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Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)

Legislative Update: Federal Government Shuts Down Amid Partisan Gridlock

October 4th, 2013

Government Shuts Down with No Continuing Resolution

After ongoing debates over the past several weeks, Congress was unable to come to an agreement on a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would temporarily continue funding for federal agencies and programs. As a result, the federal government shut down for the first time in 17 years on Tuesday, October 1.Capitol

Prior to the shutdown, the House and Senate had been trading competing versions of a CR, with the most contentious issue being House Republican provisions to the bill that would defund or delay the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” A comprehensive timeline for these events can be found here.   The President and Senate Democrats have been adamant that they will only accept a “clean” CR which would fund the federal government through November 15th.

House Republicans have suggested funding only certain parts of the government, such as the National Parks Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as a way to lessen the impact of the federal government shutdown.

Recently, House Republicans have also included proposals to fund a few educational programs such as Head Start, Impact Aid, and the Bureau of Indian Education. However, all of these proposals would lock in sequester cuts through December 15. A White House spokesperson stated that, “These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government . . . and if these bills were to come to the President’s desk, he would veto them.” Meanwhile, the effects of the government shutdown continue with over 800,000 federal workers furloughed and many essential government services have halted.

Debt Limit Deadline by October 17

In addition to the federal government shutdown, the nation is expected to default on its obligations, or hit its debt limit, no later than October 17.  The debt limit is the legislative restriction on the amount of money the Treasury Department can borrow to pay for existing legal obligations such as social security payments, military salaries, and interest on the national debt.

The Treasury Department has made clear that failing to address the debt limit by the October deadline would have “catastrophic economic consequences.” Yesterday the Department issued a report titled “The Potential Macroeconomic Effect of Debt Limit Brinksmanship” outlining in greater detail the calamitous effects of Congress failing to pass legislation to increase the statutory debt limit. The report has put increased pressure on Congress to find a compromise to the current political impasse to avoid potentially damaging economic consequences.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has recently voiced interest in crafting a larger budget deal that addresses both the CR and the debt limit. It is not clear what such a deal would look like or if a compromise on items such as tax reform and further deficit reduction— priorities House Republicans have already insisted should be part of such a deal— would be a feasible solution for Senate Democrats and the Obama Administration.

Check NASDCTEc’s blog for frequent updates on these rapidly changing issues.

Congress Members Talk Education at Annual CEF Events

On Wednesday, the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) held its annual legislative conference and gala.

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) emphasized a few guiding principles for budget negotiations. In particular, Senator Reed found it troubling that government revenues were being produced from student loans, something he felt should be stopped. Following his remarks, Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) discussed Congress’ inability to pass a budget and denounced the sequestration provisions from the Budget Control Act of 2011 as “stupid”— a phrase he used often when describing how these automated cuts were adversely affecting important federal investments in education and workforce development. Interestingly, Representative Hoyer recommended that CEF be rebranded to the Committee for Education Investment to better reflect CEF’s commitment to education as an investment for the nation.

Representative Hoyer also highlighted the need for a national manufacturing strategy and comprehensive immigration reform to keep the United States globally competitive.

Ellen Nissenbaum of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out that the current level of non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending is the lowest it has been in 40 years. When asked how she would explain sequestration to someone succinctly she said, “Sequestration is an abdication of Congressional responsibility.” Like Representative Hoyer, Nissenbaum pointed out that sequestration does not prioritize pieces of the federal budget and instead Congress chose to arbitrarily cut spending without giving thought to long-term consequences.

At its gala event, CEF honored Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) for his dedication to educational issues and work over his long career in the Senate. Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) both spoke glowingly of Sen. Harkin and how he has helped shape public policy during his career.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: Congress Grapples With CR and the Debt Ceiling

September 27th, 2013

Continuing Resolution

Earlier this week, we shared that funding for federal fiscal year 2013 will end on September 30th and that Congress has not yet approved any of the 12 full-year appropriations bills for FY 2014. If Congress cannot come to an agreement on a Continuing Resolution (CR) – which would temporarily continue current funding levels for federal agencies and programs – by the close of September 30th, we may face a federal government shutdown on October 1st.Capitol

The House passed a CR last Friday which would fund the government until December 15th of this year. However, the House version (H.J. Res. 59) contained a provision that would defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare,” something Senate Democrats and the White House have emphatically stated they will not support. The House CR, strongly supported by House Republicans, has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Today, the Senate voted 79-19 to end debate on the House’s spending bill. This means that another Senate vote will likely take place later today to amend the House bill by removing the ACA defunding provision. The “clean” Senate bill would fund the government through November 15th, a month less than the House version. The Senate is expected to finish this process later today and send the clean bill to the House for consideration.

