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Legislative Update: Congress Announces Agreement on Workforce Development Legislation

May 23rd, 2014

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

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

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

One-Stop Infrastructure Funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sequence of Services Eliminated, Along With 15 Existing Programs

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

Board Size, Composition and Direct Contracting

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

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

Accountability, Career Pathways and State Leadership

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

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

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

Outlook and Prospects for WIOA

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

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

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

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

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

May 16th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House Appropriations Committee Sets Levels for FY 15

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

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

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

The CREDIT Act

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

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

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Secretary Duncan Defends Administration’s FY 15 Budget Priorities before Congress, STEM Equity Bill Introduced in the House

May 2nd, 2014

CapitolOn Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the full House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) to discuss the Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget request for the Department of Education (ED). As we have previously shared, the President’s budget request calls for $1.117 billion for the Carl D. Perkins (Perkins) basic state grant program— the same amount the program is set to receive for FY 2014. It also reiterates the Administration’s request for a $100 million competitive Career Technical Education (CTE) innovation fund to be paid for out of funds already designated for this purpose.

House appropriators on the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee voiced strong concerns about these proposals several weeks ago, and the HEW Committee reinforced many of those concerns this past Tuesday. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), who was recently honored with NASDCTEc’s Star of Education Award, echoed these sentiments.

“[ED] does not propose any additional funding for the Perkins Act,” he said. “The solutions to address [the needs of the economy] are in CTE programs throughout the country funded through the [Perkins Act].” Rep. Thompson also pressed Secretary Duncan on the Administration’s proposal to fund “untested and often duplicative education initiatives when we have a tried and true solution in Perkins.”

Secretary Duncan argued that the Department’s competitive funding proposals were aimed to more effectively use limited resources and to scale-up successful CTE models.  Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) echoed many of Rep. Thompson’s concerns and also questioned aspects of ED’s 2012 CTE Blueprint, particularly its proposal to require mandatory consortia of LEAs, postsecondary institutions, and other partners in order to receive Perkins funding. After acknowledging the importance of collaboration between the secondary and postsecondary CTE learner levels, Rep. Guthrie pointed out that many “rural or smaller schools may not be able to form a consortium.”

On this point Secretary Duncan conceded that, “The consortia idea is one that we want to continue to think through. Anything we can do in that Blueprint — it’s two years out of date now —something we can do better [sic], we’d be happy to update.” While ED has not officially announced plans to update its CTE Blueprint, NASDCTEc is encouraged that a top Administration official has expressed a willingness to rethink aspects of the proposal.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) also raised concerns regarding the impact of competitive grant programs to ensure equitable access for students. “How do you plan to ensure equal opportunity and funding for all students and not just the ones from school districts with the ability to write grants?”

She also highlighted her efforts to expand Pell eligibility for high school students enrolled in early college programs. A similar proposal contained in the Department’s FY 2015 budget request would expand Pell eligibility for students as part of a career pathway and she encouraged the Administration to continue with these efforts. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), the newest member of HEW, also promoted a similar idea of using early college and dual enrollment as a model for CTE. Secretary Duncan said he was open to this idea and that the Department would look for promising strategies to encourage postsecondary credit and industry certification attainment at the secondary level.

Other members on the committee such as Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) voiced strong opposition to the Department’s new gainful employment and program integrity regulations among other similar topics.

An archived webcast of the hearing, including testimony, can be found here.

STEM Equity Bill Introduced in the House

Also on Tuesday, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) introduced the Getting into Researching, Learning & Studying of STEM (GIRLS-STEM) Act of 2014 (H.R. 4515). The bill would establish a program at the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that more female students participate in STEM education and have access to career and academic counseling. The program would provide grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) to support efforts and initiatives to encourage young women to study STEM subjects, educate parents about the opportunities for their children in STEM fields, provide mentorship opportunities for students, and prepare secondary students for transitions into postsecondary STEM programs.

“I know from personal experience that STEM careers can be personally and professionally rewarding, and we owe it to our young women to make sure they have access to the necessary education,” said Rep. McNerney, who has a Ph.D. in mathematics and worked for many years as an engineer. NASDCTEc applauds the Congressman’s efforts to promote young women in STEM programs and looks forward to working with him to more fully realize this admirable goal. A full press release on the legislation can be found here.

