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CTE Caucus Comes to the Senate, White House Releases Additional Information on SOTU

January 31st, 2014

CapitolYesterday morning Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) announced the creation of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, a bipartisan endeavor focused on promoting CTE inside the Chamber and throughout the country. The Senate CTE Caucus, much like its counterpart in the House of Representatives, seeks to “support efforts to ensure all students have access to high-quality, rigorous career and technical education to prepare them for college and for their future careers.”

During yesterday’s announcement, Senator Kaine explained that his interest in CTE stemmed from one of his defining achievements as Governor of Virginia through the creation of CTE Academies in his home state. Expressing his passion for CTE, Senator Kaine described how CTE programs “strengthen the links between the classroom and the workplace, helping students acquire the education and skills that will help them find employment and enjoy productive, successful lives after graduation.”

Senator Portman tied his interest in the creation of the caucus to some of the priorities highlighted in President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this week. “We must close this skills gap to get Americans working again,” he said.  “One way we can do that is by focusing on Career and Technical Education that equips workers with credentials, certificates, and other training that will match them with open jobs.”

The caucus’s formation coincides with the arrival of CTE month in February and Congress’s consideration of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act— the sole piece of federal legislation which supports CTE programs throughout the country and represents the largest investment in America’s high schools. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium welcomes the strengthened interest in CTE within the Senate and looks forward to working with the newly formed caucus as they begin a drive for membership within the Chamber.

Senators Kaine and Portman have created a great new opportunity for CTE advocates to have their voices represented in Congress. You can help by contacting your Senator or Representative and urging them to join either of these CTE Caucuses. Remember, the CTE community— that is YOU— are the experts, so please share your knowledge and passion for CTE with Congress as these initiatives and much more get underway.

Don’t know who represents you in Congress? Find out here!

White House Releases SOTU Supplements

Yesterday, the White House released a supplemental fact sheet to more fully outline the proposals contained in President Obama’s State of the Union speech. The fact sheet goes into greater detail about Vice President Joe Biden’s across-the-board review of existing federal workforce training and education programs and lays out actionable next-steps for how to achieve some of the overarching objectives set by the President in Tuesday’s address.

Of particular note to the CTE community is the Administration’s refocused goals for the Trade Adjustment Assistance & Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program. The President has directed the Labor Department’s Secretary Perez to focus the selection criteria for the program on “job-driven training strategies” which seek to replicate nationally “job-driven training partnerships between regional employers and national industry associations that advance the best practices identified throughout the immediate stakeholder consultations.” TAACCCT, in its final round of funding totaling more than $500 million, is available to community colleges and other eligible postsecondary institutions throughout the country and will likely be a core element to accomplishing the President’s “Opportunity for All” agenda in the coming year.

More information on the TAACCCT grant program can be found here.

Senator Alexander Introduces School Voucher Bill

Earlier this week Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ranking Member of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Scholarships for Kids Act. This legislation proposes to consolidate a number of existing education programs to fund $2,100 scholarships for 11 million low-income students across the country in an effort to afford greater access to any public or private accredited school of their parent’s choice.

To pay for these scholarships Senator Alexander has proposed repealing Titles II through VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and a great many other programs under Title I of that Act. For instance, it proposes repealing programs that support magnet and charter schools, a move which would oddly limit the options available to many students and their families— something the bill is aiming to promote not diminish.

Most importantly for the CTE community, the entire Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) has also been included in this proposed consolidation. Unlike ESEA, Senator Alexander’s proposal would repeal the entire Perkins Act, eliminating the sole federal support for CTE programs throughout the country, undermining its global competitiveness, and hampering student access to high quality CTE programs. It is important to note, that this legislation is not likely to move out of the Democrat-controlled Senate Chamber and HELP Committee. NASDCTEc will continue to monitor this and similar pieces of legislation that impact the Perkins Act and the larger CTE community as legislation continues to be introduce this year.

The full bill’s text can be found here and a press release on the legislation can be found here.

College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014

On Wednesday, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014. The proposed legislation seeks to make higher education more affordable for students and promote innovative practices in the postsecondary space that help limit the cost of college.