With a September 30th midnight deadline looming, Republican leaders in the House will have limited time to consider their options. Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was asked if he and his party would pass the Senate’s version. His response— “I do not see that happening.”— has cast serious doubts as to whether Congress will be successful in passing a spending bill to avoid a federal government shutdown.

Debt Ceiling

As Congress continues to debate over the CR, they are also beginning to address the looming debt ceiling deadline. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that the statutory debt limit would be reached by October 17th when the “Treasury [Department] would have only approximately $30 billion to meet our country’s commitments.

The debt limit, or debt ceiling, is a legislative restriction on the amount of money the Treasury Department is allowed to borrow to pay for existing legal obligations. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would force the federal government to default on some, if not all, of these existing legal obligations.

It is important to note that raising the debt ceiling simply pays for the debts the government has already incurred and does not create new ones. Failure to increase the debt limit would have, according to the Treasury Department, “catastrophic economic consequences.”

Yesterday, Republican leadership in the House attempted to begin the process of drafting legislation to raise the debt ceiling. This process broke down when members of the GOP caucus insisted that any increase in the debt limit be tied to a long and varied list of conservative priorities. Efforts were discontinued when House Republicans were unable to come to an agreement on a proposal.

Since then, Congressional activity regarding the debt ceiling has been limited. With the looming CR deadline early next week, it is unclear how Congress will balance both the need to raise the debt ceiling by October 17th and fund the federal government for the new fiscal year. Throwing even more uncertainty into the equation is President Obama’s refusal to negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling. The House is set to be in session through the weekend to work on these issues.

Check the NASDCTEc blog for the latest updates on Congressional activity related to these debates.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

Legislative Update: House Holds Perkins Hearing, Passes CR

September 23rd, 2013

House Holds First Perkins Hearing

Last Friday the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education began the reauthorization process for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) by holding a hearing titled “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs.”Capitol

View the archived hearing here.

John Fischer, Vermont’s Deputy Commissioner of Education and NASDCTEc’s current President, was among the witnesses asked to testify. His written testimony can be found here. Fischer spoke about the importance and impact of CTE programs on communities across the country from a unique perspective—as both a national representative for State Career Technical Education (CTE) Directors and NASDCTEc, and also as a state representative of Vermont. NASDCTEc’s CTE vision and underlying principles organized the majority of Fischer’s oral and written testimony. Other witnesses at the hearing were:

  • Mr. Alvin Bargas, President of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Pelican Chapter of Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Testimony)
  • Dr. Sheila Harrity, Principal of Worcester Technical High School in Worcester, Massachusetts and 2014 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year (Testimony)
  • Mr. Frank Britt, CEO of Penn Foster a regionally accredited career-focused online and hybrid postsecondary education institution (Testimony)

The hearing touched on many overarching issues surrounding CTE and the role Perkins has as a catalyst for improving and innovating the CTE system across the nation. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), co-chair of the Congressional CTE Caucus, summed up these issues saying, “The big picture we’re talking about today is competitiveness and having a qualified and trained workforce . . . CTE is not a field of dreams, but a field of jobs.”  Rep. Thompson went on to note that CTE programs are the driving force for ensuring the United States remains a leader in global competitiveness.

Over the course of the hearing, Fischer used NASDCTEc’s vision statement, Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for Career Technical Education, to organize his testimony. He spoke about the need for common data collection standards, definitions, and incentives; clear expectations for high quality CTE programs; and a more active role for states. He also emphasized strengthening collaboration between secondary CTE, postsecondary CTE, and businesses through consortia and private-sector engagement. Fischer highlighted Vermont’s use of its reserve fund as an innovation fund and explained how that model could be applied nationally.

Frank Britt of Penn Foster spoke of the advantages to online, hybrid, and blended learning programs. Through these programs, students have the opportunity to take additional classes, earning credits for courses that are not offered at their home school, and to provide paced instruction tailored to the individual needs of a student. The other witnesses, Sheila Harrity and Alvin Bargas, emphasized the important role of business and industry in the CTE system and the need to better link CTE programs to current and future labor market needs.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Rokita laid out the subcommittee’s plans going forward saying, “In the coming weeks, this committee will discuss a range of proposals to improve the Perkins Act. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft smart policies that will help put more Americans on the path to a prosperous future.”