Performance Pilot Partnerships (P3) Update

As we shared last week, the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services and a number of other federal agencies, announced a new pilot program to better address the needs of disconnected youth in communities, states and tribal areas. The Departments released a consultation paper on this initiative which seeks to give a clearer picture as to the program’s design and purpose.

A webinar on P3 was also held this week, where it was explained that local Perkins grant recipients would be eligible to participate in these programs if an agreement is first reached with the state’s Perkins eligible agency. While funding stream “braiding” seems to be an objective of the pilots, it is still unclear at this time how reporting requirements for Perkins would be reconciled with other programs in a given project. As details on P3 become clearer, NASDCTEc will update the CTE community on the potential for collaboration.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: ED Continues Program Integrity Negotiations, NASDCTEc & IBM Host Briefing on CTE, Perkins

April 25th, 2014

CapitolBeginning this past Wednesday and ending today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) reconvened a panel for a third round of negotiated rulemaking on program integrity and improvement. Negotiators are discussing a number of proposed regulatory changes for postsecondary institutions including clock-to-credit-hour conversions, state authorization of distance learning programs, remedial coursework, cash management and — most contentiously — how to define adverse credit history for the purposes of certain federal financial aid eligibility.

Since a preliminary consensus had already been reached on clock-to-credit-hour conversions during the last round of negotiations, the panel moved quickly on a second draft of proposed regulatory language. The proposed changes maintain the existing conversion formula, but significantly improve the clarity of the regulation. The intent of this particular rule is to ensure that postsecondary students enrolled in programs which provide instruction based on clock hours rather than credit hours receive equivalent amounts of federal financial aid for the same amount of coursework. It is important to note that for a formal consensus to be completed, the panel must also reach consensus on the other issues currently under discussion.

A newly drafted set of rules governing state authorization of distance programs was also heatedly debated this week. These proposed regulations determine the legal authorization of postsecondary education programs provided by institutions that are not physically located in the state. These proposed rules would primarily affect online, distance and correspondence education programs. Such programs would need to meet the various legal requirements imposed by individual states to offer distance education programs in each state where an enrollee resides if 50 percent or more of a course can be completed remotely. Among many other proposed changes, an institution would not be eligible for federal financial aid for its students if its graduates are not able to receive a certification or complete a licensing examination required for employment in that state after program completion, unless the program obtains prior acknowledgement from the student.

A fourth and final round of negotiations is expected on May 19-20, 2014. As this process unfolds, NASDCTEc will continue to monitor these negotiations and gauge any potential impact on postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. More information on these negotiations and additional supplemental information can be found here.

NASDCTEc & IBM Host Briefing on CTE, Perkins

Yesterday the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and IBM hosted a briefing for stakeholder groups interested in learning more about CTE and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). NASDCTEc’s Executive Director Kimberly Green and Stan Litow, IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and President of IBM’s Foundation, provided a joint briefing on these issues in an effort to prepare these groups for the reauthorization of Perkins.

While no official timeline has been laid out by Congress for the reauthorization of the law yet, employers and other stakeholders groups in the education and workforce communities have taken a significant interest in CTE and the Perkins Act over the past year as the law has come due for renewal. As both the House and Senate take steps to reauthorize Perkins, the briefing provided important background information on the 2006 reauthorization process, emerging themes and major changes occurring within the CTE enterprise over the past several years, employers’ growing interest in CTE, IBM’s P-Tech initiatives in New York and Connecticut and finally what to expect in the upcoming legislative process surrounding Congress’ consideration of the law.

NASDCTEc would like to thank IBM for hosting the event and for those who participated in the briefing. As the reauthorization process gets more fully underway in the coming year, NASDCTEc looks forward to working constructively with Congress, employers and other stakeholder groups to thoughtfully renew the law which constitutes the primary federal investment in CTE and our nation’s high schools.

