National Association of State Directors of Career
Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

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
  • 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

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Focus Shifts to Higher Ed as ESEA Work Continues Amid Duncan Retirement

October 16th, 2015

United States CapitalA lot has happened over the past few weeks on Capitol Hill, particularly with regards to Congressional efforts to reauthorize key pieces of legislation for K-12 and postsecondary education. With fall in full swing, we wanted to take a moment to re-cap all of the activity over the past few weeks as we look ahead for what the rest of the year has in store for the Career Technical Education (CTE) community. Below is Part II in a two-part series of autumnal legislative updates.

Senate CTE Caucus Highlights Importance of CTE within HEA

Late last month, the Senate Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus hosted a briefing for congressional staff titled “Postsecondary Pathways to Success: Strengthening Career and Technical Education in the Higher Education Act.” John Cech, Deputy Commissioner for Academic and Student Affairs for the Montana University System who is also a NASDCTEc member and State CTE Director for Montana, participated in this briefing.

John’s remarks grounded the panel’s discussion with a sense of relevancy and urgency saying, in part, “. . . the basic infrastructure of our society depends largely on our nation’s ability to produce new graduates at the two-year college level, in addition to the university degrees that are the traditional focus of the national postsecondary dialogue.”

The panel had four overarching recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) which would infuse the law with a much-needed focus on CTE:

  • Expand Title IV financial aid access to support shorter-term CTE programs that lead to high-growth, high-demand industries and careers
  • Reinstate year-round Pell and introduce other provisions that expand student access to federal financial aid to accelerate student learning and increase rates of completion
  • Ensure that the next iteration of HEA supports innovative practices in postsecondary education such as competency-based education
  • And finally, give strong consideration to dedicated funding opportunities within HEA for two-year colleges similar to the now expired Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program

Duncan Makes for the Exit as ESEA Work Continues

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that he will resign from his post at the end of the year. Duncan is the longest serving cabinet member in the Obama Administration and came into the position after serving as CEO of Chicago Public Schools for seven years.

John B. King Jr., who has been Deputy Secretary of Education since January of this year, will replace Duncan as the next Secretary of Education pending Senate approval.

Duncan’s tenure as the head of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), particularly the ESEA flexibility system granting waivers to states from many provisions contained in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has been one of the main motivations behind Congressional activity to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this year.

As we have shared previously, both Chambers of Congress were successful in passing rewrites of the law earlier this summer. Currently, lawmakers from the Senate and House Education Committees have been engaged in conference negotiations to reconcile the differences between the two bills. These discussions are still ongoing.

More recently, Democratic Senators Murphy (D-CT), Warren (D-MA), and Booker (D-NJ) hosted a roundtable discussion with Secretary Duncan and Deputy Secretary King focused on accountability issues within ESEA reauthorization. Holding states and local communities accountable for student achievement has been one of the most polarizing issues during the reauthorization process for ESEA and many Congressional Democrats, along with the White House, hope to strengthen such accountability provisions in a final bill when conference negotiations wrap-up.

Despite the progress being made in ESEA conference negotiations, a pathway forward for a bill containing stronger accountability requirements than what is currently in either the Senate or the House rewrites— something the Obama Administration and many Democrats would like to see— remains an uphill battle. As with much of the Congressional agenda this fall, the outcome of the race to replace Speaker Boehner will likely have a significant impact on ESEA’s chances of passage in the 114th Congress. As the Thomas B. Fordham Institute points out, ESEA’s chances are a hard “maybe” at this point.

Obama Administration Pushes Forward on a Number of Higher Ed Initiatives

Congressional efforts to reauthorize HEA are still ongoing and in lieu of a comprehensive proposal from Congress, the Obama Administration has continued to prioritize higher education issues. For instance the Office of Management and Budget, recently released the Admisntration’s final set of ‘Agency Priority Goals’ which outlines ED’s objective to increase the percentage of adults aged 25-34 who have an associate’s degree or higher to nearly 50 percent by 2017.

Late in September, ED also released much anticipated guidance for experimental sites who are pursuing innovative models of awarding federal financial aid for competency-based education (CBE) programs. These sites were first announced in 2014 as part of the experimental sites initiative authorized under HEA. The new “CBE Experiment Reference Guide” can be used both for the institutions and accrediting bodies participating in the initiative, as well as for institutions who might like to pursue CBE programs in the future. More information on the guidance can be found here. U.S. Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell has also announced that ED intends to expand this initiative by the end of the year.