Among the proposals, the bill would create a pilot program that would incentivize colleges and universities to implement programs that offer high-quality education at lower costs, and reduce the overall time for degree completion. Programs such as competency-based degrees, dual-enrollment, and other accelerated degrees were among examples specifically cited in the legislation.

The accompanying press release can be found here.

The GREEN Act

Last week, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation (GREEN) Act. The legislation would provide $100 million for a competitive grant program for the development of CTE programs of study which focus on the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. The bill would also promote increased energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy practices in CTE facilities and buildings.

The press release and full text of the law can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: President Obama Delivers the State of the Union Address

January 29th, 2014

CapitolLast night, President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address which centered on a broad-based agenda to improve the level of opportunity available to most Americans. The President emphasized education as one of the core components to achieving this commendable goal. Although there were no new educational initiatives announced during his speech, he stressed the important role education has in preparing students for entry into the 21st century workforce and highlighted some of his Administration’s initiatives already underway.

One of the most encouraging aspects of last night’s address was the President’s announcement that Vice President Biden would lead reform efforts aimed at improving existing training programs. According to President Obama these efforts are designed to “train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.” Closing this skills gap was an overarching goal for the President as he highlighted the successes manufacturers have had in Detroit and elsewhere in using some of these services. In particular he stressed the need for “more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life” while urging businesses and postsecondary institutions to “design training to fill their specific needs.”

The President urged Congress to “concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs” and also highlighted his Administration’s ongoing work to “redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career.”

Taken together, these statements are encouraging for Career Technical Education (CTE). Through the combination of experiential learning opportunities and rigorous technical and academic instruction, CTE programs are providing students at all levels with relevant, real-world opportunities in and out of the classroom to better prepare them for both college and careers. As Congress considers the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act— the sole piece of federal legislation which supports CTE programs in the United States—   it will be important to build on this success in order to ensure students have the necessary skills and knowledge to be successful in today’s global economy.

Following the State of the Union speech, President Obama has announced travel plans to highlight many of the priorities outlined in his remarks. Among the many sites and cities on his itinerary, the President will speak next week at McGavock High School in Nashville, Tennessee— a school which has received honors for its CTE programs. This selection only further demonstrates the central role CTE will have in achieving much of the President’s 2014 agenda. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium applauds this planned event and looks forward to further engagement with both the Administration and Congress to further support and improve CTE programs throughout the country.

The full transcript for last night’s State of the Union can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Omnibus Spending Bill Passes Congress Amid Retirement Announcements

January 17th, 2014

CapitolAs we shared previously, last month Congress successfully came to an agreement known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. The deal set overall spending levels for the next two years and provided $63 billion of relief from the harmful spending reductions known as sequestration, split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending through FY14 and FY15. However, this agreement merely set the framework for the federal budget— it was still up to Congressional appropriators to determine the level of funding each of the departments, agencies, and programs would receive under the new $1.012 trillion overall spending level established under the deal.

For the past month appropriators have been in negotiations to craft 12 individual spending bills as part of a larger omnibus spending package which incorporates each into a single piece of legislation. Earlier this week, details of the omnibus appropriations bill were announced and an additional $53 million was appropriated for the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins). This increase, best understood in comparison to the previously lower levels mandated by sequestration, will provide additional funding for the basic state grant program under Perkins which will help alleviate some of the fiscal pressures placed on states over the past few years due to austerity measures at the national level.

The bill also proposes a change to the name of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) to the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) among other general provisions included in the legislation. Both the House and the Senate have passed the omnibus bill by wide margins and it has been sent to President Obama for final passage which is expected shortly. As Congress considers the reauthorization of Perkins in 2014, this increase in appropriations is a vote of confidence for the CTE community and the opportunities they provide for students across the country. NASDCTEc and its partners applaud these positive developments and look forward to working constructively in the coming year to renew this important law.

Changes to the House Education and Workforce Committee as Miller, McKeon Make Exits

Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) have each announced this week that they will not be seeking reelection. Both members currently serve on the House Education and Workforce Committee (HEW) and have had long distinguished careers in the House of Representatives.  Interestingly both have also served as former Chairmen of the HEW and have been champions of education issues throughout their long service. These announcements come at a time when Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) is also set to retire next year, leaving his post as Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee. These announcements will have larger implications for the composition and leadership of each committee in the next Congress, likely impacting the legislative priorities for each. NASDCTEc would like to thank each of these members for their many years of service and for their dedication to education issues throughout their long tenures in Congress.

