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Legislative Update: Senate CTE Caucus Examines Rural CTE, Senators Re-introduce CTE Legislation as ESEA Continues to Dominate Congressional Education Debate

January 23rd, 2015

CapitolYesterday afternoon, the Senate Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus held its first event of the year which explored a variety of issues facing CTE in rural communities. Titled “Investing in America’s Heartland: The Role of Career Technical Education in Rural Communities,” the event consisted of a panel discussion between four experts in the fields of CTE and rural issues:

  • Dr. Alice Davis, Executive Director, Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center
  • Lucy Johnson, U.S. Department of Education Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach
  • Johan Uvin, U.S. Department of Education Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)
  • Matt Lohr, Director, Farm Credit Knowledge Center

Caucus co-Chair Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) kicked things off, sharing his personal experiences with CTE and describing his time as Governor of Virginia where the state incorporated CTE into its Governor’s Academies initiative. The Senator also highlighted the recent re-introduction of the Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act of 2015— legislation that was co-sponsored by fellow Caucus co-Chair Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). NASDCTEc was supportive of this bill last year and has applauded the renewed effort in this Congress to ensure students have access to high-quality CTE programs of study throughout the country. Read the full bill and press release here.

Following these remarks, the panelists discussed core issues facing rural communities within the context of CTE including challenges in teacher recruitment and retention, technical infrastructure, adequate funding, and rural employer capacity. Nearly a quarter of all U.S. students live in an area defined as rural making these issues all the more pressing. As panelist Lucy Johnson, former Mayor of Kyle, Texas pointed out, “CTE meant progress and prosperity for my constituents.”

Throughout the event, the importance of the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act (Perkins) to rural CTE was highlighted. In particular, panelists emphasized specific provisions in the law that have helped to support CTE in rural communities and underscored the significance of this critically important federal investment.

Kline Talks Perkins Reauthorization, Outlines Priorities

Early yesterday morning, Chairman Kline addressed the American Enterprise Institute outlining his priorities for education reform in the 114th Congress and his plans for the House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW).

Although the majority of the hour long event focused on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Kline devoted a portion of his formal remarks to call for the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Calling CTE programs supported by the law “valuable” and “important” the Chairman declared that, “The jobs are there, people need the skills, CTE education will help, but the law needs reform— my colleagues are passionate about improving this law.” He outlined three areas of priority for the Committee in reauthorization:

  • Strengthening the connection between CTE coursework and industry needs and labor market demands
  • Supporting secondary to postsecondary transitions for CTE students
  • Enhancing the Perkins accountability framework to hold programs accountable for taxpayer dollars

Although the Chairman did not elaborate further on these priorities, it is encouraging to see that CTE remains a central issue for the 114th Congress, particularly at a time when lawmakers are predominately engrossed with reauthorizing ESEA. No formal timeline for the reauthorization of the Perkins Act was offered during his remarks, although the Chairman did lay out an ambitious plan for ESEA reauthorization which mirrors that of the Senate’s.

Video of the event can be accessed here.

Senate HELP Committee Holds ESEA Hearing

On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held its first hearing of the 114th Congress. Titled “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability,” the hearing focused on the annual testing provisions contained in current law which mandates 17 tests— one in math and reading in grades 3 through 8, and once for each subject in high school, along with semi-regular  assessments in science in elementary, middle and high school.

Six witnesses provided expert testimony regarding this issue and a majority (four out of the six) overwhelming supported maintaining these provisions. HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) came out in support of the provisions as well saying, “Assessments help parents and communities hold schools accountable. . . If a school is failing students year after year, parents and communities deserve to have that information and be assured the school will get the resources it needs to improve.” Yet, fellow Democrats and even some Republicans on the Committee remained divided or somewhere in the middle on the contentious issue.

For the time being, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has sided with the latter camp, saying after the hearing that, “I think it’s OK to have an open mind on some questions, and mine is still open.” Nevertheless, the Chairman’s recently released discussion draft seeking to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would give states two options when it comes to testing: either maintain the current assessment scheme in current law with the ability to slightly modify the types of assessments, or allow states to come up with any testing scheme of their choosing.