Another round the experimental sites initiative was announced earlier this week. Named the “Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships” (EQUIP) experiment, ED is currently soliciting applications to support partnerships between colleges and universities and “non-traditional” providers of education, such as shorter-term job training programs or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Eligible programs would need to lead to a degree or certificate, articulate to academic credit, and be aligned to high-demand, high-growth economic sectors. More information on the announcement here.

Earlier this summer, the White House celebrated innovation within CTE and First Lady Michelle Obama announced that ED and her office’s “Reach Higher Initiative” would work together to launch a mobile app development challenge to create a user friendly tool for students to learn more about career pathways and other educational opportunities available to them. This month the First Lady officially launched the competition, making available $225,000. Applications are due no later than December 6, 2015—more information on the challenge can be found here and here.

Odds & Ends

  • More than eighty colleges and universities announced their collective commitment to a new, more holistic, college application process that focuses more on student portfolios of work and less on entrance exams. More on the effort here.
  • Senators Bennet (D-CO) and Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Higher Education Innovation Act, a bill that would create a five-year pilot program that offers an alternative pathway, focused on student outcomes, for institutional accreditation and related access to federal financial aid. Read the press release here.
  • Senate CTE Caucus co-chairs, Kaine (D-VA), Portman (R-OH), and Baldwin (D-WI), along with Senator Capito (R-WV), introduced the “Creating Quality Technical Educators Act”. The bill would expand HEA’s teacher residency grant program to support more schools in recruiting and preparing CTE teachers by strengthening partnerships between secondary and postsecondary institutions. NASDCTEc endorsed and supported this legislation and more on the bill can be found here.
  • The STEM Education Act was signed into law by President Obama late last week. The legislation formalizes computer science within the statutory definition for “STEM education” which is used for grant making opportunities through many federal agencies. More on the bill can be found here.
  • The Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), and Higher Ed for Higher Standards (HEHS) announced yesterday that they will partner together to implement higher academic standards in secondary school to more effectively prepare students for college and career success. More information is available here and here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Retirements and Resignations Abound as Deadlines Loom and Congress Passes Short-Term Perkins Funding

October 15th, 2015

United States CapitalA lot has happened over the past few weeks on Capitol Hill, particularly with regards to Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding and recent shake-ups in Congressional leadership. With fall in full swing, we wanted to take a moment to re-cap all of the activity over the past few weeks as we look ahead for what the rest of the year has in store for the Career Technical Education (CTE) community. Below is Part I in a two-part series of autumnal legislative updates.

Speaker Boehner Announces His Retirement 

Late last month, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced that he we would resign from Congress at the end of October. This surprise announcement set off a chain of events over the past several weeks that has already begun to have wide-ranging consequences for nearly every facet of the Congressional agenda—a list that has grown increasingly long as lawmakers delay action on important issues such as raising the nation’s debt limit and funding federal government operations past this December.

Up until last week, Speaker Boehner’s likely successor was current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). McCarthy was favored by most of the Republican establishment to replace Boehner, but a vocal conservative bloc of the Republican Party— known as the “Freedom Caucus”— strongly opposed his candidacy. Despite this opposition and with a few other less plausible candidates in the running for Speaker, McCarthy was set to announce last Thursday that he had secured the necessary 218 votes within his Party to ensure his rise to Speaker of the House.

However instead of making this announcement, the Majority Leader abruptly announced that he was no longer seeking the Speaker’s gavel. Since that time there has been an extraordinary level of uncertainty regarding who will lead the House Republican Caucus moving forward. Speaker Boehner has made clear that he will stay on in his current role until a replacement is found, but an election to determine who that will be has been postponed indefinitely.

At present it is unclear who will fill this role in the coming weeks or even months. Any viable candidate for the job will have the unenviable task of balancing the increasingly opposed interests of two influential wings of the Republican Party all while trying to avoid a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt if Congress does not act to raise the federal government’s borrowing limit by November 5th—a deadline laid out by the U.S. Treasury Department that is fast approaching.