NGA Sets Out 2014 Agenda

On Wednesday the National Governors Association (NGA) held its annual State of the States Address. NGA Chair and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin along with NGA’s Vice Chair and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper both offered remarks which laid out the association’s agenda for the coming year. Although the association expressed frustration with recent Congressional gridlock, they outlined the contours of a partnership between the federal government and the states which they termed “flexible federalism”— something that they argued would give states greater flexibility in determining how best to implement and administer programs and policies to better fit their unique needs.

Among the many priority areas outlined in the address, NGA urged Congressional action on a number of education and workforce development legislation including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and certain provisions of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Governor Fallin stressed the importance of aligning education and workforce programs to the needs of businesses and labor markets, while also calling for wider adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Although there was no direct mention of the Carl D. Perkins Act in the address, many of the themes contained in the Governors’ remarks touched on the importance of Career Technical Education and highlighted the need for some form postsecondary education as a “new minimum” for entry into “America’s 21st Century workforce.”

The full address can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Spending Bills Continue to Take Shape, OVAE Continues PIAAC Engagement Process

January 10th, 2014

CapitolAs we shared in our last update, Congressional budget negotiators successfully came to a two year agreement on federal spending levels in late December. The agreement, known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA), sets overall discretionary spending levels at $1.012 trillion and reduces sequester cuts by approximately one-third— $63 billion in sequester relief split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending over the next two years. Education programs— such as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) — fall under the NDD section of the budget and are set to receive an additional $24 billion in funding for fiscal year 2014.

However, this agreement was only the first step in the larger federal budget and appropriations process. Congressional appropriators must now craft the 12 individual appropriations bills— one for each of the appropriations subcommittees in both the House and Senate—  to fund the various departments, agencies, and programs which account for the entire discretionary side of the federal budget. These 12 spending bills will then be put into a larger omnibus bill, which will then need to be passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. It is important to note that the most current Continuing Resolution (CR), which at present is funding the federal government, expires on January 15th. With this deadline fast approaching, House Republican leaders have announced a short-term three day extension of this CR to provide adequate time for passage of the larger omnibus spending bill next week.

Of these twelve spending bills, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, from which the Perkins Act draws its funding, is still being negotiated. Appropriators are still deciding how to best to distribute their portion of the $24 billion in discretionary sequester relief among the many programs under their jurisdiction and a final agreement is expected soon. NASDCTEc and ACTE recently sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the appropriations subcommittees, urging them to restore funding for the Perkins Act to pre-sequestration levels. As this process continues, please check back here for updates and analysis on how the Perkins Act and the CTE community will be impacted by this process.

OVAE Continues PIAAC Engagement Process

Last November, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released results from its Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) which found that one in six American adults lack basic skills in literacy and numeracy. In a report titled “Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says,” the OECD found that the U.S. lags behind the international average for basic skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving.

To combat these troubling findings, the Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) launched an engagement process to better understand these challenges and to help develop a national strategy to reverse these trends. On Wednesday Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, hosted the third of a planned total of five regional engagement sessions, the latest taking place in Redwood City, California. Dann-Messier and her office hope to gather feedback from communities across the country to develop a response to the OECD report and have planned two additional visits to Cleveland, MS and Boston, MA in the coming months.

Additional information regarding OVAE’s engagement process can be found here.

Senate Passes Budget Deal, BLS Releases New Employment Projections

December 20th, 2013

CapitolOn Wednesday, the Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA) by a vote of 64-36 sending the measure to President Obama who is expected to sign the bill into law sometime this week. This is the first budget bill successfully passed by both chambers of Congress since 2009 and establishes overall spending levels for the next two years. As we shared last week, the deal reduces FY14 and FY15 sequester cuts by approximately $63 billion. These reductions are paid in part by increased airline fees, pension benefit cuts for federal workers, and a two-year extension of parts of the current sequester past the original 2021 expiration date.