A recording of the hearing can be found here along with witness information, testimony, and other useful information. The HELP Committee is planning another ESEA hearing next week, on teachers and school leaders and has an ambitious timeline for reauthorization— a bill out of committee by the end of February and up to two weeks of floor time following that. Both Chairman Alexander and Chairman Kline, his counterpart in the House, have publicly stated they hope to have full ESEA reauthorization bills done by the end of March.

HEW Holds Organizational Meeting

The House Education and the Workforce (HEW) Committee held its organizational meeting on Wednesday where Chairman John Kline (R-MN) announced chairs of the various Subcommittees. Both Representatives Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Todd Rokita (R-IN) will remain chairs of the Higher Education and Workforce Training and the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittees respectively. Both have oversight responsibilities of interest to the CTE community, including the reauthorization of the Perkins Act.

Committee Democrats, now led by Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), have yet to announce their assignments, although they did lay out some of their priorities in Scott’s prepared remarks.

The Committee also adopted its Oversight Plan which, among other things, outlines areas of particular interest for oversight and investigation in the new Congress, including the U.S. Department of Education’s ESEA waiver authority, various federally funded K-12 programs, regulations pertaining to costs and transparency in higher education as well as the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Odds & Ends

As we shared earlier this week, President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address to Congress. The White House recently released a supplemental document outlining and expanding on several aspects of the speech. The document can be found here.

The Senate HELP Committee has announced it will mark-up the Educational Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) on January 28. The legislation funds SLDS grants and helps build state and local data capacity among other positive aspects of the law.

House Democrats have released a useful Frequently-Asked-Questions document on sequestration. As the Fiscal Year 2016 budget and appropriations process begins, sequestration will be a central feature of the debate. Find more information here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Flurry of ESEA Activity Ahead of Congressional Reauthorization Push

January 14th, 2015

CapitolAlthough it’s only Wednesday, it has been quite a busy week already as lawmakers from both political parties begin to work in earnest on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Due for an update since 2007, the law more commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) oversees most federal K-12 education programs and provides supplemental funding for schools and districts throughout the country.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan kicked things off on Monday— the 50th anniversary of the law no less— with an address outlining the Obama Administration’s priorities for reauthorizing the nation’s primary K-12 education legislation. “I believe we can work together – Democrats and Republicans – to move beyond the tired, prescriptive No Child Left Behind law. I believe we can replace it with a law that recognizes that schools need more support – more money – than they receive today,” Duncan said. Further into his remarks, he revealed that the Obama Administration plans to request an additional $1 billion in Title I funding in its annual budget request expected to be released in early February.

After calling NCLB “out-of-date”, “tired”, and “prescriptive”, the Secretary went on to call for a strong federal role in annual testing and accountability— main elements of the current law and core principles undergirding the Administration’s ESEA state flexibility waivers to date. “Having accurate information about student performance, maintaining high standards, supporting teachers and school leaders, preventing students from dropping out and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline must be our top priorities” he said during his appearance.

Video and text of his remarks can be found here and here.

Congress Sets Its Sights on ESEA

A newly empowered Republican Congress has already begun to draft proposals to renew ESEA. Late last night, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a discussion draft for the reauthorization of the law. The proposal would significantly reduce the federal role in K-12 education and increase state and local flexibility for using funds derived from the legislation.

“No Child Left Behind has become unworkable—and fixing this law, which expired over seven years ago, will be the first item on the agenda for the Senate education committee,” Alexander said. “I look forward to input from all sides on this proposal as we move forward with a bipartisan process that will keep the best portions of the law, while restoring responsibility to states and local communities and ensuring that all 50 million students in our nation’s 100,000 public schools can succeed.” The Chairman has asked for input from the public on this discussion draft by Monday, February 2nd which should be sent to: FixingNCLB@help.senate.gov

In addition to the draft’s release, the Chairman also announced the first ESEA hearing of the year which is set to take place on Wednesday, January 21st titled “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability.”