The intraparty division in the Republican Party is equal parts ideology and political approach. Staunch conservative elements in the GOP are pushing for a new Speaker who would be willing to use the debt limit deadline and the need to fund the federal government later this year as leverage to advance a legislative agenda that is completely anathema to Congressional Democrats and President Obama. More “establishment” Republicans have been less willing to use these twin deadlines as a political tool, calculating that the risks of going over a “fiscal cliff” (failing to raise the debt ceiling and / or causing a government shutdown) far outweigh the potential benefits.

Finding a candidate for Speaker who is able to placate these opposing factions has resulted in the current impasse in finding a suitable replacement candidate and has had a rather ironic short-term consequence— ensuring that Speaker Boehner remains in the top post of the House Republican leadership for the foreseeable future.

Congress Passes Short-Term Perkins Funding Bill

Right after Speaker Boehner’s announcement late last month, Congress was still struggling to pass appropriations legislation to fund the federal government. As we shared previously, both Chambers of Congress completed the 12 necessary funding bills that fund all federal programs. Despite this progress, these pieces of legislation all adhered to the sequester caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA)—a harmful program of austerity that imposes tight restrictions on federal spending well into the next decade.

Because these bills would maintain sequestration and continue to perpetuate a path of federal disinvestment in education and programs like the Perkins Act, President Obama signaled that he would not sign them into law. Since that time, the bills have been in limbo and lawmakers have been unable to come to an agreement for how to fund the federal government for the upcoming 2016 fiscal year—something that was set to begin on October 1st.

With only days left to pass legislation to fund these programs and avert a government shutdown, the Senate acted first passing a measure known as a continuing appropriations resolution (CR) to provide temporary funding for the federal government through December 11th. After passing through the Senate by a wide margin (78-20), Speaker Boehner’s resignation announcement helped to ensure that this short-term stopgap measure was able to pass through the House (277-151), albeit with significant Republican opposition.

While this CR is meant to extend current FY 2015 spending levels for the next few months—including for the Perkins Act basic state grant program— a 0.2108 percent across-the-board spending reduction was needed to keep funding levels within the BCA sequester caps. Since Perkins funding is treated a bit differently than most other federal funds, this spending cut has retroactively impacted state grants from FY 2015 which were just distributed on October 1st. As a result, thirty states received slightly lower allocations than what they had previously budgeted for, all because Congress failed for the second year in a row to pass comprehensive legislation funding federal programs for the full fiscal year.

As mentioned this particular CR will fund the federal government until December 11th at which time Congress must act again to pass additional legislation to avert another wasteful government shutdown. As a reminder the last time Congress failed to act to fund the federal government it cost U.S. taxpayers $24 billion.

While the reduction to Perkins funding and other education programs may be small, future legislation is still needed to replace this CR. NASDCTEc is continuing to work with its partners in D.C. to urge lawmakers to pass comprehensive funding legislation that would replace the current CR (and the related 0.2108 percent cut) while possibly providing relief from the harmful effects of the sequester caps.

Complicating Congress’ ability to accomplish this is the continued uncertainty regarding House Republican leadership and an even more pressing deadline that is fast approaching—the need to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by November 5th. The last time Congress flirted with the idea of not raising this limit as way to extract political concessions on unrelated issues, credit agencies downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time ever and Congress passed through the BCA legislation and with it sequestration—something lawmakers at the time did not expect would ever go into full effect.

In order to move forward constructively, Congressional leaders and President Obama must come to a broader agreement on federal spending that would empower Congressional appropriators to design longer-term comprehensive legislation that would fund federal operations for a year or even two years—a scenario that is still very much fluid as of today.

As things continue to evolve, be sure to check back here for additional updates and analysis. Part II of this legislative update will be available tomorrow.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Obama Administration Announces College Scorecard and Apprenticeship Grants as Congress Edges Closer to Funding Deadline

September 17th, 2015

United States CapitalEarlier this year, the Obama Administration announced its intention to create a college ratings system where postsecondary institutions would be sorted into three broad categories of high, medium, and low performing schools. Many stakeholder groups, including NASDCTEc, provided feedback on this proposal to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and many groups had significant reservations about the newly proposed effort.

After taking these comments into consideration, ED announced earlier this summer that they would change direction with this initiative and create a new public-facing information tool that would make institution specific information available to consumers to make more informed choices about their postsecondary education options without making a value judgement.