It is important to note that the BBA only sets a top line budget number, or 302(a) allocation, which puts into place a FY14 funding cap of $1.012 trillion for all discretionary spending. Congressional appropriators must still craft 12 individual spending bills— known as 302(b) allocations— to fund the various agencies, departments, and programs that compose much of the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Education and the appropriations bill that funds the Perkins Act. It is hoped that House and Senate Appropriations Committees can incorporate the individual spending measures into a larger omnibus bill before the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on January 15, 2014.

As the appropriations process continues, NASDCTEc and its partners in the Career Technical Education (CTE) community are actively seeking a restoration of the $58 million sequester reduction sustained by Perkins. Please check our blog in the coming weeks as this process continues.

BLS Releases New Employment Projections

Yesterday, The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released updated employment projections for 2012 to 2022. Total employment over the next decade is projected to increase by 10.8 percent or 15.6 million with occupations in the Health Science and Human Services Career Clusters® accounting for much of that growth. When taking into account replacement needs— the need to replace workers who permanently leave their occupation or retire— total job openings are projected to be 50.6 million during this period with replacement needs accounting for over two-thirds of that figure.

These projections are essential to planning one’s future educational and career goals. For instance, in 2012 approximately one-third of all jobs in the U.S. required some form of postsecondary education. Yet between 2012 and 2022, close to two-thirds of the occupations projected to grow the fastest will require some form of postsecondary education. Moreover, occupations typically requiring apprenticeships are expected to grow by over 22 percent. The full press release from BLS can be found here.

As these trends continue, the need for some form of postsecondary education or additional training beyond a high school diploma will become even more pronounced. CTE programs are vital to preparing students for these rapidly changing requirements for entry into the workforce. Through rigorous coursework and experiential learning opportunities, CTE programs across the country are preparing students to meet the needs of the 21st century economy.

OMB Releases Super Circular

Yesterday the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the Uniform Guidance: Cost Principles, Audit, and Administrative Requirements for Federal Awards or “Super Circular” as it is more commonly known for public inspection on the Federal Register. The Super Circular marks OMB’s latest attempt to streamline the administration of grants and awards by the federal government through the consolidation of eight other OMB circulars into one. The full text can be found here. The finalized guidelines and rules are expected to be published on December 26, 2013.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Gainful Employment Negotiators Meet, Budget Deal Moves to the Senate

December 13th, 2013

CapitolToday the Department of Education’s (ED) negotiated rulemaking committee wraps up the third round of negotiations on newly proposed regulations and stricter standards regarding “gainful employment” for vocational education programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions. As we shared last year, an earlier effort by ED to establish rules concerning debt repayment and “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” were struck down by a D.C. district court. The ruling, a victory for many for-profits, preserved ED’s authority to make such rules, but made clear that any new regulations must have clearer justification. These regulations impact postsecondary students’ ability to use federal financial aid at an institution considered to be failing under the proposed guidelines.

Negotiations between representatives of for-profits institutions, community colleges, and other relevant stakeholders are discussing ED’s most recent set of regulations which are somewhat different than its much stricter proposal sent out last month. This latest set of rules no longer evaluates programs on loan portfolio repayment rates and also drops the 40 percent cohort default rate detailed in our update last month. Instead graduates of programs whose loan payments comprise 30 percent or more of discretionary income or 12 percent of total income would fail. A program default rate of 30 percent or more for three consecutive years would also fail under these new proposed regulations. In addition to these changes, programs which fall within ranges close to failure would be required to send students, prior to enrollment, a written warning informing students that their ability to use federal financial aid at their institution is in jeopardy and that their program may not fully prepare them to pay off the amount of debt they are likely to incur.

These more stringent regulations would affect 11,735 programs and 13 percent of that figure would fail under these new rules. ED has released a summary of how many programs would be impacted under this proposal which can be found here. It is important to note that the committee’s final guidance is non-binding and ED can still move forward on new gainful employment rules with or without consensus from the committee. An overview of the rules can be found here and the draft can be found here. Please check our blog for more updates as this process continues.

Budget Deal Update

Yesterday, the House passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA) the details of which we shared on Wednesday. The bill sets total discretionary spending levels to $1.012 trillion for FY14 and substitutes $63 billion of sequester cuts over the next two years. The House overwhelming supported the two-year budget agreement on a 332-94 vote and it has now moved on to the Senate where it is pending consideration. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday next week and President Obama has indicated that he will sign it into law.