NASDCTEc has met with the Democrat and Republican Committee staff as they begin their deliberations on Perkins and will continue to do so as the process unfolds. Now is the time to engage with your Congressional representatives and their staff! Tell them how CTE is working in your state or district. Learn more about NASDCTEc’s recommendations for Perkins reauthorization here.

House Passes Short-Term Continuing Resolution

Under current law, the federal government is funded only through September 30th with a new fiscal year beginning on October 1st. If Congress fails to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to temporarily fund the federal government, it will cease all non-essential functions until an appropriations bill is signed into law. A shutdown would be felt almost immediately and affect many core functions of the federal government.

Last Friday, the House narrowly passed a short-term CR that would fund the government until December 15, 2013, and maintain current sequester spending levels. However, the stopgap funding resolution or House Joint Resolution 59 (H.J. Res 59), also includes a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature healthcare law. The Senate is now poised to take up this spending bill and will most likely strip this provision out and send a “clean” version, without the defund provision,  back to the House for consideration.

After that it is not entirely clear how the process will unfold. The House will either need to pass the bill as is, or mark it up and send it back to the Senate for approval. Both President Obama and Senate Democrats have said that they will not approve a bill that includes the so-called ‘defund Obamacare’ provision. Because of this, both the House and the Senate are at an impasse and compromise will be needed to keep the government functioning after the end of the month.

We will continue to update members through our blog as more information becomes available.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

NASDCTEc Webinar Broadcast on September 26 Provides Legislative Update – Back to School Education: Policy and Funding

September 20th, 2013

Have you signed up for our next webinar providing a Legislative Update – Back to School Edition: Policy and Funding?

Join Kara Herbertson, NASDCTEc’s Research and Policy Manager, and Steve Voytek, NASDCTEc’s Government Relations Associate, as they walk you through the latest policy happenings in Washington.

Chalkboard with words "back to school"After years of anticipation, Congress has taken steps toward reauthorizing several pieces of legislation that impact CTE including the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Higher Education Act. In addition to updates on these key pieces of legislation, we will discuss sequestration and debates over the FY14 budget.

Are there specific questions you would like us to address? Email Kara at [email protected] and we will be sure to address your question during this webinar.

Time: September 26, 2013 at 3 p.m. Eastern

Register NOW

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

Legislative Update: House Perkins Hearing This Friday

September 17th, 2013

CapitolThis Friday, the reauthorization process for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act will begin with a hearing called “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs.” The hearing will be held by the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. Witnesses will include a State CTE Director and a CTE high school principal.

Hearing: Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs
Time: Friday, September 20, 2013 at 9:00 am ET
Location: Rayburn Building, Room 2175

The hearing will be available on a live webcast. In case you are unable to attend, we will provide a detailed summary in Friday’s legislative update.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager

Reminder to Register for Upcoming NASDCTEc Webinar Legislative Update Back to School Edition: Policy and Funding

August 29th, 2013

This is a reminder to sign up for our next webinar providing a Legislative Update – Back to School Edition: Policy and Funding

Join Kara Herbertson, NASDCTEc’s Research and Policy Manager, and Steve Voytek, NASDCTEc’s Government Relations Associate, as they walk you through the latest policy happenings in Washington.

Chalkboard with words "back to school"After years of anticipation, Congress has taken steps toward reauthorizing several pieces of legislation that impact CTE including the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Higher Education Act. In addition to updates on these key pieces of legislation, we will discuss sequestration and debates over the FY14 budget.

Are there specific questions you would like us to address? Email Kara at [email protected] and we will be sure to address your question during this webinar.

Time: September 26, 2013 at 3 p.m. Eastern

Register NOW

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

Legislative Update: President’s Proposal for College Affordability

August 27th, 2013

President’s College Affordability Tour

CapitolIn recent years, the costs of higher education in the United States have risen more quickly than any other sector of our economy. According to the Department of Labor, college tuition and fees have increased by a staggering 538% since 1985. In an effort to combat these alarming trends, President Obama recently embarked on a two-day college affordability bus tour which concluded last week.