Last week, the Department released this tool, known as the College Scorecard which is now available on their website. The tool offers information on an institution’s costs, graduation rates, the percentage of students receiving federal aid, and significantly, the median earnings of graduates 10 years after completion. Most of this information comes with caveats—as a related technical paper from ED notes, the earnings information only covers those students receiving federal grants or loans, includes graduates and non-completers alike, and excludes currently enrolled students.

More detailed information on the scorecard can be found via the Workforce Data Quality Campaign of which NASDCTEc is a national partner.

While the scorecard is a significant step in the right direction, more can still be done to improve upon this work such as refocusing the effort to look at program-level data where it would be far more useful to students and their families. In the coming weeks, NASDCTEc plans to work with its partners to provide comment on the scorecard and will continue to think through ways in which the tool could be improved.

Administration Announces More Funding for Apprenticeships

Another big development happened last Wednesday when President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced the 46 grantees for this year’s U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) American Apprenticeship grant program (AAG). Using Macomb Community College in Michigan as a backdrop for the announcement, this $175 million investment is part of the Admisntration’s wider effort to double the number of apprenticeships in the country—a realistic goal considering the U.S. lags behind nearly every other advanced country when it comes to participation in apprenticeships. While this is the second year for the AAG program, the Admisntration’s move to increase the amount of funding available by an additional $75 million underscores their strong commitment to what they’ve dubbed the “earn and learn” model for the coming years.

The grantees plan to create training opportunities for 34,000 apprenticeships at these 46 public-private partnerships, mostly in areas such as advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology while scaling up many existing programs in construction, transportation, and energy over the next few years. Many of the grantees plan to develop or build upon existing state or local career pathways, sector partnerships, and the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium initiative that have boosted activity in this area throughout the country in recent years.

For instance, the Illinois Advance Apprenticeship Consortium grant, which will receive $3.9 million in grant funding, plans to create 600 new apprenticeship positions that link to the state’s career pathway initiative, in order to create new on and off ramps for students to pursue these opportunities.

NASDCTEc applauds the Admisntration’s commitment to investing in the nation’s workforce and looks forward to the work that lies ahead as these grants start to reap benefits for students across the country. More information on the announcement can be found here and here.

Administration Launches “Heads Up America” Campaign and Continues to Push College Promise Proposal

Apprenticeships were only half of the conversation when President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden spoke at Macomb Community College last week. The President has continued to advocate for his America’s College Promise proposal which would make the first two years of college tuition free for qualifying students.

As part of that effort, the President has announced the creation of an independent advisory board for this effort, chaired by Dr. Jill Biden and former Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer, to convene like-minded postsecondary leaders, share best practices and models for the effort’s expansion, and to serve as recruiting tool to get more individuals involved in the work to expand the initiative throughout states and local communities. A full list of the board members is located here.

To that end, one of the core functions of this new board will be to spearhead a public awareness and grassroots campaign called “Heads Up America”. The goal of this effort is to spread awareness about community colleges and to create a nationwide movement to support the President’s call for lawmakers to take action on his America’s College Promise proposal. More information on this effort can be found here.

Odds & Ends

  • With the Fiscal Year 2016 funding deadline on September 30th fast approaching, lawmakers are currently working to avoid a government shutdown over Republican opposition to any funding measure that contains support for Planned Parenthood. While no deal has been reached as of today, the likelihood of a temporary stop-gap spending measure, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, is growing increasingly likely. NASDCTEc will provide further information about that process next week.
  • The Workforce Data Quality Campaign hosted a Congressional briefing on the need to more effectively leverage education and workforce data to improve education and employment outcomes for students. The briefing also examined ways in which data systems could be improved, from local, state, and federal perspectives. More information on the event can be found here.
  • Chairman John Kline (R-MN) of the House Education and Workforce Committee recently announced that he will not seek reelection in 2016. While he will remain Chair of the Committee through next year, his likely replacement still remains uncertain, but includes among others, Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Joe Wilson (R-SC).
  • The U.S. Secretaries of Labor and Education recently wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer calling for a renewed focus on improving the K-12 education experience. The piece highlights IBM’s P-Tech model as one way to improve student learning and outcomes. More here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: A Pile of Work Awaits Congress in September as the CTE Presidential Scholars Program Continues to Take Shape

August 18th, 2015

United States CapitalThe annual Congressional August recess is in full swing, with most lawmakers and staff spending the time off in their districts and home states with constituents. This four week respite from the daily Congressional grind will be short-lived, as lawmakers will be faced with a tremendous amount of work upon their return to Capitol Hill. In addition to the fast approaching September 30th deadline to fund the federal government and programs, Congress will also have to raise the debt ceiling sometime later this fall, renew funding for public works and infrastructure projects, weigh in on the Administration’s Iran deal, successfully conference an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) bill, and address a host of other outstanding issues all in the coming months.