NASDCTEc applauds this initial first step by Congress to inject much needed certainty into the budget process and to partially reverse a portion of the highly damaging sequester cuts. However, further Congressional action is still needed to more fully address the federal disinvestment in education programs over the past several years. At a time when the American economy is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, restoring funding to Career Technical Education (CTE) programs is critically important to safeguarding the economic vitality of the United States for years to come.

JPMorgan Chase Announces New Job Skills Program

Yesterday, JPMorgan Chase unveiled a five-year $250 million initiative that seeks to address the United States’ skills gap— a problem the IMF says accounts for approximately one-third of the current unemployment rate. The New Skills at Work initiative was announced in D.C. in conjunction with the Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel and hosted by the Aspen Institute. “Addressing the skills gap can be one of our most powerful tools for reducing unemployment and creating more broadly shared prosperity” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told those in attendance. The initiative will invest $50 million annually over the next five years in metropolitan areas across the United States and Europe and will fund research and training programs to improve upon existing workforce development and educational efforts in these areas.

One such proposal, “Workforce Readiness Gap Reports”, would help facilitate data-driven investments by producing detailed reports on regional labor markets and identify areas where there are skill shortages. It is hoped that eventually these reports will help guide workforce investment decisions and allow employers to better communicate the specific skills they are currently seeking. New Skills at Work will also support successful training programs already in existence such as Chicago’s College to Careers program (among other such programs) and seek to improve upon those accomplishments. A list of specific grants and partnerships to be funded under New Skills at Work is expected in early 2014. More information on this new initiative can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Congressional Budget Conference Committee Reaches a Deal

December 11th, 2013

CapitolLate yesterday evening, the budget conference committee came to an agreement on the federal budget for the next two years. Co-chaired by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the committee successfully crafted the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 which amends by way of substitution the Continuing Appropriations Resolution 2014 (H.J.Res. 59) the stalled continuing resolution (CR) or short-term spending measure which failed in Congress earlier this fall. As we shared last week, the proposed deal would raise the allowable 2014 spending level to $1.012 trillion— a figure that falls directly between the $967 billion level supported by many Republicans and the $1.058 trillion level supported by many Democrats.

The agreement, which still needs to be approved by both chambers of Congress, replaces $63 billion of sequester cuts over the next two years. The deal provides $45 billion in sequester relief for FY14, split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending. This means that NDD programs will receive $22.5 billion this year above the existing sequester caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) accounting for an 87 percent restoration of total spending on domestic discretionary programs including education. In FY15, $9 billion will be allocated to NDD programs in much the same way, although aggregate spending caps for discretionary spending will not rise to the same degree as the previous year.

If passed, it is important to note that this budget deal only sets a top-line spending level known as a 302(a) allocation and would still require additional bicameral negotiations for the 12 necessary individual spending bills— or 302(b) allocations— to fully fund the federal government.  This gives House and Senate Appropriations Committees a little over a month to figure out how to divide up appropriations according to this new total.

While this agreement would provide significant relief from sequestration for FY14, it still does not address these mandated cuts to the same degree for FY15 and beyond. Nonetheless the deal, while far from perfect, is a good initial step from Congress to begin addressing the harmful effects sequestration has had on the CTE community and other NDD programs as a whole. A summary of the proposal can be found here and the full text of the agreement can be found here. Please check our blog for updates as this process continues.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

House Holds Hearing on Federal Aid, Conference Committee Inches Closer to Deal

December 6th, 2013

House Holds HEA Hearing Focusing on Pell Grants

CapitolOn Tuesday the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held the eleventh in a series of planned hearings on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. The hearing titled, “Keeping College Within Reach: Strengthening Pell Grants for Future Generations” focused on the federal Pell Grant program, authorized under Title IV of HEA, and ways in which it could be improved. Recently, the effectiveness of the Pell Grant program has increasingly come under scrutiny and proposals to change aspects of the grant have been numerous and varied.

