that, if created, would constitute a new competitive grant program outside the scope of this foundational support for CTE. ATTF can best be understood as a successor program to the Admisntration’s 2013 Youth Career Connect Initiative, but so far Congress has not acted to formalize this proposal which was also included in the President’s budget last year for $100 million at that time.

As Kimberly Green, Advance CTE Executive Director and others noted on the day of the release, the President’s request for level-funding for Perkins state grants is concerning at a time when demand for high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) programs is rising— a fact even the Administration has recently highlighted. While the Obama Administration does request an additional $2 million for CTE national activities under Perkins, this increase would also be used for the purposes of evaluating the effectiveness of the proposed ATTF.

Despite these concerning elements, the President’s budget does put forth a set of somewhat more encouraging spending proposals as part of a wider skills development agenda that could compliment much of the work already underway in the CTE field:

  • $500 million in mandatory funding for the creation of a “Workforce Data Science and Innovation Fund” along with a doubling of funding for state longitudinal data systems. Read more on these data investments at the Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s blog.
  • $2 billion to expand apprenticeship programs, and $200 million specifically for youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.
  • Increases for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s youth, adult, and dislocated formula grant programs that are each consistent with the funding levels proposed in the law.
  • $60.8 billion in mandatory funding for the President’s proposed “America’s College Promise” program that would provide two years of postsecondary education tuition-free for eligible students in qualifying programs.
  • $500 million for business tax credits (up to $5,000 each) for employers to partner with community colleges in high-demand industry areas and incentivize the hiring of graduates. The grants would be available from 2017-2021 and more information can be found here and here.

The President’s budget can be viewed in its entirety here. The U.S. Department of Labor and Education’s (USDOL / USDE) budgets can be accessed here and here respectively. Of particular note is USDE’s budget justification for CTE and Adult Education which can be accessed here. This document provides further insight into the administration’s thinking behind their Perkins proposals contained in the budget and outlined above.

It is important to note that this budget request is simply that— it does not constitute formal policy and Congress must still pass a budget and respective spending bills to enact any of these proposals. Given Congressional Republican’s continued concerns on federal spending, deficits, and the national debt, there is little chance that most of what is being proposed by the President will become law. In fact, the Congressional budget committees have gone so far as to “snub” the administration and have not asked the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to testify on this proposal—a key indicator on how far this proposal is likely to get in Congress this year.

As the Congressional budget and appropriations process continues to take shape, be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis.

Senate Passes CTE Month Resolution and Hosts Employers to Talk About the Value of CTE

As many are aware, every year February is informally known as “CTE Month”—a time to celebrate and lift up all of the great work underway in the CTE community. Last week, the Senate voted unanimously in support of a resolution—sponsored by Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs Sens. Kaine (D-VA), Portman (R-OH), Baldwin (D-WI), and Isakson (R-GA)— that formally recognizes and honors February as CTE month. The resolution can be viewed in its entirety here.

The resolution was co-sponsored by 17 other Senators from both parties and the Senate’s unanimous recognition and support of this resolution underscores the chamber’s continued commitment to the CTE enterprise. Advance CTE applauds this move by the Senate and looks forward to celebrating the rest of CTE month in the coming days and weeks.

In addition to this effort, the Senate CTE Caucus also played host to a briefing on employer engagement with CTE programs last week. The briefing, co-hosted by the Industry Workforce Needs Coalition and Opportunity America, gave employers—ranging in size and location from a small manufacturing firm in Wisconsin to a large engineering firm in Texas— a chance to speak about the importance of CTE to their respective enterprises and industries. Each of the panelists emphasized the importance of employers having a “seat at the table” during program development and implementation and underscored that there are many ways for employers of all shapes and sizes to engage with states’ CTE systems and with local CTE programs.

Three of the four Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs provided remarks during this event, each speaking about their unique interests in CTE and how they view CTE meeting the needs of students and employers alike in the coming years. The full video of the event can be accessed here—we encourage you take a look!

Odds and Ends

  • USDOL has announced another delay for the forthcoming final regulations for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Significantly, state WIOA plans will now be due April 1 of this year. The final WIOA rules will now be published sometime in “June 2016”. Moreover, USDOL has also clarified that requirements related to the sharing of One-Stop infrastructure costs will not go into effect until the next program year rather than the one set to begin this summer. More recently, Congress has begun to express disappointment with this announcement.
  • USDE has continued to provide the field with more information about the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Department has created a website to house all of these updates and plans to regularly update it the coming years. Early this month USDE formally began the negotiated rulemaking process which is set to begin later this spring.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: President Obama Delivers Last State of the Union, Groups Call for Perkins Reauthorization

January 13th, 2016

United States CapitalLast night President Obama delivered his final State of the Union (SOTU) address to Congress. This particular speech was a bit different in tone and substance than previous addresses the President has annually delivered since 2009. Rather than outlining a policy agenda for the coming year, President Obama largely took a more introspective approach to his last speech to Congress, highlighting many of his policy achievements that have come to define his time in office while identifying some of the key challenges he argued the country must address once he departs from the White House.