The Chairman’s full remarks can be found here and the discussion draft is located here.

Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) also laid out her principles for reauthorization in a floor speech this week in response to the draft proposal. Those remarks can be viewed here.

Over in the House, the Chairman of the Education and the Workforce (HEW) Committee, John Kline (R-MN), is also expected to release a draft proposal relatively soon. Next week he will be outlining his priorities for education reform at the American Enterprise Institute. Find more information on that here.

Where To From Here? 

As we look to the rest of 2015, one thing remains clear— both Chambers of Congress, as well as the Administration, appear willing to reauthorize ESEA. The law’s renewal will be a central issue in the coming months and will likely be the primary topic for both Committees for many more to come. As that process unfolds, both parties will continue to stake out areas of priority while seeking common ground elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the key ingredient to the passage of a new ESEA will be President Obama’s signature. As lawmakers in Congress haggle over the finer details of a future ESEA bill, the issues of greatest importance to the Administration— access to quality performance data, rigorous standards, and adequate resources for schools and districts among many others— will continue to be recurring elements in the coming debate.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Legislative Update: Obama Administration Announces Two New Training and Education Initiatives as the 114th Congress Begins

January 9th, 2015

IMG_3003 (1)Today, President Obama announced two new initiatives aimed at boosting access to high-quality postsecondary education and training. Joined by Vice President Biden in Knoxville, Tennessee this afternoon, the Administration unveiled the first of these proposals which seeks to make the first two years of a student’s community college experience tuition free for those who meet and maintain certain eligibility requirements.

This proposal— known as America’s College Promise— would create individual partnerships between the federal government and states interested in participating. Inspired by Governor Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise Program, federal funding would cover 75 percent of a student’s first two years in a qualifying program and would require each state to cover the remaining quarter— a cost savings the Administration estimates could save the average full-time community college student $3,800 a year. The total costs of the program— as well as how it would be funded— are still yet to be determined.

To qualify, students would be required to attend classes on at least on a half-time basis, maintain a 2.5 GPA while enrolled, and continue to make progress toward the completion of their program. The Administration expects these students to be able to earn at least half the credit needed for a four-year degree, or successfully complete a certificate or two-year degree leading to a career.

Under the proposal, community colleges will be required to offer programs that fully articulate to local public universities and colleges or are training programs with an occupational focus that lead to a postsecondary credential that is in-demand from employers in order to qualify for funding.

The second proposal in the President’s announcement today is even more encouraging for the Career Technical Education (CTE) community. Known as the American Technical Training fund, the President has proposed to create a new $200 million discretionary grant program to support programs that have strong employer partnerships, incorporate work-based learning opportunities, provide options for accelerated training and are capable of accommodating the scheduling needs of part-time work.

The new proposal will would cover the start-up costs of creating approximately 100 accelerated training partnerships with the intent to bring these efforts to scale over subsequent years. Grant amounts would vary in size and scope and would be used to either bring stakeholders together to create a new program or to supplement and expand an existing program with a proven record of success.

Best understood through the lens of Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program, the American Technical Training Fund, “creates a unique opportunity to promote, catalyze and scale high-quality CTE programs of study that engage in strong partnerships with employers and prepare learners of all levels for the careers of their choice” as NASDCTEc Executive Director Kimberly Green pointed out in a statement of support ahead of today’s announcement.

It is important to note that formal Congressional action will be required to put these initiatives formally into effect. In the meantime, President Obama will make this a central feature of his upcoming State of the Union Address and will likely call on Congress to enact these proposals. ”Opening the doors of higher education shouldn’t be a Democrat or Republican issue. This is an American issue” he said this afternoon. More information on these announcements can be found here.

Congress Comes Back to the Hill

Meanwhile, the 114th Congress officially commenced Tuesday, marking the first week of business for a newly empowered Republican Party. In total, 13 new Senators and 58 new House members joined the nation’s premier deliberative body that is widely expected to pursue an ambitious legislative agenda over the next two years.