While some members of the subcommittee voiced concern about the long-term solvency of the Pell program, there was no question regarding the critical importance the grant program has towards its fundamental goal of improving access to postsecondary education. Witnesses put forward a host of recommendations to improve upon this overarching goal. Among many policy proposals a few stood out: simplifying the application process, reducing barriers to access for non-traditional students, increasing grant amounts, strengthening eligibility requirements, and the creation of a “Pell Well” to encourage persistence rates.

These policy recommendations are encouraging, but those on the subcommittee and their witnesses failed to address a central issue affecting many who need federal financial aid the most. Under current law the Pell Grant program— like other federal financial aid— is not available to students taking “noncredit courses.” However, these programs often award certificates or other postsecondary credentials which are crucial for students who are entering a labor market where 65 percent of all job openings in 2020 will require some form of education beyond high school.

At a time when a certificate is now the second most awarded postsecondary credential in the country, excluding these students from federal aid assistance eligibility is counterproductive, undermines the global competiveness of the United States, and needlessly punishes students who often need federal assistance the most. NASDCTEc and its partners in the CTE community urge Congress to address this oversight as the reauthorization process continues.

An archived webcast of the hearing can be found here. The Senate HELP committee announced today another HEA hearing, this time on accreditation and is scheduled for December 12th next week. Check our blog for updates as this process continues to unfold.

Budget Conference Committee Nears a Deal

With the December 13th deadline fast approaching, members of the budget conference committee have kept a possible deal on the budget mostly under wraps. The committee, formed as part of the deal which ended the most recent government shutdown, originally envisioned a larger budget agreement which would have incorporated tax and entitlement reform along with additional tax revenue. Details of a possible deal have been emerging, one that would be much smaller in scope and size. No topline number for discretionary spending— known as a 302(a) allocation— has been agreed to yet, which would put an overall cap on discretionary spending for FY 2014.

Sources close to the committee have said it will likely fall somewhere  near $1 trillion, putting it directly between the $967 level supported by Republicans and the $1.058 trillion level pushed by Democrats.  A higher cap on discretionary spending would replace some, but not all of the sequester cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) for FY14 and FY15 to a lesser extent. NASDCTEc will continue to update the CTE community on the progress of these negotiations as details of an agreement become clearer.

Education Secretary Speaks at ACTE Conference

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the keynote speaker at the Association for Career Technical Education’s (ACTE) annual conference on Wednesday. The Secretary organized his remarks around the Obama Administration’s 2012 Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education and on the Education Department’s (ED) recent creation of the Youth CareerConnect competitive grant program in conjunction with the Department of Labor. Secretary Duncan reiterated ED’s CTE priorities for the reauthorization of Perkins saying, “these grants are designed to complement, not replace, the Perkins Blueprint. We plan to make up to forty grants, on an ambitious timeline. We expect to announce the awards early next year.” More information on this program, including the deadline which is in late January 2014, can be found here.

House Considers Reauthorization of the COMPETES Act

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing last month to consider the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 111-358). COMPETES was last reauthorized in 2010 and supports investment in scientific research as well as requiring better federal coordination of its STEM programs. The subcommittee had witnesses testify and provide feedback on a discussion draft of legislation titled Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act which is part of the broader reauthorization effort for the COMPETES Act.

The draft legislation is similar in purpose to the Obama Administration’s FY14 budget request, which proposed a reorganization of existing STEM education programs within the federal government through the consolidation or elimination of 120 existing programs, bringing the total number of federal STEM education programs to 110. According to the subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-IN), the discussion draft, “improves coordination for federal STEM programs and recognizes the importance of industry investment in outcome-oriented STEM education efforts.” Members of the committee emphasized that the draft legislation was still in the early stages of development and that amendments and other changes to it were likely. Check back at our blog as these reauthorization efforts progress.

Commerce Secretary Announces New Departmental Focus

Last month Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced a new policy agenda for the Commerce Department after a four-month “listening tour” where the Secretary met with hundreds of business representatives across the country. For the first time in its history, skills will be a core priority for the department. According to Secretary Pritzker, “too many jobs are going unfilled when millions of Americans are still looking for work.” In an effort to better address this skills gap she argued that better coordination between her Department and the Departments of Education and Labor would, “better align federal funding for workforce development to support demand-driven skills training.” NASDCTEc supports the Commerce Department’s encouraging steps towards prioritizing skills training and looks forward to their future work in the area. The Secretary’s full speech can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: House Holds Perkins Hearing, DOL Announces New Grant Program

November 19th, 2013

CapitolToday the House Education and Workforce Committee held a full committee hearing on the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins). Titled, “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: Improving the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act,” the hearing provided committee members the opportunity to discuss and consider a wide range of proposals to improve and strengthen the main piece of federal legislation that supports Career Technical Education (CTE) throughout the United States.