This year’s SOTU address was organized around four big questions that related directly to these challenges. The first two of these related to the President’s economic opportunity agenda which he argued will provide “everyone a fair shot at success” primarily through education and training while the next question related to the nation’s ability to harness and leverage the potential of technology.

The President spoke to these questions directly last night highlighting the importance of supporting graduates in fields like engineering and computer science, while mentioning the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as important achievement of his administration. He also emphasized the importance of students being “job-ready on day one”, as he underlined the progress his administration has made in maximizing the national high school graduation rate.

Significantly, President Obama renewed his call to increase college affordability by making the first two years of a college education tuition-free for eligible students. However, the majority of last night’s SOTU was devoted to other issues that will likely take center stage in the coming presidential election later this year.

350 Businesses, Employer Associations, and Education Groups Call for Perkins Reauthorization

Last Friday a national coalition of stakeholders interested in the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) sent a letter to Congress calling on lawmakers to reauthorize this important law in final session of the 114th Congress.

The letter garnered 350 signatures of support from groups throughout the country ranging from Fortune 500 companies such as IBM and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., to other well-known organizations such as the NAACP and the American Federation of Teachers. NASDCTEc was proud to be counted among this large, highly diverse group of co-signers and supports the four broad recommendations outlined in the letter for the law’s renewal:

  • Strengthening CTE program alignment to the needs of the local, regional, and state economy;
  • Supporting effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary CTE and employers;
  • Increasing student participation in experiential and work-based learning opportunities; and
  • Promoting the use of industry-recognized credentials.

As we have previously shared, Congress is in the early stages of consideration of the Perkins Act. The House Education committee recently held a Perkins-related hearing in late 2015— right around the same time the Senate Education committee released a set of bipartisan reauthorization principles that have guided efforts to reauthorize the law in that chamber.

The Congressional education committees have continued to prioritize the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in 2016, but a number of extenuating factors related to that effort keep the chances of further Congressional consideration of Perkins this year relatively high.

Be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis as Perkins reauthorization continues to take shape in the months ahead.

Odds & Ends

  • The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) is soliciting input from interested stakeholders for regulations or guidance on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)— recently passed legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Comments are due January 21, 2016 and more information is available here.
  • USDE recently sent a Dear Colleague letter to states clarifying the Department’s expectations for states transitioning to ESSA in the coming years. The letter covers a host of issues, including clarification on states’ annual measurable objectives (AMOs) along with other important topics related to ESSA implementation. Read the letter here.
  • Tomorrow Acting Secretary John King will begin his “Opportunity Across America” tour, which will start in Texas. The tour will be a launching pad for USDE’s policy agenda in the coming year. Read more about his trip here.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently updated their “occupational outlook handbook” for the coming year. The bureau has also published an article this month examining labor market trends in a number of in-demand industries which can be viewed here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Congress Renews ESEA and Passes an FY 2016 Funding Bill

December 23rd, 2015

United States CapitalJust before the first session of the 114th Congress was set to conclude, lawmakers passed two key pieces of legislation before heading back home for the holiday season. The first among these was a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act— the primary federal K-12 education law which has been due for reauthorization since 2007.

The “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) substantially rolls back federal authority and responsibilities within the context of the new law by providing states and local communities significant flexibility for how to implement the various components of ESSA. Earlier this month the House passed ESSA by a margin of 359 to 64, which was then taken up and passed by the Senate on a similar bipartisan margin of 85 to 12 shortly after, and was signed by the President last week formally enacting ESSA into law.

ESSA contains many promising Career Technical Education (CTE)-related provisions such as a strengthened requirement that state academic standards be aligned with state CTE standards, expanded college and career guidance programs, and an increased focus on CTE student performance data. Notably, a “well-rounded education”—a key concept that the law seeks to promote— now includes CTE as part of the statutory definition.

