Advance CTE Legislative Update: Summer Round-Up

August 2nd, 2016

United States CapitalPerkins Reauthorization Wrap-Up

With Congress adjourned for an extended summer recess, it’s important to take stock of what’s been happening on Capitol Hill these past few months, particularly with regards to Career Technical Education (CTE). Before their break, Congress took formal steps to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins), continued to oversee ESSA implementation, and has made efforts to advance funding legislation for the coming federal fiscal year (FY).

On June 28th, the House Education and the Workforce Committee released a much anticipated bill to reauthorize Perkins—the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 5587). Sponsored by Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA), the bipartisan legislation was marked up by the full committee on July 7th and subsequently approved by a margin of 37-0.

“We are encouraged by this important step towards reauthorizing Perkins,” said Kimberly Green, Advance CTE Executive Director, at the time the bill was introduced. “We appreciate the bipartisan efforts that went into drafting this bill and look forward to working to ensure the reauthorized bill helps increase access to and success in high-quality CTE programs.”

The bill seeks to align Perkins to other federal legislation such as ESSA and WIOA while streamlining the requirements of the law to more effectively support high-quality CTE. Many elements of Advance CTE’s Perkins priorities can be found in H.R. 5587 and the organization supported the advancement of this legislation through committee. Advance CTE’s letter of support for H.R. 5587 can be found here.

We expect the full House to consider this legislation when Congress reconvenes later this autumn. In the meantime, Advance CTE and the Association for Career Technical Education (ACTE) have developed a comprehensive summary and analysis of H.R. 5587 which can be accessed here.

Many additional resources including the archived webcast of committee markup, members’ written statements, and considered amendments can be found here.

While this bipartisan effort in the House to reauthorize Perkins is encouraging, there is still much that must be done for the legislation to make its way across the finish line before the end of the 114th Congress. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has continued behind-the-scenes discussions on its own Perkins legislation. It is therefore still possible to see additional Perkins-related activity later this year, but with a limited number of legislative days left on the calendar full Perkins reauthorization will still require a concerted effort from lawmakers in both chambers. As these efforts continue to take shape be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis.

Congressional Appropriations Committees Approve FY 2017 Spending Bills

Lawmakers overseeing federal funding bills have also been working on legislation to fund federal programs, including the Perkins Act. In June the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHSED) appropriations bill on a party-line vote. The legislation would level-fund the Perkins basic state grant program at $1.118 billion. However, this result for Perkins is important to keep in context—this year saw the return of budget caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). These tight caps resulted in $220 million in cuts to education programs in the LHHSED bill making the maintenance of existing Perkins funding an important achievement for the CTE community. Notably, the bill would also restore year-round Pell grants which is a key Advance CTE postsecondary priority.

Following suit, the House Appropriations committee approved its own LHHSED FY 2017 funding bill. This legislation would also provide level funding for Perkins’ basic state grant program. However, much like with the Senate, the committee’s decision to maintain Perkins funding is best understood in context— other education programs under this bill were cut by even more than in the House proposal. Unlike with the Senate, the House bill does not restore year-round Pell grants although it would increase the maximum Pell award to $5,935 annually (a move that is also mirrored in the Senate proposal).

Despite these efforts, it is unlikely that either of these LHHSED bills will be advanced individually any further prior to the start of 2017 federal fiscal year set to begin on September 30th. It is therefore highly likely that Congress, as it has done for the past several years, will pass a “continuing resolution” (CR) which would temporarily extend current funding levels into the next fiscal year. Be sure to check back as efforts to fund federal programs, including Perkins, continue to firm up.

ESSA Implementation

As we have shared previously, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has been developing rules and regulations to govern the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In the spring, the law’s mandated negotiated rulemaking committee met to determine how to regulate ESSA’s “supplement, not supplant” and assessment provisions. These efforts brought about a great degree of disagreement between USDE, which ultimately made a series of proposals on these issues, and Congressional Republicans, who viewed these proposals as being outside the allowable scope of ESSA.

Disagreements over how to appropriately implement ESSA’s provisions have continued to chew away at the bipartisan consensus that helped move ESSA across the finish line late last year. This has become even more apparent in a series of congressional hearings where Republican lawmakers and U.S. Secretary of Education John King have increasingly been at odds over these issues (more on that here, here, and here).