The hearing was very well attended and members of the Committee along with their witnesses expressed enthusiasm for the historically bipartisan legislation and support for CTE. An archived webcast of the event can be accessed here.

Four distinguished witnesses participated in the hearing and provided insights and expert opinions on how to improve upon existing legislation. They included:

  • The Honorable Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Adult and Vocational Education for the Department of Education
  • Mr. Stanley Litow, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs for IBM and President of the IBM International Foundation
  • Dr. Blake Flanders, Vice President of Workforce Development for the Kansas Board of Regents
  • Dr. Bryan Albrecht, President of Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Dann-Messier was the first to speak and began by laying out the four broad themes in the April 2012 Obama Administration’s proposal for Perkins reauthorization – Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education. She argued for:

  • Increased alignment between CTE programs and the labor market
  • Better accountability measures for programs
  • More support for innovation
  • Improved collaboration between secondary and postsecondary learner levels

Litow’s testimony primarily revolved around IBM’s Pathways to Technology program, commonly known as P-TECH, and highlighted some of the successes currently being observed there. He advocated for programs to be better aligned to the labor market and emphasized the importance of business and industry relationships with CTE programs and called for more robust partnerships that provide students with meaningful experiential learning opportunities.

Flanders highlighted Kansas’ ongoing efforts to support and grow CTE programs throughout his state and emphasized areas in which those successes could be replicated on a national scale. A main theme throughout his remarks focused on the need for CTE students to finish programs with industry recognized, nationally portable credentials or certificates.  To help with this, Dr. Flanders proposed a centralized clearinghouse for credential data which could be accessed by states. He also voiced his support for increasing the allowable amount for a state reserve fund from 10 percent to 50 percent of a state’s local fund allocation to support greater flexibility for states.

Albrecht spoke last and focused his comments on the need for stronger relationships between secondary and postsecondary institutions. He stressed the value of his institution’s relationship with the Kenosha Unified School District saying, “Students beginning in grade 9 are exposed to college faculty and curriculum throughout their high school experience” and by the graduation they “will have earned between 18 [and] 40 college credits, building a pathway to college and career success.” Albrecht also spoke about the importance of employer engagement and listed the many ways in which Gateway has partnered with businesses to supplement CTE programs at his institution.

Committee members asked a great deal of questions following the testimony, which allowed witnesses to expand on various aspects of their remarks. Many Committee members took the opportunity to voice concern over the Administration’s proposals for competitive funding. Questions regarding equitable access to CTE programs and the unintended negative consequences that could arise from that type of distribution were raised throughout. Members also asked witnesses for recommendations and insights for how best to encourage CTE program partnerships with business and industry. Although no clear consensus was made regarding that, witnesses did reiterate the importance of private sector engagement with CTE programs and stressed that partnerships— rather than sponsorships— were indicative of quality business engagement.

Chairman Kline concluded the hearing by saying the committee intends to continue its work on reauthorizing the Perkins Act and that he looks forward to, “working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in hopes we can craft smart, bipartisan proposals to strengthen career and technical education in America.” NASDCTEc and the CTE community welcome the renewed Congressional interest in Perkins and CTE and look forward to working with the committee throughout the process. Check our blog for details as reauthorization continues to take shape.

Department of Labor, Education, Announce Youth CareerConnect

Today President Obama announced Youth CareerConnect, a competitive grant program administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) in collaboration with the Department of Education (ED). The grant program seeks to bring to scale models for high school transformation that emphasize public-private partnerships. Inspired loosely by IBM’s P-TECH model, Youth CareerConnect has already been compared to the Administration’s Race to the Top program and seems to be a pilot of the Administration’s Perkins Blueprint. According to DOL’s application information, successful applicants will incorporate six core elements:

  •  Integrated Academic and Career-Focused Learning
  • Employer Engagement
  • Individualized Career and Academic Counseling
  • Work-based Learning and Exposure to the World of Work
  • Program Sustainability
  • Program Performance and Outcomes

Over $100 million from DOL’s discretionary funds, drawn from H1-B visa fees, will be made available to approximately 25-40 grantees in its first year. Eligible recipients will likely include local education agencies, public or nonprofit local workforce entities, or nonprofits with experience in education reform.