Implementation of ESSA is already underway, with some of the law’s new provisions going into effect within the next year. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has already started to unpack the new law, recently sending a Dear Colleague Letter to state education agencies, and soliciting input from the public for how best to implement some of ESSA’s key provisions. Comments on this solicitation are due no later than January 21, 2016. USDE has also created a dedicated email for stakeholders to ask questions regarding ESSA implementation as the Department begins to develop guidance for the law’s implementation: essa.questions@ed.gov

Earlier this week ESSA was officially enrolled and is now available to view in its entirety here. NASDCTEc applauds the passage of this landmark legislation and is looking forward to the upcoming implementation process where states and local school districts will have several key opportunities to coordinate, align, and strengthen supports for CTE.

Congress Approves Massive $1.1t Spending Bill

Throughout most of 2015, Congress has struggled to come to consensus on how to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. After missing the initial FY 2016 funding deadline on October 1, Congress passed a series of stop-gap measures— known as continuing appropriations resolutions (CR)— that temporarily extended previous FY 2015 funding levels in an effort to avert a government shutdown this past autumn. These CRs also served the dual purpose of providing additional time for lawmakers to negotiate a broader agreement on federal spending for the remainder of FY 2016.

This negotiation process unfolded in two interrelated stages. Following the passage of the first CR in October, Congress and the Obama Administration announced and later ratified a two-year budget deal that provided much-needed relief from the Budget Control Act’s sequester caps— current legislative requirements that constrain federal spending on domestic programs, such as the Perkins Act’s basic state grant (BSG) program, into the next decade. This agreement increased these caps for FY 2016 and FY 2017, but left the important task of designating specific funding amounts for programs to separate appropriations legislation.

Last week, this type of agreement— known as an omnibus that combines several appropriations bills into one comprehensive spending package—was unveiled by Congressional negotiators last week and quickly passed by both Chambers before the President signed the measure into law.

The omnibus provides level funding for the Perkins Act BSG program for FY 2016 and restores earlier proposed cuts to the law’s national programs section, which supports CTE research and technical assistance projects. While other education and workforce development programs received modest funding increases from this legislation, those programs are largely authorized by laws that were recently renewed by Congress such as ESSA and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)— a fact that underscores the importance of Congress taking up Perkins reauthorization in the second session of the 114th Congress.

Odds & Ends

  • New Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King visited Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, PA last week to tour the school’s CTE programs. More on the visit here.
  • The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and IBM called for the reauthorization of the Perkins Act in a U.S. News and World Report Op-Ed this week. Read the piece here.
  • The Technical Education and Career Help (TEACH) Act was introduced last week in the House— a companion bill to the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act introduced earlier this year in the Senate. The bill aims to strengthen the CTE teacher pipeline by supporting partnerships between LEAs and teacher preparation programs among other positive provisions. Read the bill here.
  • USDE recently announced that they will host a webinar on their ongoing “Experimental Site” initiative for dual and concurrent enrollment programs on January 13, 2016. Letters of interest are due no later than February 1, 2016 and additional information on this particular Ex-Site effort is located here. Register for the webinar here.
  • The Workforce Data Quality Campaign recently released its second annual “Mastering the Blueprint” report which assesses state progress towards strengthening and expanding their workforce data infrastructure. Read the report here.

 Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Congress Aims to Move Past No Child Left Behind as Funding Deadline Edges Closer Once More

November 24th, 2015

United States CapitalCongressional negotiators have announced an agreement on the long overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)— the law formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Due for reauthorization since 2007, lawmakers have struggled to find consensus for how to address NCLB’s most readily apparent flaws while honoring its long legislative legacy rooted in the civil rights movement.

As we shared earlier this summer, both the House  and the Senate passed respective bills to reauthorize ESEA. Since that time both Chambers have been working on a bipartisan and bicameral basis to develop a framework agreement that would serve as the basis for a compromise between the two proposals. Last week that framework was announced along with the creation of a formal conference committee— a move that has been exceptionally rare over the past decade.

ESEA conferees were announced last week and met twice before approving this framework (along with a few amendments) last Thursday by a margin of 39-1. A summary of this framework agreement— now known as the “Every Child Succeeds Act” or ESSA— can be found here.

It is important to note that this agreed upon framework must now be turned into a final bill and Congressional staff are now busy translating the aspects of this agreement into formal legislative text. That text must then be approved by both Chambers of Congress and signed into law by the President. The conference report and final text of ESSA is expected to be available on November 30th. The House is expected to consider the legislation shortly after this followed by the Senate. Lawmakers are aiming for final passage before the end of this December.