OCTAE RFI Update

Earlier this week, NASDCTEc shared an announcement from the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health & Human Services (HHS) regarding a request for information (RFI) on career pathway systems. This multiagency RFI is soliciting information from a diverse group of stakeholders from both the public and private sectors, as well as from state, regional, tribal, and local entities on how to develop and improve career pathway systems. Specifically they are seeking information on effective career pathway models, best practices, barriers to their development and implementation, and also ways in which federal agencies can more effectively support these types of systems. Responses collected through this RFI will help inform future departmental career pathway strategies, policies, and investments.

Responses are due June 9th, 2014, and the official notice can be found here. The departments have also announced a webinar to provide an overview of this RFI and to provide instructions on how to respond. More information on that, including how to register, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: President Obama Announces Final Round of TAACCCT Grants and an Apprenticeship Program, DOL Unveils WIA Incentive Grant Awards

April 18th, 2014

CapitolEarlier this week, President Obama and Vice President Biden traveled to the Community College of Allegheny County in Oakdale, Pennsylvania to announce two initiatives related to job training as part of the President’s larger job-driven training agenda outlined in his State of the Union address earlier this year. Both of these initiatives— one relatively new and the other part a larger existing program— are administered and funded by the Department of Labor (DoL).

The fourth and final round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College & Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program was the first of these initiatives to be announced. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Obama Administration designated approximately $2 billion to provide community colleges and other eligible postsecondary institutions with funds to expand career training programs that can be completed in two years or less. Intended to nurture partnerships between these institutions and employers, funding has been targeted for programs that prepare students for high-skill, high-growth careers. Funds have been distributed on a competitive basis among eligible institutions and have gone out in three separate installments, each with their own overarching areas of focus.

This fourth and final round of TAACCCT grants, worth a total of $450 million, will focus on three priorities outlined by the Administration:

  • Scale In-Demand Job Training Across the Country through National Industry Partnerships.
  • Advance Education & Training to Ensure a Seamless Progression from One Stepping Stone to Another.
  • Improve Statewide Employment and Education Data Integration and Use.

The Obama Administration plans to award at least one grant in every state and applications which emphasize the above priorities may be eligible for larger award amounts. DoL’s full announcement can be found here. Applications are due by July 7th and detailed instructions for applying can be found here.

American Apprenticeship Grants

President Obama and Vice President Biden also announced a new American Apprenticeship Grants competition which is set to begin in the fall of 2014. Funded through H1-B visa applications fees, $100 million in grants will be used to incentivize partnerships between employers, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, non-profits and faith-based organizations. Priority will be given to applications that meet three criteria laid out by the Administration:

  • Launch apprenticeship models in emerging, high-growth fields
  • Align apprenticeships to pathways for further learning and career advancement
  • Scale-up proven apprenticeship models

This announcement looks to strengthen Vice President Biden’s other recent effort  named the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC), an initiative that seeks to allow graduates to use their apprenticeship experience for postsecondary credit. More information on RACC can be found here. Application information for American Apprenticeship Grants is forthcoming.

2014 WIA Incentive Grant Awards

The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA), in conjunction with the Department of Education (ED), recently announced a list of eight states which are eligible to apply for approximately $9.9 million in incentive grant awards created under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). To have qualified, states must have exceeded performance levels under WIA Title IB and Title II during the 2012 program year. These incentive grants can be used to fund specific programs under the aegis of WIA or programs funded by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

To receive funds, a state must submit its application for an incentive grant award to DOLETA no later than May 30, 2014. Eligible states include Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. More information can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: House Appropriators Question Administration’s FY15 Priorities, New Proposals on Perkins Emerge

April 11th, 2014

CapitolOn Tuesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee regarding the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget request for education.  As we shared previously, the Administration requested $1.117 billion for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program— a figure that would maintain the same level of funding as in FY 2014, but would keep the program below pre-sequestration levels. The request also proposed to use a portion of these funds for a competitive “innovation fund” similar to what the Administration has previously proposed in its 2012 Blueprint for Career Technical Education (CTE).

During the subcommittee hearing, members from both parties strongly questioned these aspects of the budget request, asked why additional funds were not requested for the Perkins Act and voiced strong opposition to the Administration’s other proposals for new competitively funded programs.