In June, USDE released additional draft regulations—known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)—on the law’s accountability, public reporting, and state plan provisions. Of particular note are how the draft rules address ESSA’s newly required state accountability indicators of “school quality and student success” which allow states the opportunity to measure and value indicators of student postsecondary and career readiness. Advance CTE and ACTE provided comments to USDE on these aspects of the regulations which can be viewed here.

USDE has continued to update its own resource page with helpful materials to support the law’s ongoing implementation process. Recently the department circulated a Dear Colleague letter highlighting ways in which states and communities can support a “well-rounded education”—a key concept of the new law that now includes CTE. Additionally, the Council of Chief State School Officers has produced an extremely useful guide for engaging stakeholders during ESSA plan development and the Collaborative for Student Success, a new website, collects state-specific information on states’ efforts to implement the new K-12 law.

Odds & Ends

  • After a six month delay, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services released final regulations for the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The most consequential set of rules for the CTE community can be found here which addresses state WIOA state planning, the performance accountability system, the one-stop system, and the sharing of one-stop center infrastructure costs.
  • USDE released a Dear Colleague letter providing guidance and clarification on gender equity within CTE. The letter focuses on requirements found in the Perkins Act as well as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded programs, including Perkins. Read the letter here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

Election 2016: Where the National Parties Stand on CTE

August 1st, 2016

With the Democratic National Convention now over, both major parties have officially selected their nominees for the 2016 election. Coinciding with the nomination festivities, each party voted on and approved a party platform that outlines its priorities for the coming years. Once again, both Republicans and Democrats have affirmed commitments to Career Technical Education (CTE) through their respective platforms, demonstrating that CTE remains a solidly bipartisan issue.

Republican Party Platform Promotes CTE, Work-based Learning

The GOP’s position on education echoes much of what we’ve been hearing in Congress with regards to local-control over matters of education. Nevertheless, the platform promotes CTE as one of “the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement.” The platform further urges “school districts to make use of teaching talent in the business community, STEM fields, and the military,” to leverage non-traditional expertise in support of student learning. The party also promotes technical colleges and work-based learning, and advocates for public policies that “recognize that a four-year degree from a brick-and-mortar institution is not the only path toward a prosperous and fulfilling career.”

Democrats Aim to Expand Access to Middle Class Jobs

In the Democratic camp, the party approved a progressive platform calling for increased access to high-quality education and more pathways to the middle class for students of all backgrounds. The platform targets high costs and “predatory for-profit schools” as barriers to achieving this vision. It proposes to “make community college free” and crack down on for-profit schools that don’t “enable students to complete their degrees and prepare them for work.” The party also commits to investing in “high-quality STEAM classes [and] computer science education” as well as expanding “linked learning models and career pathways” across the country.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

 

National CTE Organizations Weigh In on House Perkins Reauthorization Efforts

June 29th, 2016

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and Advance CTE today commended the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s release of the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act,” a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

“We applaud our partners in Congress for their work to begin the Perkins reauthorization process in releasing this bill, as well as the spirit of bipartisanship that has made that work possible,” said ACTE Executive Director LeAnn Wilson. “We can now turn our attentions to carefully examining the legislative language to ensure that the priorities of CTE students and professionals will be supported throughout the new law. We look forward to continuing to work with committee leaders as the reauthorization process unfolds, as America’s students, workforce and economy deserve nothing less than a thoughtful new bill.”

“We are encouraged by this important step towards reauthorizing Perkins,” said Kimberly Green, Advance CTE Executive Director. “Helping all learners successfully navigate pathways to post secondary education and careers is a national priority shared by state leaders, educators, employers and Congress and Perkins has a critical role in achieving this goal. We appreciate the bipartisan efforts that went into drafting this bill and look forward to working to ensure the reauthorized bill helps increase access to and success in high-quality CTE programs.”

Both organizations remain committed to working with the House Education and the Workforce Committee, as well as their partners in the U.S. Senate, to find a path forward for Perkins.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate 

Advance CTE Legislative Update: Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2017 Perkins Funding Bill as Stakeholders Review Newly Proposed ESSA Regulations

June 10th, 2016

United States CapitalYesterday, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $161.9 billion funding measure for federal programs falling under the jurisdictions of the U.S. Departments of Labor (Labor), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education (ED) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. The overall allocation of funding made available for this bill, known as a 302(b) allocation, was $270 million below FY 2016 levels. This meant that programs falling under this part of the budget all faced reductions in order to stay within the new FY 2017 cap even before individual funding decisions were made by the committee this week.