While the official legislative text has not been finalized, ESSA seeks to significantly roll-back the federal role in K-12 education by providing states broad authority (and flexibility) for how to implement the law. A broad overview of the agreement’s main contours can be found here.

NASDCTEc will provide a detailed analysis of ESSA’s CTE-related provisions of interest once it has been finalized and will continue to keep the CTE community abreast of this ongoing reauthorization effort.

Congress Passes Budget Agreement Providing Temporary Relief from Sequester Caps

As we shared previously, Congress passed and the President signed into law the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015” (BBA) which provides $80 billion in sequester relief over the next two fiscal years by temporarily raising current limits on federal spending (known as sequester caps) through FY 2017 for both defense and non-defense discretionary programs.

The deal also suspends, but does not raise the nation’s “debt ceiling” through March 15, 2017 putting the twin issues of federal spending and the nation’s debt limit off until after the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

Currently the federal government is operating on a “continuing appropriations resolution” (CR) which temporarily extended FY 2015 funding levels into the current 2016 federal fiscal year which began on October 1st of this year. This CR expires on December 11th, 2015 and Congress must act before that time to pass funding legislation to avert another government shutdown.

Although the BBA agreement provides an overall increase for how much funding is available to Congressional appropriators for federal Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017, those same lawmakers must still pass separate legislation designating specific dollar amounts for individual agencies and departments which administer federal programs such as the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins).

That process is currently underway and ahead of it NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees urging them to restore Perkins funding to at least pre-sequestration levels or $1.123 billion for the law’s basic state grant program.

As a reminder Perkins derives its funding from the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill whose subcommittee has been given an overall allocation of $161.69 billion—a $5 billion increase over the FY 2015 level. That extra $5 billion in the FY 2016 Labor-HHS-ED 302(b) allocation must now be divided up among many programs, including Perkins, that are all competing for a portion of these newly available funds.

In an effort to ensure that Perkins funding is restored through this process, please be sure to contact your member of Congress to remind them about the importance of investing in CTE.  As the federal appropriations process continues and the December 11th deadline draws closer, be sure to check back here for more updates on Perkins funding.

Postsecondary CTE Bills Introduced in the House

Earlier this month two separate proposals to boost federal financial aid support for postsecondary CTE programs were introduced in the House.

The first of these, known as the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, was introduced by Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI). The JOBS Act is a companion bill to an earlier Senate proposal sponsored by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The legislation aims to change current program edibility requirements for the federal Pell grant program to serve more students who are enrolled in qualifying shorter-term postsecondary CTE programs.

The CTE Opportunity Act, another companion bill to an earlier Senate proposal, was recently introduced by Reps. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Ryan Costello (R-PA). House CTE Caucus co-Chairs Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) also cosponsored this bill which would increase access to federal financial aid available under Title IV of the Higher Education Act for qualifying shorter-term postsecondary CTE programs. Read more about the legislation here.

NASDCTEc supported both of these proposals and looks forward to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act where this policy recommendation and many more can be fully realized.

Odds & Ends

  • The Obama Administration recently announced a new experimental site program (made available under HEA) that will expand eligibility for the federal Pell grant program to students who are concurrently or dually enrolled in postsecondary coursework. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) is currently inviting applications from qualifying programs for the 2016-17 academic year and hopes to support up to 10,000 students. More here.
  • USDE’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) recently announced a new initiative titled “Potential Role of Secondary Career and Technical Education Programs in Preparing Students for Apprenticeship Programs”. The National Career Technical Education Foundation (NCTEF) has been selected to provide support to this project and more on this announcement can be found here.
  • USDE has also recently unveiled a new transparency agenda aimed at improving the postsecondary accreditation system. Read more about the effort here.
  • The Obama Administration announced more than $375 million in public and private funding to support “Next-Generation” high schools—an effort to fundamentally redesign the high school experience by focusing on many of the elements contained in a high-quality CTE program of study. More on the announcement here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Senate Begins Consideration of Perkins Reauthorization as House Elects a new Speaker and Congress Inches Closer to Budget Deal

October 30th, 2015

United States CapitalLast week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee formally began to consider the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). As has been the case since the 113th Congress, Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Bob Casey (D-PA) have been designated by the committee to lead efforts to renew this important law.