While formal legislative activity this week has centered on issues such as healthcare and energy, key lawmakers in both chambers have made clear that the reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA) will be a priority in the weeks and months to come. In fact, Chairman Kline of the House Education and the Workforce Committee hopes to have a draft bill completed by the end of March.

Similar news for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) has not been as forthcoming, but NASDCTEc and its partners remain hopeful that Congress will be able to consider the legislation during the same period.

A new Congress also brings changes to the composition of the key committees overseeing the reauthorization of these laws. In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will be chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) serving as its ranking member. In the House, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) will remain chairman of the House Education and the Workforce (HEW) Committee as Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) takes over the ranking member position from now-retired Rep. George Miller (D-CA).

Be sure to check back here for more updates as Congress sets to work on new and exciting legislation this year.

Odds and Ends

  • On Monday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that they will be delaying the release of guidance and regulations for the recently passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The department intends to release additional information later this spring despite the January 18th, 2015 deadline outlined in WIOA.  More information on the delay can be found here.
  • The U.S. Department of Education recently released updated state and program budget tables for Fiscal Year 2015. State-by-state tables are located here and program tables can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Legislative Update: Cromnibus Edges Through Congress, Administration Announces New Apprenticeship Grants

December 15th, 2014

CapitolBy narrow margins in both the House and the Senate, Congress managed to pass omnibus appropriations legislation over the weekend to fund most of the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Totaling $1.1 trillion, the legislation will fund the majority of the federal government until October 1, 2015.

Earlier in the week, House Republicans had introduced the 2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 83)— hybrid legislation that combined aspects of a continuing appropriations resolution (CR) and more comprehensive appropriations for all federal departments and agencies with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Known as a cromnibus, this legislation was heatedly debated in the House on Thursday night and passed by a margin of 219 – 206. Following the vote the Chamber adjourned for the rest of the 113th Congress and is not expected to return until the start of the new 114th Congress beginning in early January.

With the December 11th deadline for the most recent CR having come and gone, Congress also passed another short-term CR to avert a government shutdown while the bill worked its way over to the Senate for further debate this past Friday and Saturday. Despite strong opposition from conservatives and liberals alike, the cromnibus was approved in the Senate by a 56 – 40 vote late Saturday night.

On the whole, H.R. 83 largely maintains funding levels from the previous fiscal year for most programs and departments, although it cuts approximately $166 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) discretionary budget. Fortunately the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program (BSG) was excluded from these reductions. Instead this legislation level-funds the BSG program at $1.118 billion— the same amount the program received in FY 2014.

Although NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) recently urged lawmakers to fund the program at slightly higher levels, maintaining current investment levels for the BSG program is a minor victory in the context of the changing political and fiscal dynamics on Capitol Hill— particularly at time when other programs in the discretionary side of the federal budget have been forced to shoulder even larger reductions over the past several years.

H.R. 83 also contained a number of controversial policy riders— provisions unrelated to appropriations— that were the focus of much debate on the legislation. Nearly all of the most contentious riders, such as changes to campaign finance and banking laws, were ultimately included in the legislation. Despite these riders, President Obama has publicly committed to signing the legislation into law sometime this week.

Of particular interest to the CTE community was the partial restoration of the federal Pell Grant program’s “ability-to-benefit” (ATB) provision— something that NASDCTEc has been advocating for in the context of the Higher Education Act’s reauthorization. This change affords students who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, access to the federal financial aid program if they are also enrolled in a career pathways program as defined in the new law. An additional $6 million in funding was also set-aside for a competitive grant program under ED to improve data system coordination and quality at the local, state and national levels and is expected to roll-out in the coming year.

Despite the late night passage of the bill in the Senate, the Chamber remains open today and possibly further into the week as lawmakers there work on last-minute legislation and confirmations for many Obama Administration nominees for various government posts.