The President’s proposal would tie federal financial aid to school performance through a new college ratings system. Institutions would be ranked based on factors such as average tuition, loan debt, and graduation rates. Student outcomes after graduation have also been a point of emphasis for the proposed ratings system, although it is unclear how these indicators would be measured. As the President summed up, “Colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer funding go up.”

President Obama’s new proposal for higher education urges states to fund public universities and colleges based on similar measures. His new plan would also increase accountability for both students and colleges by linking continued federal financial aid to progress made towards a degree.

Changes to how higher education is paid for and the measures used for accountability have implications for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs particularly at the postsecondary level. The Administration’s emphasis on more affordable, high quality education and stronger outcomes will likely highlight the important role CTE programs have in preparing students to close the skills gap and fulfill the pressing needs of the American economy.

The President’s full speech can be found here and a summary of his plan can be found here. The new rankings system will not be fully available until 2015, but the Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center has released a College Scorecard similar to President Obama’s proposal.

Boehner to Introduce Short-Term Continuing Resolution

When regular appropriations acts are not enacted by the start of a new fiscal year, Congress must pass what is known as a continuing resolution (CR) to fund Federal agencies and programs. Current legislation funds the federal government only through September 30th with a new fiscal year beginning on the first of October. If Congress fails to pass a CR to fund the government in the short to near-term, the Federal government will cease all non-essential functions until an appropriations bill is signed into law. Failure to pass a CR before October 1st would result in what is known as a government shutdown.

Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) confirmed plans to “move quickly on a short-term continuing resolution [CR] that keeps the government running and maintains current sequester spending levels.” The length of this CR has not yet been announced. However, a clearer outline should emerge when Congress comes back in session on September 9th.

Additionally, Congress is still grappling with the impending need to raise the debt ceiling. This past Monday, the Treasury Department announced that it expects the federal government to reach its statutory debt limit by mid-October. This is a legislative restriction on the amount of money the Treasury Department is allowed to borrow to pay for existing legal obligations such as Medicare, Social Security, military salaries, interest on the national debt, and other such payments. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would force the federal government to default on these legal obligations— an unprecedented move that would have “catastrophic economic consequences,” according the Treasury Department.

It is also important to note that the new fiscal year will coincide with the scheduled opening of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) mandated insurance exchanges. Certain elements in Congress are seeking to defund these exchanges, along with the rest of the ACA, by linking their support for raising the debt ceiling and a short-term CR to ACA’s funding. Congressional willingness to fund these exchanges, along with the rest of the healthcare law, may adversely impact the passage of a short-term CR and the need to raise the debt ceiling in October.

These two issues will likely consume the majority of Congressional time and energy during September and well into October. Compromise will be crucial to finding a solution to these fiscal and budgetary disagreements. In the coming weeks, negotiations between both parties will have significant implications for the functionality and day-to-day operations of the federal government.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate

 

Register NOW for Upcoming NASDCTEc Legislative Update Webinar – Back to School Edition: Policy and Funding

August 23rd, 2013

Join Kara Herbertson, NASDCTEc’s Research and Policy Manager, and Steve Voytek, NASDCTEc’s Government Relations Associate, as they walk you through the latest policy happenings in Washington.

After years of anticipation, Congress has taken steps toward reauthorizing several pieces of legislation that impact CTE including the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Higher Education Act. In addition to updates on these key pieces of legislation, we will discuss sequestration and debates over the FY14 budget.

Are there specific questions you would like us to address? Email Kara at [email protected] and we will be sure to address your question during this webinar.

Time: September 26, 2013 at 3 p.m. Eastern

Register NOW

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

Legislative Update: House Postpones Markup of Perkins Funding Bill

July 26th, 2013

House Postpones Markup of Perkins Funding BillCapitol

A markup that was scheduled this week for the House of Representatives’ FY 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-Education) appropriations bill, which includes Perkins funding, has been postponed by the House Appropriations Committee until further notice.

Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its Labor-HHS-Ed bill, which would restore Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (Perkins) funding to pre-sequestration levels. The Senate bill provides a $3.52 billion, or 5.4 percent, increase for discretionary education spending compared to FY 2013. In stark contrast, the overall funding level for the approved House Labor-HHS-Ed bill is 19 percent below current funding levels and is expected to contain deep cuts to many programs.