These two Senators, along with HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), have all recently agreed to a set of eight bipartisan principles that will be used to guide their efforts to reauthorize the Perkins Act:

  1. Make it easier for States and locals to run their CTE programs to serve all students who desire to gain access to CTE coursework, including students with disabilities;
  2. Increase access to, and support of, career counseling for all CTE students;
  3. Maintain Perkins as a formula program;
  4. Align with ESEA and WIOA (where applicable) to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the education and workforce development programs;
  5. Support the expansion of public/private collaborations with secondary and post-secondary programs, including alignment with State or locally-determined in-demand industries and occupations;
  6. Support efforts to integrate into and strengthen career pathways at the state and local levels;
  7. Address unfunded programs; and
  8. Improve evaluation and research to support innovation and best practices.

 

This week groups were asked to submit specific recommendations to the committee for the law’s renewal. NASDCTEc, in conjunction with the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), submitted substantial legislative recommendations to the committee earlier this week based on our board-approved Perkins recommendations. A crosswalk of this submission with the above principles is available here, information related to Title I & II recommendations can be found here and here, and a document highlighting points of intersection between this proposal and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act can be accessed here.

So far no firm timeline has been set for a formal bill to renew Perkins. As with the Perkins-related hearing in the House this past Tuesday, these are just the first steps in what will likely be a much longer reauthorization process.

As things continue to evolve, be sure to check back here for more Perkins updates and analysis.

House Resolves Leadership Impasse and Passes a Bipartisan Budget Deal

As we’ve been sharing, the House of Representatives has been struggling to find a replacement for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) following his surprise resignation announcement in September.

Last week the House GOP began to coalesce around House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as their preferred replacement for Speaker Boehner. Yesterday morning, the full chamber moved to elect Rep. Paul “D.” Ryan, elevating him to the Speaker of the House.

Competing for attention during the month-long melodrama of the House leadership race has been continued partisan disagreements on how to fund the federal government past December 11th and avert a catastrophic national debt default. Both of these issues, and many more, seem set to be resolved with the announcement earlier this week that Republican Congressional leaders and President Obama had reached a wide ranging agreement on federal spending and the nation’s borrowing limit.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA) would provide approximately $80 billion in sequester relief over the next two fiscal years by temporarily raising current limits on federal spending (known as sequester caps) through FY 2017. These increases would be split between defense and non-defense discretionary programs, potentially providing additional funding for programs—such as the Perkins Act basic state grant— over the next two years. The deal also suspends, but does not raise the nation’s “debt ceiling” through March 15, 2017. Both aspects of the BBA would push ongoing partisan disagreements over federal spending and the nation’s debt limit until well after the upcoming Presidential election.

This Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to pass the BBA on a margin of 266-167—a move made possible by Speaker Boehner’s imminent departure (a substantial portion of the House Republican Caucus did not support the measure which is at odds with an informal Republican Caucus rule that no legislation be considered unless a majority of the majority supports a bill).

The BBA now moves to the Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has filed a cloture motion that will allow the full chamber to vote on the legislation sometime this Sunday or late on Monday.

While the BBA is an extremely positive step in the right direction, the legislation simply creates a broad framework for federal spending. Once passed, Congressional appropriators will need to establish new 302(b) allocations— the amount of money made available for each portion of the federal budget— for each of the necessary individual spending bills. This includes the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill where the Perkins Act draws its funding.

Put another way, the BBA will make more money available for federal discretionary programs like Perkins, but Congress must pass separate appropriations legislation to make that a reality. The new availability of funds should make it easier for appropriators to restore the massive cuts to education that were proposed by both the House and the Senate earlier in the year. However, the discussions over specific funding levels for programs like Perkins will only get started once Congress passes the BBA, so full restoration is by no means assured. These pieces of legislation, or a larger package including all or some of them, would replace the current “continuing resolution” that is funding federal programs through December 11th.

As the Congressional appropriations process continues, be sure to check back here for the likely impact on Perkins funding and much more.

Odds & Ends

  • Last week, the Senate CTE Caucus hosted a briefing with CNA Education who presented findings from a comparative case study on CTE programs in Tennessee and Florida. An executive summary of the report can be accessed here.
  • First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative recently announced a campaign to encourage more 14-19 year olds to pursue some form of education beyond high school. More can be found at bettermakeroom.org.
  • The Obama Administration is facilitating a national conversation on transforming high schools to better serve all students. Additional information can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: House Education Committee Holds Perkins Reauthorization Hearing

October 28th, 2015

United States CapitalYesterday morning, the House Education and the Workforce (HEW) Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education hosted the chamber’s first hearing related to the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) in the 114th Congress. This hearing is part of the HEW Committee’s larger efforts to reauthorize the law which has been due for renewal for several years.