DOL Unveils Apprenticeship Grants

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new $100 million competitive grant program to support the expansion of apprenticeship programs in high-growth and high-skill occupational areas. The American Apprenticeship Grant (AAG) program, is the successor to last year’s Youth CareerConnect grants and are funded through H-1B visa fees. Administration and Department officials hope the program will spur an expansion of apprenticeship programs into sectors of the economy which has not traditionally used them, such as information technology, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.

Approximately 25 grants will be awarded to public-private partnerships consisting of at least one public and private entity. Eligible entities include employers, industry associations, joint labor-management organizations, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, non-profits and faith-based organizations. Grant amounts will range from $2.5 million to $5 million each and must make efforts to align and coordinate with other postsecondary education programs and career pathways available in a state or local area.

Applications are due April 30, 2015 and more information on how to apply, including program factsheets and checklists, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Congress Considers a Cromnibus, ED Announces Start of P3 Initiative

December 5th, 2014

CapitolA new term is quickly entering the beltway lexicon this holiday season— a hybrid funding approach known as a “cromnibus” is now under consideration by House Republicans which would fund most, but not all of the federal government for the remainder of the 2015 federal Fiscal Year (FY). As we have shared previously, Congress failed to enact the necessary appropriations legislation earlier this summer to fund governmental operations in FY 2015.

To avert another government shutdown, lawmakers passed a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) in late September which temporarily extended FY 2014 funding levels into FY 2015 which began on October 1 of this year. Unfortunately, this extension resulted in a 0.054 percent across-the-board cut to all discretionary programs, including the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) basic state grant program, because of lower revenue levels and lost savings elsewhere in the federal budget in FY 2015. Since that time, Congress has struggled to come to a longer-term agreement for how to fund the federal government past the current CR’s expiration date on December 11, 2014.

NASDCTEc and its partners in the Career Technical Education (CTE) community have recently called on Congress to pass comprehensive omnibus appropriations legislation in lieu of another temporary funding measure. An omnibus would replace the current CR with a consolidated package of the necessary 12 individual appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government— a move which would give greater certainty to the CTE community regarding future funding levels for the Perkins Act’s basic state grant program.

Despite a number of obstacles over the past several weeks, House Republicans now seem to be coalescing around the legislative strategy of a cromnibus—legislation which fuses an omnibus and a CR into one bill. In this proposal, eleven out of the 12 annual appropriations bills— including the legislation which funds the U.S. Department of Education and relatedly the Perkins Act— would receive funding for the remainder of FY 2015. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the primary federal agency tasked with implementing President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, would receive another temporary funding bill into the early part of next year.

In pursuing this strategy, House Republicans hope to leverage future concessions on immigration policy from the Obama Administration using a series of CRs to fund DHS moving forward. While a final version of this legislation has yet to be released, Congressional Democrats and President Obama have not said whether they would accept such a deal, although more recently both have signaled they may be open to such an approach. Democratic receptiveness to the cromnibus approach will likely hinge on the inclusion of other “policy riders” in the legislation— something that both parties in Congress are currently negotiating.

Check back here early next week when NASDCTEc expects further Congressional activity on federal funding.

U.S. Department of Education Announces P3 Initiative

As we shared earlier this year, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Labor (DOL), and Health & Human Services (HHS) announced a new initiative to more effectively support disconnected youth by granting additional flexibility to existing federally-funded programs to develop innovative solutions and strategies in local communities across the country.

Dubbed Performance Pilot Partnerships, or P3 for short, the agencies will select ten local applications to launch pilot projects using additional flexibility for existing discretionary grant programs administered by the agencies. Local Perkins grant recipients are among the programs eligible to participate in these pilots. An additional $700,000 in funding will be available for successful applicants who the departments hope will “braid” existing funding streams together in new ways to more effectively support disconnected youth.

Applications are due by March 4, 2105 and the winners of the project will be announced further into next year. More information on P3 can be found here and application details can be accessed here.

Senator Harkin Introduces HEA Proposal

Just before Thanksgiving last week, soon-to-be-retired Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, formally introduced the Higher Education and Affordability Act. The bill seeks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act which is set to expire in the coming year.