“The concern is that these proposals would be made at the expense of meeting our current obligations,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), echoed these sentiments and emphasized the importance of the overall federal investment in education. The full hearing and testimony transcripts can be found here.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) questioned the Secretary further on these issues asking, “Why does the Administration continue to propose competitive grants that only benefit a few students rather than investing in proven programs like CTE that help to further the goal of career readiness for all students?”

Secretary Duncan did point out that 89 percent of the funds from his department actually go to formula programs and that the Administration on the whole has invested heavily in CTE via alternative funding streams such as the Youth CareerConnect program.

However, there was genuine skepticism from many of the members present for how these proposals would negatively impact the ability of students to equitably access CTE programs throughout the country. As Rep. Roby pointed out, “We have yet to fulfill our commitment to fully fund existing formula-driven programs.”

To that end, members of Congress on and off the subcommittee have been hard at work over the past several weeks to push for additional investments for the Perkins Act ahead of the Congressional FY 2015 appropriations process. Two Dear Colleague letters, one in the House and the other in the Senate, were supported on a bipartisan basis by 93 Representatives and 25 Senators respectively, calling for a restoration of the Perkins Act basic state grant program to pre-sequester levels.

NASDCTEc encourages its members and those in the CTE community to reach out to all of the lawmakers who supported these efforts and thank them for their strong support for the Perkins Act and CTE. Special recognition must go to Sens. Blumenthal (D-CT), Kaine (D-VA), Baldwin (D-WI) and also Reps. Thompson (R-PA) and Langevin (D-RI) who lead these efforts in both Chambers.

Don’t know how to get in touch with Congress? Find out here!

Perkins Amendment Introduced in the House

Earlier this week Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the “Perkins Modernization Act of 2014,” which seeks to more closely align CTE programs with labor market needs. Specifically it would substitute all references to “high skill, high wage, or high demand occupations in current or emerging professions,” currently found in the Perkins Act and substitute them with “employment in current or emerging in-demand industry sectors or occupations.” A definition for an “in-demand industry sector or occupation” is also proposed, which would be informed to a greater extent by labor market information culled from various sources at the local, state and national levels.

As the House Committee on Education and the Workforce (HEW) along with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) continue to work to reauthorize the Perkins Act, it is important to note that the above proposal is not a comprehensive reauthorization bill. Instead the Perkins Modernization Act introduces into the reauthorization discussion an issue important to these members of Congress.  NASDCTEc appreciates Reps. Kennedy, Kinzinger, Davis, and Polis’ recognition that CTE programs are crucial components to the nation’s economic competitiveness and agrees that a greater availability and use of labor market information is needed to ensure that CTE programs prepare students for success in the workforce.

NASDCTEc looks forward to working constructively with Congress to thoughtfully reauthorize the Perkins Act and to ensure that programs are empowering students with the necessary skills and knowledge demanded by today’s employers and affording graduates the opportunity to secure family-sustaining wages.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Moves on ESRA

The House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) moved forward on the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366). This bill, introduced by Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), reauthorizes the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). Currently, ESRA supports educational research programs such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), NAEP exams, and state longitudinal data systems. “Quality education research is critical to successful schools,” Rep. Rokita said upon the Committee’s approval of the bill by voice vote.

A particularly promising aspect of the bill would amend the authorization for state longitudinal data system grants to encourage the alignment of data across K-12, postsecondary and workforce programs. This would greatly support efforts to report on post-program employment outcomes for CTE graduates. Moreover, H.R. 4366 emphasizes the importance of using data effectively and lays out a more thoughtful approach to its use. The Workforce Data Quality Campaign, of which NASDCTEc is a national partner, supported this bill. The text of the bill, fact sheets, and other useful information can be found here.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Apprenticeship Bill

On Wednesday Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act, a bill that incentivizes employers to increase the number of apprenticeships available to young people. Specifically the LEAP Act would grant companies a $1,500 tax credit for hiring new registered apprentices under the age of 25. A $1,000 tax credit would also be offered to employers hiring apprentices older than 25 years of age. The bill would also incent the expansion of existing apprenticeship programs

The Workforce Investment Act

Both Chambers of Congress have continued discussions on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) this week. According to recent reports, the Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chairman of the House HEW Committee, John Kline (R-MN), have publicly stated that they have “resolved nearly all differences” and hope to complete the legislation when Congress returns from recess in late April.