Ironically, the heavy workload this fall is a product of Congress’ own making—many of these issues were considered as recently as this year and were temporarily put aside as compromise proved to be too difficult. As a result, lawmakers will likely be grappling with many of the above issues simultaneously and the ones related to federal funding, such as the need to raise the debt ceiling and fund federal programs for FY 2016, will likely have resolutions that are closely intertwined. While a clear path forward is still far from certain, Congressional leadership will be weighing many different options. However, with only 10 legislative days left when they return, a “Continuing Appropriations Resolution” or CR—a temporary extension of current funding levels into the next federal fiscal year— is growing increasingly more likely.

Lying at the heart of this stalemate are Republicans and Democrats who remain at odds over the sequester caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). These limits on federal spending, have hampered Congress’ ability to piece together the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the federal government. Without changes to the underlying BCA legislation, a move appropriators from both Parties say they want, finding compromise on FY 2016 funding has been extremely difficult.

With the upcoming ESEA conference between the House and the Senate scheduled to follow the current recess, this current impasse over funding will likely be significant hurdle for the conferees to overcome as this battle will likely play out before or during those talks.

NASDCTEc has continued its work on both of these fronts where we have encouraged lawmakers to retain the important CTE provisions found in both the House and Senate ESEA bills while separately calling for an end to the damaging sequester caps that have undercut the federal investment in CTE.

As Congress spends its time meeting with their constituents this month, NASDCTEc invites the wider CTE community to reach out to their members of Congress to reinforce importance of these two goals as the summer draws to an end. Be sure to check back here as things continue to develop.

The JOBS Act—Making Pell Work for Students

Prior to the August recess, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), co-chair of the Senate CTE Caucus and a long-time champion of CTE, introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 1900)—a bill that would extend Pell grant program eligibility to students enrolled in qualifying short-term training programs.

Under current law the Pell Grant program— like other federal financial aid available under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA)— is not available to students taking “noncredit courses.” Postsecondary CTE programs, which typically offer certifications or other postsecondary credentials, often fall under this category. Current Pell Grant program eligibility requirements have a minimum seat-time of 300 instruction hours over the course of at least 16 weeks. This frequently leaves out short-term postsecondary CTE programs which are essential to equipping students with the relevant skills needed for the 21st century economy— something that NASDCTEc encourages Congress to address during the reauthorization of HEA.

The JOBS Act seeks to address this issue by reducing those program length requirements by half, to at least 150 clock hours over a period of 8 weeks. In order to qualify, programs must be offered at a postsecondary institution, which would include area CTE centers and community colleges, lead towards the completion of a recognized postsecondary credential (as defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), and be aligned to area workforce needs.

NASDCTEc was extremely pleased to support and endorse this legislation upon its introduction and remains hopeful that these ideas make their way into the wider reauthorization of HEA. Read more about the bill here.

Presidential Scholars Program Continues to Take Shape

As we shared a few months ago, President Obama signed an amendment to Executive Order 11155—a move that expanded the existing Presidential Scholars program to include up to 20 CTE students each year in the program.

The first year of this expansion will take place in the upcoming 2015-16 school year where the Chief State School Officers will nominate CTE scholars based on five criteria: academic rigor, technical competency, ingenuity / creativity, and the degree to which the student represents “the nation’s economic sectors and demographic characteristics.”

Student nominations are due from each Chief State School Officer by October 15, 2015 where the next step of the process will require additional application materials from selected students. By May 2016, the Commission on Presidential Scholars will announce the list of students to be honored at the White House in June.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) has encouraged State CTE Directors to engage with their State’s chief school officer ahead of the nomination process and to more widely disseminate the announcement. More detailed information can be obtained on OCTAE’s PCRN website and general information about the expansion can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Federal Funding Deadline Looms as Congress Looks to Higher Ed after ESEA Push

July 29th, 2015

United States CapitalSeptember 30th is quickly approaching and with it an end to the current 2015 federal Fiscal Year (FY). With only 12 legislative days left on the Congressional calendar until this deadline and the Congressional August recess set to begin later this week, lawmakers and the Obama Administration are still grappling with how to fund the federal government beginning on October 1st—the first official day of FY 2016.