Although the bill will not move out of the HELP Committee prior to the new 114th Congress set to begin next year, the legislation does contain a number of promising proposals which NASDCTEc has been supportive of including:

  • Restoring the Pell Grant Program’s “Ability-to-Benefit” and “Year-round Pell” provisions
  • Repealing the ban on the creation of student unit record system and enable accurate measurement of postsecondary student outcomes
  • Strengthening support for early college and dual enrollment programs
  • Encouraging employer-community college partnerships

NASDCTEc applauds the Senator’s commitment to affordable high-quality postsecondary education and looks forward to reauthorization process of HEA in the New Year. More information on the bill can be found here and the text of the legislation is located here. The next incoming Chairman for the HELP Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), is widely expected to prioritize the reauthorization of HEA in the next Congress.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Congress Continues to Struggle on Appropriations Ahead of Presidential Announcement, VP Biden Talks CTE

November 20th, 2014

CapitolFollowing the midterm elections earlier this month, Congress reconvened last week to begin their final “lame duck” session of the 113th Congress. As the Republican Party prepares to take control of the Senate and with it the entire Congress, lawmakers must still grapple with a number of pressing issues before setting to work in the 114th Congress beginning in the New Year. Topping the list of Congressional to-do’s over the next several weeks is the need to pass legislation to fund the government to avert another shutdown of federal operations— something that only too recently happened late last year.

As we have previously shared, Congress failed to pass the necessary appropriations legislation to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Instead, lawmakers passed a temporary stopgap funding measure known as a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extended FY 2014 spending levels into the current 2015 federal fiscal year that began on October 1, 2014. However due to differences in revenue levels and lost savings elsewhere in the federal budget, this extension resulted in an across-the-board cut of 0.054 percent to all programs, including the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins).

Until recently, it was widely anticipated that a comprehensive omnibus appropriations bill— legislation that combines all of the necessary 12 appropriations bills into one package— would be passed by Congress sometime before the expiration date for the CR on December 11 of this year. Doing so would replace the current CR with a long-term agreement on federal spending until the next fiscal year and could possibly restore some of the funding reductions that were a result of the CR’s passage this past September. Senator Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), the current Appropriations Committee Chairpersons in both the Senate and the House, have been working to finalize such a bill for the past several weeks and appear to be close to a final agreement.

However, it remains uncertain at this time if lawmakers will be able come to such an agreement before the December 11th deadline. Congressional Republicans and the Obama Administration are currently at odds over a widely expected Executive Action from the President on immigration— an announcement that will likely occur this evening. Many Republican lawmakers are opposed to such a move and have debated a number of responses including passing another short-term CR or possibly passing an Omnibus, but eliminating funding for federal departments or agencies which carry out aspects of the President’s expected action on immigration. Publicly, the Republican Party remains divided on how they will respond— whether through the appropriations process or otherwise.

Nonetheless, as Chairman Rogers recently pointed out, “We need to do an omnibus bill funding the entire government for the rest of the year, and get that whole business behind us, so that come January, [we] will have a clean slate rather than looking backwards to old fights that we could look forward to making positive changes.” NASDCTEc applauds this sentiment and remains hopeful that Congress will pass a comprehensive omnibus bill for the remainder of FY 2015. Along with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), NASDCTEc has recently called on Congress to pass this much needed legislation and restore the remaining cuts to the Perkins Act.

As this process unfolds we urge you, the Career Technical Education community, to do the same. Don’t know who your members of Congress are? Find out here.