“The likelihood is that the staff will be able to hammer out what is left while we are gone,” Chairman Kline said. “Hopefully, by the time we come back, we’ll have it all put together,” Chairman Harkin was reported as saying.

There has also been speculation that the reauthorization of WIA could possibly be attached to Congress’ consideration of extending unemployment insurance benefits. NASDCTEc will monitor this process as it evolves and will continue to work with policymakers to ensure that a thoughtful reauthorization of the law emerges from these negotiations.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: House Education & the Workforce Committee Holds CTE Field Hearing

March 21st, 2014

Capitol

On Tuesday the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a field hearing titled “Reviving Our Economy: How Career and Technical Education Can Strengthen the Workforce” which was the first of two similarly themed hearings convened this week in locations outside of Washington, D.C. The purpose of this hearing was to highlight the significant positive impact education— specifically Career Technical Education (CTE)— and workforce training programs have on state and local economies. The hearing took place in Southwest Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada, a portion of the state represented by Congressman Joseph Heck (R-NV) who was among one of four Committee members who made the trip to the Silver State.

Chairman Kline (R-MN), Rep. Scott (D-VA), and Rep. Hinojosa (D-TX) alongside their colleague Rep. Heck conducted the field hearing where five witnesses provided testimony centering on the positive effects CTE programs have on their state and in particular Clark County, Nevada. For instance, nearly four out of ten students in Nevada— approximately 50,000 total— enroll in at least one CTE course. Witnesses also pointed out that the graduation rate for those students who choose to concentrate in CTE is a full 17.1 percent higher than their peers in the state. The economic gain reaped by Nevada through increased graduation rates and the reduced number of high school drop-outs demonstrates a compelling return on investment which many members of the Committee took special interest in.

Perhaps the most dominant theme throughout the hearing focused on the importance of the federal investment, principally through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins), to Nevada and other states’ ability to equitably deliver high-quality CTE programs to their students. Perkins, like other critical federal investments in education and the nation’s workforce, has not been exempt from various funding cuts over the past several years. Witnesses described how this has negatively impacted CTE’s ability to effectively prepare students for further education and the workforce.

Congressman Heck noted in particular that over the past few years states like Nevada, which have experienced tremendous population growth over the past decade, have received proportionally larger reductions to their Perkins state allocations due to certain provisions contained in the law. To remedy this he touted a proposed amendment he and Rep. Grijalva introduced last August which would ensure states receive at least 90 percent of the funding amount allocated the previous year.

Another theme that resonated throughout the hearing was CTE partnerships with the business community. Chairman Kline questioned how much time school administrators devote to developing relationships with area employers and whether more could be done to support these types of partnerships. Additionally he inquired about a school’s ability to adapt its CTE curriculum to meet the changing needs of businesses and industry.

At the hearing’s conclusion Congressman Heck summed up the discussion nicely saying “I think one of the resounding themes we heard today is partnerships. It’s partnerships amongst the secondary and postsecondary institutions, as well as private partners and employers. These things are all critical. I think we see that there is a very high return on investment for Career Technical Education . . . as well as the follow-on effects for economic development”

An archived webcast of the hearing including Committee statements and witness testimony can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: ED Introduces New Gainful Employment Regulations, The FIRST Act Moves to Full Committee

March 14th, 2014

CapitolAs we have shared previously, last December the Department of Education (ED) concluded a three-part series of negotiated rulemaking sessions regarding the Department’s proposed regulations on “gainful employment.” These proposed rules aim to introduce stricter accountability requirements for vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges across the country in an effort to ensure they are helping their student’s find gainful employment upon graduation. ED assembled a negotiated rulemaking committee, composed of representatives from for-profits institutions, community colleges, and other relevant stakeholders, to establish a consensus on these proposals.