The legislation, as passed yesterday, would provide level funding for state formula grants under the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins)— approximately $1.117 billion overall for law’s Title I program or the same amount the program has received since FY 2014.

The bipartisan bill, the culmination of negotiations between Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) is the first time Labor-HHS-ED funding legislation has passed the full Senate Appropriations Committee since 2009.

Overall the bill reduces ED’s budget by $220 million from the previous fiscal year although this figure does not take into account changes that would be made to the department’s largest program—federal Pell grants. A key piece to understanding the committee’s decision-making on this legislation date back to March when, at that time, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected a $7.8 billion surplus for Pell grants in the coming fiscal year.

In light of these additional funds, Senate appropriators have proposed to use a portion of this year’s Pell surplus to reinstitute “year-round Pell”— a provision the Obama Administration scrapped in 2011 as a cost savings measure which allows students to use their Pell awards during the summer months and accelerate their postsecondary studies. The bill also increases the maximum Pell award for the 2017-18 academic year to $5,935 although year-round recipients are capped at 150% of that maximum.

The Senate Appropriations Committee however took another chunk out of this surplus by also proposing to use a significant portion of it to fund other non-student-aid items in the budget, including a $2 billion proposed funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many higher education organizations, as well as the Congressional Tri-Caucus, voiced strong opposition to this proposal saying, in part, “Students cannot afford to continue subsidizing other areas of the budget.”

Advance CTE agrees with these concerns and believes that any additional funding freed up as a result of a Pell surplus should be used exclusively for education. However, such a move by lawmakers further underscores the importance of increasing or dissolving current “budget caps” that have been in place for several years as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, legislation that constrains the amount of resources available for important investments in our nation’s education system among other vital national priorities.

In addition to these provisions, the recently passed bill also proposes to cut Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) state formula programs by 3% or $73.8 million while providing a 10% increase for USDOL’s apprenticeship grant program to $100 million overall.

With the Senate’s work on a Labor-HHS-ED bill complete for the time being, attention turns to the House of Representatives where the appropriations committee in that chamber is widely expected to consider their version of the bill before recessing in mid-July. Although the deadline for all FY 2017 funding legislation is September 30th, the limited amount of legislative days left on the Congressional calendar will likely necessitate a temporary stop-gap funding measure—known as a continuing resolution— to put difficult (and final) federal budget decisions for FY 2017 until after the Presidential election this November.

Nevertheless, these appropriations bills will likely be used as a starting point for future negotiations on federal spending later this year. They are important mileposts for what the CTE community should expect with regards to education and workforce development funding for the coming fiscal year, but it is important to keep in mind that this legislation has not been enacted.

Be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis on the federal appropriations process as events continue to unfold.

U.S. Department of Education Releases Proposed ESSA Rules

As part of the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), legislation that reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released a draft version of rules outlining proposed requirements for state plans, accountability systems, and reporting responsibilities.

This new batch of proposed regulations— known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)— is open for public input and comment until August 1, 2016. Overall the NPRM hews closely to the newly passed law, providing substantial new flexibility to states and locals with regards to implementation. By comparison, another departmental proposal on so-called “supplement-not-supplant” regulations was met with far more concern earlier this month as we shared previously.

Interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback to the department for how to improve upon this proposal by the above deadline. A summary of the rules can be found here, the full proposal is over this way, and comments can be submitted via this portal.

Odds & Ends

  • Earlier this week, Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a new legislative agenda aimed at tackling poverty and ensuring economic opportunity for more Americans. The report offers four broad recommendations for the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Read more here starting on page 27.
  • Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) spoke at length on the Senate floor this week about a high-quality CTE program in his state and encouraged his colleagues to continue their efforts to reauthorize the Perkins Act. Watch his remarks here.
  • Last month USDE announced the 44 postsecondary institutions selected as part of its “experimental sites” initiative for Pell grants. The efforts will, on a limited and piloted basis, allow an estimated 10,000 students to use $20 million in Pell Grants to take dual and concurrent enrollment courses. Read the list of institutions here and more information on the effort can be found here.
  • USDE has announced another delay in the ongoing implementation of its “gainful employment” rule which aims to hold certain postsecondary institutions accountable for their students’ debt-to-earnings ratios. The hold-up relates to USDE’s release of “completers lists”— data that is necessary to determine these ratios. This interim step was originally slated for release last winter and has now been delayed until “later in June”. More on the delay from the department is available here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

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

 

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