AFL-CIO & AFT Host Vice President Biden for CTE & Workforce Development Summit

vpbidenLate last week, the AFL-CIO, along with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), hosted a “Career and Technical Education (CTE) Workforce Development Summit” which explored the ways CTE and workforce development programs can create multiple pathways for student success. “CTE has the promise and potential to help equip a new generation of workers with the skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and to forge a new path to college and life,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

Vice President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address for the event, emphasizing the importance of education and employer partnerships. “These partnerships provide a seamless transition so folks can go from a classroom to a job, and from job to job within the industry they’re in,” he said, adding, “We have to maintain and enhance our workforce so we have the most sophisticated, best-trained workforce in the world.” Later on in the day, Snap-on Inc. Chairman and CEO, Nicholas Pinchuk couched this in even clearer terms declaring, ““We are in a global competition for jobs and the single best weapon is CTE. We need to out-skill the competition.”

During the all-day summit, several panels explored a number of CTE and workforce development issues, including employer engagement, apprenticeship programs, effectively using labor market information and strategies for scaling up other innovative education and workforce program models. Yet, the most common theme throughout the day centered on CTE’s evolution over the past several decades from vocational education and into today’s modern conception of CTE. Nearly every panelist agreed that today’s CTE has made extraordinary progress and is now very much a viable pathway for any number of postsecondary and career ambitions.

U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, capped off the day with a rousing address on the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) work on apprenticeships. Perez made a number of references to DOL’s upcoming grant program, the America Apprenticeship Initiative.  Grantees for this $100 million program— the successor to last year’s Youth CareerConnect grants— are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

More information on the summit can be found here.

NASDCTEc Finalizes Higher Education Recommendations

With the next Congress widely expected to take up the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the consideration of the nation’s primary legislation governing the nation’s postsecondary education system presents a unique opportunity for the CTE community to have their voices heard as this process unfolds. To that end, NASDCTEc has recently finalized a set of recommendations for the reauthorization of the legislation which can be viewed here.

Odds & Ends

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) recently released a document outlining the “pillars” of his vision for a new Republican Congressional majority. Although education is part of this platform, the Perkins Act and CTE more generally were notably absent.

Yesterday the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education hosted a town hall listening session on the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to aid in implementation of the new law. More recently, the Department of Education released a short video outlining the various intersection points between WIOA and Perkins IV.

The U.S. Department of Education’s recently finalized regulations defining “gainful employment” have been challenged in court by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Pending action by the court system, these regulations are still set to go into effect next year.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

Midterm Elections Place Republicans in Control of Congress, Gainful Employment Regulations Finalized

November 6th, 2014

CapitolThe long anticipated 2014 midterm elections took place on Tuesday, ushering in a wave of new Republicans into both chambers of Congress. The central question ahead of these elections rested on the balance of power in the Senate and with it full Republican control of the entire Congress. Late Tuesday night, that question was finally put to rest. As of this post, the GOP has picked up seven new seats in the Senate, with three races still in contention. In the House the results were much the same, with the Republicans swelling their majority in that Chamber to at least 243 and possibly 250— a high water mark for the Republican Party not seen since 1928.

Although a few races are still in contention, the Republican Party looks poised to add additional seats in both Chambers over the next several weeks, as the elections results continue to trickle in. Democrats who have served in both the House and the Senate on the Chambers’ respective education and appropriations committees have lost their seats which, along with the influx of new Republican lawmakers to the Capitol, will significantly change the composition of the Committees that oversee and ultimately fund the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) along with other key education and workforce programs.

Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) along with Representative Tim Bishop (D-NY), who have served on education and appropriations committees in both Chambers have all lost reelection. Two others including Senators Beigich (D-AK) and Landrieu (D-LA), are in races whose final outcome have yet to be determined.

So what does this all mean for the Career Technical Education community? First and foremost, the key Committees in both Chambers which will oversee the reauthorization of the Perkins Act— the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House’s Education and the Workforce (HEW) Committee— will look dramatically different in the 114th Congress which is set to convene formally on January 3rd, 2015.

Current Ranking Member of the Senate’s HELP Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), will likely become Chairman of this influential committee, where he is expected to prioritize the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA) in the committee’s legislative queue. Additionally, the retirement of Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) has positioned Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to likely take the Ranking Member position on the HELP Committee next January. Both Senators Alexander and Murray were among the main architects behind recent reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act— evidence that the two could also work in bipartisan fashion on other education and workforce issues.