Unfortunately, the committee failed to come to such a consensus on ED’s draft regulations during the last of the negotiated rulemaking sessions this past December. Per the Department’s policies, a lack of consensus among the rulemaking committee allows ED to introduce new regulations on its own. Today, ED released these new regulations and will soon open them up for public comment over the next two months.

The regulations—over eight hundred pages in length— introduce stricter standards for the amount of debt students can accrue while attending institutions offering career-training programs. There are three main criteria a program must pass in order to maintain eligibility to receive federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. The first two are related to loan payments. Programs which have student loan payments higher than 30 percent of discretionary income or 12 percent of total income would fail under the new rules if those ratios persisted for any two out of three consecutive years. The third criterion is tied to a program’s cohort default rate (pCDR) for both completers and non-completers. If a program’s pCDR exceeds 30 percent for three consecutive years, the program is deemed failing.

Another important feature of these new regulations affords programs the ability to appeal for those that have less than half of their completers take on debt. This is an important change from ED’s last draft proposal in December and will benefit programs at Community Colleges and elsewhere which typically offer two-year programs at a relatively lower cost to students.

Barring any major revisions between now and October 30th of this year, these regulations are set to go into full-effect in 2016. As with previous iterations of ED’s gainful employment regulations, these new rules will likely be challenged in court. As this process unfolds, please check our blog for updates on how these regulations will likely impact those in the Career Technical Education community.

ED’s full gainful employment regulations can be found here and additional information on the process can be found here.

House Subcommittee Passes the FIRST Act

Yesterday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology passed the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186). The bill would reauthorize the America Competes Act of 2010 and has now moved on to the full committee for consideration.

While some Democrats on the Subcommittee voiced concerns over reduced levels of funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Republicans highlighted the bill’s focus on better coordination of existing federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives. Among other provisions, the FIRST Act would create a STEM Education Coordinating Office to better manage STEM education activities and programs at the federal level and would be overseen by NSF.

Notably, the legislation would broaden the definition of STEM to include not only the core components laid out in its acronym, but also “other academic subjects that build on these disciplines such as computer science and other academic subjects that a State identifies as important to the workforce of the State.”

NASDCTEc will continue to monitor this legislation as it moves to the full Committee. The full bill can be found here and a statement from the Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) can be found here.

JOBS Tax Credit Act Introduced in the House

This past Tuesday, Representative Maffei introduced the Job and Opportunity Bonus (JOB) Tax Credit Act which seeks to address the nation’s persistent skills gap by creating a temporary tax credit for employers to help pay for the cost of training their employees.

According to the Congressman, “So many of our local businesses want to invest in training for current and new employees, but don’t have the resources to do it. My bill helps address this issue by providing a tax credit for worker training programs.”

Among the provisions contained in the bill, the JOBS Tax Credit Act would pay for 50 percent of the cost to train employees in an approved program which would include apprenticeship programs, training offered by vocation or technical schools or community colleges, and a variety of industry or labor union-sponsored training programs. The tax credit would only be able to be utilized by employers with 500 employees or less and would last between 2015 to 2017.

NASDCTEc applauds Rep. Maffei’s work to better address the nation’s skills gap and urges Congress to take up this important piece of legislation.  His office’s full press release on the JOB Tax Credit Act can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Obama Administration Releases FY 2015 Budget Request

March 4th, 2014

Capitol

Earlier today, the Obama Administration released its annual budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Unveiling the details of this document in a Northwest D.C. public school classroom, President Obama underscored his commitment to education while framing his budget proposals as a choice between two competing visions for America’s future ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.

“Our budget is about choices,” the President said before going on to call for “smart investments to create jobs and grow our economy and expand opportunity for every American.”

The Administration’s budget and accompanying press releases repeatedly cited investment in education as the cornerstone of the Administration’s underlying opportunity agenda. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education echoed these sentiments.

“President Obama’s budget request reflects his strong belief that education is a vital investment in the nation’s economic competitiveness, in its people, and in its communities,” Secretary Duncan affirmed before adding that “too many students lack access to the quality education and supports that make the journey to college and the middle class possible.”