Awards will range between $2 million to $7 million and will require a 25 percent match to be eligible. Grant applications are due January 27, 2014 and are expected to be awarded shortly thereafter ahead of the 2014-15 school year.

More information can be found here .The Obama Adminstration has also made additional information available here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: NDD Advocates Seek End to Sequestration Ahead of Budget Committee

November 15th, 2013

CapitolEducation and other nondefense discretionary (NDD) groups released a report Tuesday titled Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Secure. The report highlights the ongoing negative impact of sequestration and details the effects the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) has had on NDD programs throughout the country. The release was part of a concerted effort between NDD advocacy groups, including the Committee for Education Funding (CEF), which have spearheaded efforts to repeal sequestration. As a member of CEF, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) has been wholly supportive of these efforts and continues to oppose sequester cuts which have adversely affected many CTE programs and students throughout the country.

The budget conference committee, described in more detail here, met on Wednesday where co-Chairman of the committee Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) noted, ““The hard part is figuring out where we agree.” NASDCTEc remains hopeful that Congress will act to reverse these harmful austerity measures and will continue to track the progress of these negotiations which have wider implications it on the CTE community. Meanwhile, check out NDD United’s “Sequester Toolkit” which provides a unique opportunity to make your voice heard in this ongoing debate.

Manufacturing Jobs for America Initiative

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) recently announced Manufacturing Jobs for America, a legislative initiative centered around 40 bills proposed by over twenty Senators. The bills all seek to revive manufacturing and STEM fields in the United States. This comes at an important time when workers earn 22 percent more in annual pay and benefits than the average worker and provide a 34 percent return on investment for every dollar spent according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Some of the bills included in the initiative would directly support CTE programs and STEM education. For instance, Senator Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) BUILD Career and Technical Education Act (S. 1293) would create a two year grant program of $20 million to support CTE education and exploration programs in middle schools and high schools.

The America Works Act (S. 453), cosponsored by a number of Senators, would encourage existing federal investments in education and workforce development to give priority consideration to programs that lead to a nationally portable, industry-recognized credential or certificate. These bills, among many others included in the initiative, represent a bipartisan Congressional recognition of the important impact manufacturing has on the national economy. CTE programs throughout the United States consistently prepare students for this dynamic industry and have become a natural juncture between education and the workforce. Please check our blog for updates on the progress of these bills.

Department Releases Stricter Gainful Employment Rules Proposal

As we shared last week, the Department of Education has been pursuing stricter “gainful employment” accountability requirements for vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges across the country. A negotiated rule making committee was established in an effort to bring representatives from for-profits institutions, community colleges, and other relevant stakeholders to the table and come to a consensus on a new set of rules. In September the Department released a proposed set of rules which were based on two measures of debt-to –earnings ratios for graduates. This measure would have compared a graduate’s earnings after program completion (both annual and discretionary) to their annual amount of student loan payments. These set of rules garnered criticism from for-profits for being overly burdensome and from consumer advocates who argued they did not do enough to address programs with high dropout rates.

Late last week, the Department released a new proposal which goes far beyond their initial September pitch. In an effort to address the perceived loophole for programs with high rates of non-completion, the new draft regulatory language introduces two additional accountability measures— a program cohort default rate (pCDR) and a loan portfolio repayment rate. If a program has a 40 percent cohort default rate in one year or 30 percent over three the program would lose eligibility immediately. In addition to this, the loan portfolio repayment rate would be calculated through a comparison between the total principal owed for all loans taken out for a program by the end of the year to the principal amount at the beginning of the year. A more in depth analysis and side-by-side comparison of the two proposals can be found here. It is important to note that the committee’s guidance is non-binding and the Department does have the ability to move forward with new regulations regardless of a final consensus among the negotiators.

Please check back for updates and more on our blog as the talks continue.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

 

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