In the House current HEW Chairman, John Kline (R-MN), is expected to retain his position pending Republican leadership approval of a request for a term-limit  extension to stay on as Chair (current House rules cap panel leadership at three terms). For the Democrats, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) is anticipated to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of current HEW Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA).

With the Republican Party set to take the reins of Congressional power early next year, the question now shifts to what education and workforce legislation— possibly including the Perkins Act— will be prioritized in a new Congress. Nevertheless, the current “lame duck” Congress still has much to accomplish beginning next week when both Chambers are set to reconvene.

As we have previously shared, Congress passed a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extended Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 spending levels into the current FY 2015. This stopgap funding measure is set to expire on December 11th of this year and Congress must act to fund the federal government past that date. NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) have called on Congress to pass a comprehensive omnibus spending bill to replace the current CR and restore funding to the Perkins basic state grant program. Senate Democrats recently circulated a similar request last month.

As all of this and more unfolds over the coming weeks and months, check back here for more information and updates.

Gainful Employment Regulations Finalized and Released

Last Friday, the Obama Administration’s Department of Education (ED) released the final version of its widely anticipated “gainful employment” regulations which impact postsecondary institutions offering career education programs. These newly finalized rules, set to go into effect July 1st, 2015, regulate institutional eligibility to access Title IV federal student aid under the Higher Education Act (HEA). Current law requires that most for-profit programs and certificate programs at non-profit and public institutions prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” to access Title IV student aid money. However, current statute does not fully define the term “gainful employment” and these regulations have sought to do just that.

As we have previously shared, these regulations are the result of nearly five years of off-and-on negotiated rulemaking sessions between a broad swath of the higher education community and ED. A previous attempt by the Department to implement new gainful employment regulations was struck down by a federal district court in 2012 which ruled that the rules were arbitrarily constructed and applied, but upheld ED’s authority to make a new, more fully justified set in the future. Last Friday, after months of negotiated rulemaking sessions failed to reach consensus agreement, ED released the final version of these regulations for public consumption.

Under the proposed regulations gainful employment will be measured using three criteria which ED hopes will identify and weed out the lowest-performing programs among the institutions and programs these regulations apply to. Almost all programs at for-profit postsecondary institutions, as well as non-degree programs at public and private nonprofit institutions, including some community colleges and area career technical education centers, will be subject to these new regulations which include:

  • Certification Requirements: Institutions must certify that their gainful employment programs meet accreditation standards, along with state or federal licensure requirements.
  • Accountability Metrics: To remain eligible to receive Title IV funds, gainful employment programs must meet two minimum standards for their graduates’ debt-to-earnings; less than 8 percent of total earnings or less than 20 percent of discretionary earnings.
  • Public Transparency: Institutions must make performance and outcome data— including costs, graduate earnings, debt and completion rates— publicly available for each of their gainful employment programs.

The Department’s factsheet which lays out these metrics in a bit more detail, can be found here.

Significantly, ED did not include a program cohort default rate (pCDR) as a third accountability metric— a measure which was included in the Department’s initial proposal this past spring. Many community colleges and sub-associate degree institutions argued that a pCDR metric would unfairly penalize their programs whose students largely do not receive any federal student aid.

While these regulations are set to go into effect July 1st, 2015, a transition period for institutions to meet the more stringent debt-to-earnings metrics will be established over the next seven years to allow programs to make the necessary changes to meet these new requirements. A press release from ED, containing more information can be found here and the final regulations can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

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

September 29th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Obama Administration Announces TAACCCT Grants

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

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

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

Senators Introduce CTE Teacher Training Legislation

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

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

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

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

September 15th, 2014

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

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

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

Senate CTE Caucus Hosts Briefing on CTE and Literacy

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

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

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

Odds and Ends

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

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

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

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

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

September 11th, 2014

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

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

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

Senators Introduce Middle STEP Act

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

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

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

OCTAE Briefing on RPOS

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

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

Odds and Ends

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

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

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

 

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