The hearing titled, “Improving Career and Technical Education to Help Students Succeed in the Workforce” gave a platform to four expert witnesses to provide insights and perspectives on a number of important issues related to the CTE enterprise:

  • Dr. Deneece G. Huftalin, President, Salt Lake Community College (SLCC)
  • Dr. Douglas Major, Superintendent/CEO, Meridian Technology Center (MTC)
  • Dr. Irelene Ricks, Director, Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Mr. Tim Johnson, Director of Government Relations, National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)

On the whole, the hearing focused primarily on specific efforts, initiatives, and programs in the CTE space that could be looked to as models for renewing aspects of the Perkins Act. Subcommittee Chairman, Todd Rokita (R-IN) framed the day’s discussion by talking about Congress’ bipartisan effort to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) last year and the need to align Perkins to portions of that law in order to address the nation’s skills gap.

Dr. Huftalin kicked the day’s panel off by talking about SLCC’s innovative partnership with the Boeing Company—a relationship that evolved into the impressive Utah Aerospace Pathways program which strongly aligns secondary and postsecondary CTE coursework with the needs of the state’s aviation industry. As Dr. Huftalin pointed out in her remarks that, “Perkins funding was crucial for SLCC’s ability to maintain and grow key CTE programs for our students at a time when our enrollment was rapidly increasing.”

Former ACTE President and current leader of Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Dr. Major followed by highlighting the critical importance of career exploration to his center’s success and called for the next iteration of Perkins to increase flexibility in supporting career awareness and guidance activities.

Dr. Ricks focused her comments on the need for Perkins to more seamlessly connect with state and local efforts to develop career pathways. She also emphasized CTE’s significant impact on student graduation rates, noting that minority student populations who have higher rates of high school non-completion would stand to benefit immensely from strong support for CTE programs via the Perkins Act.

Rounding off the opening statements was Mr. Johnson of NCCER who focused his remarks on the need for CTE programs to partner closely with members of the local business community. He also touched on the need to strengthen the CTE teacher pipeline in future legislation succinctly noting in part that, “. . . it’s easier to turn a pipefitter into a teacher than it is to turn a teacher into a pipefitter.”

Following these opening statements, the hearing was opened up to questions from committee members. HEW Chairman Kline (R-MN) questioned the witnesses on the extent to which they have partnered or engaged with the Workforce Development Boards authorized under WIOA. HEW Ranking Member Scott (D-VA) pursued a line of questioning focused on the need to ensure that CTE and core academics were appropriately integrated.

A large part of the discussion centered on the need to adequately fund CTE and the Perkins Act with House CTE-Caucus co-chair Rep. Langevin (D-RI) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Fudge (D-OH) each noting the negative impact that sequestration has had on the Perkins Act basic state grant program and the ability of CTE programs to meet increasing demand. Rep. Carter (R-GA) questioned whether moving Perkins to a competitive funding structure would address these concerns—all four witnesses strongly rejected this idea as it would undermine Perkins’ foundational support for CTE programs throughout the country.

Rep. Fudge, along with Reps. Clark (D-MA) and Bishop (R-MI) each had questions on how to effectively harness labor market information to ensure CTE programs relate to the needs of the economy. Another important dynamic of these discussions focused on how to appropriately balance the short-term job training needs of employers with the longer-term educational needs of students.

While much of the day’s conversation revolved around Perkins and CTE’s role in workforce development efforts, Rep. Bonamici (D-OR) reminded her colleagues that “the ‘E’ part in CTE stands for education, so we’re not trying to convert education into job training. This is about educating students to be prepared for whatever path they choose” as a way to bring the conversation back to how to most effectively support students for lifelong career success.

House CTE-Caucus co-chair and long-time champion of CTE in Congress, Rep. Thompson (R-PA) expanded on Dr. Major’s earlier point on the need for greater federal support for career counseling and advisement. He also emphasized the importance of engaging parents and families as a way to overcome lingering stigmas related to CTE.

Subcommittee Chairman Rokita ended the hearing with a simple question to the witnesses—‘what needs to be fixed in the Perkins Act?’

Dr. Huftalin focused her answer on future legislation more effectively aligning current Perkins accountability metrics to other federal programs and Dr. Ricks spoke about the need to better engage minority serving institutions at the secondary and postsecondary levels. Significantly, Dr. Major recommended to lawmakers that the next Perkins Act should focus on quality and called for future legislation to fund programs that are meeting minimum thresholds of excellence to ensure that students and employers alike benefit from high-quality CTE.

Watch the archived video of the hearing here. More information on everything else, included written testimony, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

 

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