Experts project that, due to disparate proposals from each chamber, the FY 2014 appropriations process will not be easily resolved. Congress is required to pass a funding measure by the end of September. Please take the opportunity to contact your Representative to let them know why Perkins funding needs to be maintained and how it would impact Career Technical Education (CTE) programs across your state and district.

Senate Introduces Bipartisan WIA Legislation

This week, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) officially introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The Workforce Investment Act of 2013, or S.1356, contains some positive elements for CTE, including prioritization of career pathways and programs that lead to industry-recognized credential and high-demand jobs. Unfortunately, the bill also proposed to fund One-Stop infrastructure and other activities from state allocations of One-Stop partners.

While only postsecondary Perkins programs offer training services as partners in the One-Stop system under WIA, Perkins funding supports both secondary and postsecondary CTE programs with individuals deciding how to split overall funding between secondary and postsecondary CTE. The bill proposes a 1.5 percent contribution, or $17 million overall, that would come from Perkins administrative funds, and would result in a 30 percent cut to the administrative funds that are available to most states. This has been a longstanding issue and will likely continue to be a sticking point as WIA reauthorization progresses.

NASDCTEc provided input to the committee on this issue prior to the release of the bill, and we will continue to work with committee staff to address this significant issue. Please contact your Senators to let them know how the One-Stop infrastructure proposal would negatively impact CTE in your state. Ask them to oppose this method for supporting WIA infrastructure and, instead, to carve out administrative funding in WIA to pay for its own infrastructure.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions has scheduled a markup of the WIA bill next Wednesday.

Senate Passes Bill on Student Loans

The Senate passed a bill this week that would allow students to lock in currently low interest rates on student loans. In future years, fixed rates would depend on current market conditions. The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, or S.1334, passed by a vote of 81 to 18 and will next go to the House for approval.

Of interest for CTE stakeholders, Senators Patty Murray and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced an amendment that would, in part, restore the Ability to Benefit provisions of the Higher Education Act for certain students enrolled in evidence-based career pathways programs. While the amendment was not included in the final version of the Senate bill, there is opportunity for it to resurface in the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Senate Confirms New Labor Secretary

Last week, the Senate voted to confirm President Obama’s pick for labor secretary, Thomas Perez, on a party-line vote of 54-46. Prior to this role, Perez served as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. As labor secretary, Perez replaces Hilda Solis, who held the position from 2009 through January 2013.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager

Legislative Update: House Passes Republican ESEA Reauthorization Bill

July 19th, 2013

House Passes Republican ESEA Reauthorization BillCapitol

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act (H.R.5), the Republican measure to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), by a vote of 221-207. Twenty-six amendments were offered; 18 passed, 4 were defeated, and 4 were withdrawn.

Representative Dan Benishek (R-MI) offered an amendment that encourage each state to include in its annual state report card the number of students attaining Career Technical Education (CTE) proficiencies enrolled in public secondary schools. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act already requires collection of this information and inclusion of the data in ESEA would help streamline reporting.

Overall, the Student Success Act would provide states and school districts much more flexibility on federal spending and improving low-achieving schools. Importantly, the bill does not require states to set specific goals for student achievement including sub-groups that are currently reported, which Democrats see as a major problem for maintaining accountability that improves equitable education for all students. It would also maintain cuts from sequestration, and remove the ESEA maintenance of effort requirement that requires districts and states to contribute specified levels of funding in order to receive federal funds. We will continue to provide updates as both the House and Senate seek to move forward their disparate ESEA reauthorization bills.

Senator Merkley Introduces BUILD CTE Act

Senator Merkley (D-OR) recently introduced the Building Understanding, Investment, Learning and Direction in CTE Act (BUILD CTE Act) that would help states restore CTE programs that have been scaled back or eliminated.

In his press release, Senator Merkley noted that, “As shop classes and electives disappear across Oregon, our students are getting shortchanged. I went to the same high school that my own kids attend today. I was fortunate then to receive a public education that exposed me to different skills and career paths. I’ve heard from manufacturers across Oregon that our state’s economy would be stronger if more kids were graduating with technical skills, so that’s what this bill aims to do.”

The BUILD CTE Act would provide $20 million in federal funds for the creation of a 2-year pilot grant fund. The grants, which would support CTE programs in middle schools and high schools, would allow school districts to make spending decisions resulting in upgraded, high-quality CTE programs that lead students to high-demand careers. We have provided input on this bill and will continue work with Senator Merkley’s office to move the bill forward.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager

 

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