Congressional appropriations committees in both the House and the Senate successfully passed the 12 necessary funding bills to fund federal programs—an achievement not seen in over six years and aided by unified Republican control of both Chambers of Congress. Despite this accomplishment, these funding bills all adhere to the Budget Control Act of 2011’s (BCA) statutorily mandated ‘sequester caps’ that dramatically reduce funding for many domestic programs, including education and relatedly the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) which would receive approximately $3.6 million in reduced funding for national activities while providing level funding for the law’s state grant program.

These caps significantly limit the amount of funding available for all federal discretionary programs, severely impacting education and other domestic spending priorities that are dear to Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration. As such, lawmakers and the White House have been in a protracted stand-off over how to fund the federal government later this fall.

As September quickly approaches, the likelihood of another ‘Continuing Appropriations Resolution’ (CR) is rapidly increasing. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded as much at a recent press conference saying, “it’s pretty clear given the number of days we have here in September that we’re going to have to do a CR of some sort.”

In response to the gridlock, nearly all Congressional Democrats, and an increasing amount of Republicans, have begun to call for a broader budget deal outside the scope of the normal appropriations process.  Such a deal could address the underlying problem of the sequester caps, even temporarily, to relieve some of the fiscal pressures created by the BCA. Much like what the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 did for the previous two fiscal years, an agreement later this year would be the best case scenario for making much needed investments in education and workforce development programs possible, particularly for the Perkins Act.

NASDCTEc remains committed to this type of agreement and we encourage the CTE community to urge members of Congress to tackle this challenge head-on, rather than passing stop-gap measures such as a CR at the expense of longer term agreements that allow for greater investments in critically important programs such as the Perkins Act. Be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis as things continue to play out on Capitol Hill.

Congress Pivots to Higher Ed

As we’ve shared previously, both education committees in the House and the Senate have prioritized the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in this Congress. Due for reauthorization since 2013 and extended to this year for further consideration, the law governs nearly all federal financial aid programs for postsecondary education. Issues such institutional accreditation, supporting innovation in postsecondary education, financial aid risk sharing, the role of consumer information and data, and campus sexual assault have all been the subject of hearings and discussions in both Chambers as lawmakers gear up for the law’s renewal.

In the Senate, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced four staff-level working groups earlier this year focused on four key areas that they hope to address in the upcoming reauthorization process: accountability, accreditation, college affordability / financial aid, and campus sexual assault / safety. It is hoped that these groups can work through these issues on a bipartisan basis prior to the committee and later the full chamber considering full reauthorization legislation.

More recently, the Committee held a hearing exploring barriers to innovation in postsecondary education. Members focused on the role that regulations (and at times overregulation) have in stymieing innovation within the higher education system, how to address current funding structures that are tied to the credit hour in order to better support competency-based learning programs, and the need to expand HEA’s experimental sites initiative to allow for more experimentation, among other topics. More on the hearing can be found here.

In the House, members of the Education and Workforce (HEW) Committee introduced a series of four bipartisan higher education bills that they hope to piece together later on to form the basis for their proposal for the law’s renewal. These bills seek to simplify the student aid process, improve consumer access to relevant data and information to make informed decisions on where to go to school, and strengthen loan counseling to improve students’ financial literacy when making decisions about their financial aid. Of particular note is the Flexible Pell Grant for 21st Century Students Act (H.R. 3180) introduced by Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) which would reinstate “year-round” Pell Grants for qualifying students in accelerated programs—a move NASDCTEc supports in future HEA legislation. More on that bill can be found here and information related to the all of the bills is located here.

The Obama Administration has also repositioned itself ahead of possible HEA consideration. Speaking at UMBC earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered a speech on HEA which encouraged the higher education community to not just focus on the rising specters of college debt and cost, but also on student outcomes and educational quality. More on his remarks can be found here.

Lawmakers Seek to Give FERPA a Facelift

The Student Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 3157) was recently introduced by Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) of the HEW Committee. The bill seeks to update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by barring schools and private companies from selling student information, creating minimum data security protocols, and allowing parents greater access and control over their child’s information. The legislation is one of several proposals from both Chambers of Congress that seek to modernize the law to reflect changes in the digital education landscape. At present, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) enforces provisions under FERPA governing how companies handle student data. However, competing proposals in the Senate would hand that responsibility over to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce these rules more vigorously.