To that end, the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget request to Congress calls for $68.6 billion in appropriations for the U.S. Department of Education (ED). That figure represents a 1.9 percent increase over last year’s funding levels and much of the additional proposed funds are targeted to various competitive grant initiatives such as a new iteration of Race to the Top focused on “Equity and Opportunity” (RTT-Opportunity) and similar programs.

Of particular importance to the Career Technical Education (CTE) community is the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s basic state grant program. For FY 2015 the Administration requested $1.117 billion — the same amount the program will receive for FY 2014. Additionally, the President’s budget request calls again for a $100 million competitive CTE innovation fund along with $10 million for “Pay-for-Success” projects that would prioritize program development and strategies that target disconnected youth, expand rural access to CTE, and increase technology’s role in the classroom.

At ED’s budget briefing this afternoon, Secretary Duncan highlighted some of the progress ED believes it has made through these and other initiatives, but emphasized that “wide opportunity and achievement gaps continue to hurt many families, which puts our nation’s economy and future at risk.”

One of the most effective and proven strategies for closing this achievement and broader opportunity gap is through greater federal investment in CTE. However, requesting flat level-funding for these important programs, as the Administration has done, will not achieve the important goals the President and Secretary Duncan have laid out for the country.

A greater commitment to the CTE enterprise from the Administration is therefore needed in the coming fiscal year. In an effort to make good on the Administration’s promise, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and its partners in the CTE community will be actively working in the coming year to advocate for $1.22 billion for the Perkins Act basic state grant program and the vital CTE programs it helps to support.

“Each year, the Administration has talked about the importance of education and its connection to restoring and growing  the American economy, yet the budget proposal does not reflect this priority. Fully funding the Perkins Act would be a tremendous signal that the Administration is serious about closing the skills gap and ensuring all students have access to high-quality Career Technical Education,” said NASDCTEc’s Executive Director Kimberly Green.

“Career Technical Education has a proven track record of closing equity and achievement gaps and helping youth and adults to garner the skills and knowledge to secure good-paying jobs and enter further education. Rather than investing in new initiatives, we believe it would be better to fully fund Perkins – a program with a long, proven history of success.”

The President’s full budget request can be found here and the Department of Education’s portion, along with a number of useful graphs, charts and other supplemental information, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Congress Prepares for Budget and Appropriations Process

February 28th, 2014

CapitolNext Tuesday the Obama Administration will release its annual budget request which will lay out the President’s vision for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget. Typically, this request is released on the first Monday of February, but the White House chose to wait until after Congressional appropriators finalized the recent omnibus spending package for FY 2014 before crafting the request. That spending bill funds the federal government through the end of this September and a new FY 2015 budget will be required starting on October 1st— the first day of the federal government’s next fiscal year. The President’s budget request is a highly anticipated document as it formally begins the federal budget and appropriations process for FY 2015 which is taken up later by both Chambers of Congress.

Ahead of that process Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, sent a memo to Senate Democrats outlining the extent of federal deficit reduction since 2010 arguing that there are other deficits “like those in job growth, innovation, infrastructure, and education” which Congress has failed to address with the same level of zealousness. The memo outlines $3.3 trillion worth of deficit reduction over the past several years and points out that almost half of those reductions have been through spending cuts to the discretionary portion of the federal budget. Specifically, the memo illustrates the disproportionate amount of spending cuts to the roughly 16 percent of the federal budget, known as non-defense discretionary (NDD), which fund investments in education, infrastructure, and research among other important national priorities.

As the memo lays out, it is important “to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges using a balanced and responsible approach.” While federal deficits and the national debt are a genuine challenge to the nation’s long-term financial wellbeing, addressing these concerns through systematic disinvestment in our nation’s education system and other vital NDD programs is not the solution. Although spending caps have already been established for FY 2015 and are slightly higher than FY 2014, decisions for how funds will be allocated to the various departments, agencies and programs must still be made in the coming year. As Congress and the White house begin these negotiations, it will be critical to more adequately fund this portion of the federal budget and support programs— like Career Technical Education— that strengthen our nation’s economy and ensure the global competitiveness of its students and workforce.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

 

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