Odds & Ends

USDE and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) are requesting public comment on proposed templates and data definitions for performance information required under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The comment period is open for 60 days and must be submitted by September 21 at: (Docket ID is ETA-2015-0007). Last week marked WIOA’s first birthday.

The final text of the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) was released this week. The bill is the Chamber’s proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and now bicameral negotiations are about to begin to reconcile it with the House’s ESEA proposal the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). More information on the debate can be found here and a great breakdown of where key issues stand in the wider discussion can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Senate Passes ESEA Rewrite

July 17th, 2015

United States CapitalYesterday afternoon, the Senate voted 81-17 in favor of the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), the Chamber’s proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While 14 Republicans and three Democrats voted against ECAA’s passage for dramatically different reasons, the Chamber’s overall support for the bill remained strongly bipartisan and marks a significant step forward in rewriting the nation’s largest K-12 education law which has been due for renewal since 2007.

The effort in the Senate to reauthorize ESEA has been driven by HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) who shepherded the bipartisan bill out of Committee in April. A total of 66 different amendments, including Senator Alexander and Murray’s comprehensive substitute amendment, were passed as part of yesterday’s vote with 13 being rejected.

On the whole, ECAA completely reimagines ESEA’s accountability system, removing No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) “adequate yearly progress” requirement. It would maintain the law’s annual assessment schedule and would require states to develop “challenging academic standards” for all students. Notably, the bill would require states to report disaggregated data on student subgroups and identify low-performing schools, however it does not place a requirement for state or local intervention if achievement gaps are identified—something that has been a point of strong contention for many civil rights groups and the Obama Administration.

During the five calendar days that the Senate devoted to the bill’s consideration, there were a number of Career Technical Education (CTE) amendments that were adopted before ECAA’s final passage. While the final text of S. 1177 will not be available until sometime next week, here’s a short breakdown of a few of the new additions that found their way into the final bill (a listing of ECAA’s CTE provisions that were already in the bill can be viewed here):

  • CTE is now included in ECAA’s definition of “Core Academic Subjects”—ensuring that CTE is recognized as a strong contributor to students’ college and career readiness
  • Strengthened accountability language that would allow states to include measures of student postsecondary or career readiness in their accountability systems
  • An expansion of the Pell grant program to help low-income students complete early college and dual / concurrent enrollment programs
  • Strengthened state and local plan language requiring the development of effective strategies to promote student transitions between learner levels
  • New state plan language referencing the need to create “college and career pathways” for students
  • Additions to the local application section of ECAA encouraging the support of programs that promote integrated academic and CTE instruction, including experiential learning
  • Greater support for educator professional development that encourages common planning time for CTE and non-CTE teachers while encouraging integrated instruction
  • New allowable uses of funds under Title IV of the bill that support college and career guidance programs, including career awareness & exploration activities, while providing greater support for the use of labor market information to be used to inform these activities

Many other big ticket amendments were considered during the Senate debate. The “A-PLUS” amendment, a proposal that would allow states to block-grant their Title I funding for “any education purpose allowed under state law”, was voted down mainly along party lines. One of Chairman Alexander’s amendments supporting school vouchers for low-income students had a similar fate. Another “opt-out” amendment that would have allowed parents to opt their children out from the bill’s mandated assessments also did not pass. Towards the end of the debate, a significant proposal from Senate Democrats to hold states accountable for their lowest performing schools and achievement gaps within student subgroups did not pass either. A compromise proposal that changes the underlying formula for Title I did pass, however the amendment’s provisions would not kick-in unless Title I is funded at much higher levels than it is currently.

On the whole ECAA rolls back the federal government’s role in K-12 education substantially, leaving many important educational decisions to states and local communities while rectifying many of the most problematic legacies ‘left behind’ by NCLB. Despite the bipartisan nature of the Senate’s process, a pathway forward for full ESEA reauthorization remains highly uncertain. As mentioned above, many Congressional Democrats, civil rights groups, and the White House are strongly opposed to the absence of a stronger accountability system in ECAA. Conversely many Republicans, particularly those in the House, are vehemently opposed to any proposal that does not do more to streamline existing programs and limit the federal role in K-12 education further.

With the Senate and the House’s work on their respective bills complete, it remains to be seen if their proposals can be reconciled via a formal conference or by way of behind-the-scenes negotiations later this year. Nevertheless, crafting a bill that can please each of these groups will prove to be extremely challenging.

Be sure to check back here as the process unfolds later this year. NASDCTEc will be sure to provide more updates and analysis for how these proposals will impact the CTE community as negotiations continue.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

Legislative Update: Congress Wrestles with ESEA

July 13th, 2015

United States CapitalThroughout last week, lawmakers on Capitol Hill began to take up their respective proposals to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—the nation’s largest K-12 education law formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

On Wednesday, the House passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5)—the Chamber’s rewrite of NCLB. After being removed from full consideration earlier this year when House conservatives began to oppose the bill for not rolling back the federal role in K-12 education enough, H.R. 5 was finally brought to a vote where it was passed along partisan lines by an extremely slim margin of 218-213. Of note to the CTE community, the final bill would repeal the “highly-qualified” teacher provision, require states and local recipients of federal funding to report on CTE-related student outcomes, and require further integration of academic and CTE coursework—all priorities for NASDCTEc in ESEA reauthorization.

However, the legislation would radically transform federal K-12 education policy and has been extremely controversial since its introduction in the 113th Congress. Several amendments, some old and some new, were considered and adopted during the debate in an effort to garner additional support needed to finally pass the bill:

  • A provision shortening the law’s authorization period to FY 2016 – 2019 (previously H.R. 5 would have gone to FY 2021)
  • Explicit language allowing States to withdraw from the Common Core without penalty from the U.S. Secretary of Education (since Common Core is not a federal requirement, this amendment is largely meaningless)
  • Additional language clarifying the importance of student data privacy
  • A new initiative to support digital learning programs in rural schools
  • New opt-out language that allows parents to opt their children out of assessments mandated under H.R. 5 and allow schools to ignore these opted-out students when calculating overall rates of participation

Most notably, the “A-PLUS” Act—a Title I portability proposal that would have allowed states to fully block grant their Title I funding for “any educational purpose allowed under state law”—was voted down by a 195-235 margin. The White House has repeatedly issued veto threats for the Student Success Act and Congressional Democrats vehemently oppose much of what is contained in the proposal. Read the House’s Education and Workforce Committee’s press release on the bill’s passage here.

In the Senate, debate on the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177)—that Chamber’s bipartisan proposal for ESEA’s reauthorization—began on Tuesday and lasted through much of the week. The bill has been shepherded by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). The process for the bill’s consideration has been much more consensus-driven than that of the House. ECAA contains a number of promising CTE-related provisions such as:

  • A requirement that states and local begin reporting on student attainment of CTE proficiencies (something already done under Perkins, so as not to create new reporting burdens)
  • A requirement that state academic standards be aligned with relevant state-identified CTE standards
  • Provisions allowing for at least one metric in the state’s accountability system that is indicative of student postsecondary or workforce readiness
  • The elimination of the harmful “highly-qualified teacher” provision
  • Support of career counseling in Title IV of the bill

NASDCTEc is currently working with a number of Senate offices on CTE-related amendments related to using CTE instructional strategies as a model for high school reform, further inclusion of CTE within ECAA’s definition for core academic subjects, strengthened career counseling language, stronger support for dual and concurrent enrollment programs, and improved professional development programs for teachers and principals.

So far, the Senate has passed a handful of amendments related to school library programs, greater support for Native American students, and a new effectiveness study to be conducted of all ESEA funded programs. Notably, Chairman Alexander’s school voucher amendment—a proposal that would have allowed Title I funds to be used by low-income students at public or private schools of their choice—was ultimately rejected by the Senate.

Further debate of ECAA begins later today and through the week with a number of other CTE and non-CTE related proposals expected to be taken up. While the passage of ECAA is likely to occur this year, the pathway forward for a full ESEA reauthorization remains unclear. Reconciling ECAA and the Student Success Act will likely prove to be extremely difficult as both bills are dramatically far apart on many key issues related to the appropriate federal role in K-12 education as well as funding levels for many programs authorized under the law.

Stay tuned throughout the week for more ESEA related action and be sure to check back here for updates and analysis of this process.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager