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Legislative Update: Sequestration, Student Loan Rates

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Congress Asks OMB for Detailed Impact of Sequestration

While there has been much talk about the devastating impact of sequestration on federally-funded programs, there have not been a lot of details to help states and districts prepare. To help increase transparency around this issue, Senators Patty Murray (WA) and John McCain (AZ) recently introduced a bipartisan amendment to the Farm Bill that would require the Office of Management of Budget to submit to Congress a detailed analysis of the impact of sequestration cuts on both defense and non-defense discretionary programs, including education programs like Perkins. Specifically, it would require OMB to provide figures for the number of educator job lost, the number of students no longer able to access education programs, and education resources lost by states and districts. This report would have to be completed within 60 days of the Farm Bill’s passage. If the bill does not pass, the Senators intend to attach the amendment to any future bills that the Senate takes up.

In the House, the Budget Committee unanimously reported H.R. 5872, the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012. Like the Murray-McCain amendment, this bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to detail how defense and non-defense programs would be affected by the automatic cuts.

Deal Reached on Student Loan Interest Rates

Democrats and Republicans in Congress have reached a deal to prevent the interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1, 2012. The deal will extend the 3.4 percent interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans for one year. The extension will be paid for through two offsets. First, changes would be made to pension plans. The second, smaller offset would affect students: limiting how long new borrowers could receive in-school interest subsidies to 150 percent of the average time it takes to complete a degree. Currently there are no limits.

The House and Senate are scheduled to vote today on the bill to which this provision is attached. We will keep you updated on any developments.

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

By Nancy in Legislation, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: House Committee Passes WIA Reauth Bill

Friday, June 8th, 2012

The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a markup of H.R. 4297, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 yesterday. The bill represents large scale changes to the current WIA program. The bill was approved by a party line vote of 23 to 15. There is no word on when the bill will go to the floor.

The bill proposes to consolidate approximately 30 existing workforce and training programs into a single, flexible Workforce Investment Fund, and it would give Governors the power to consolidate even more programs under a unified state plan. The bill would also require states and locals to use common performance measures for all workforce development programs.

As we previously reported, an earlier bill introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC), which was merged into H.R. 4297, allowed states to submit a unified state plan encompassing two or more job training and related programs, including both Perkins secondary and postsecondary programs. Under Foxx’s bill, Perkins funds would have been eligible to be consolidated into a Workforce Investment Fund and used for workforce activities. After hearing from the CTE community, new language was added to the Workforce Investment Improvement Act that singles out Perkins as one program whose funds cannot be consolidated into the Workforce Investment Fund.

The Workforce Investment Improvement Act also proposes changes to the Job Corps program to ensure that CTE and job training offered under that program is focused on in-demand occupations and that disadvantaged youth receive a regular high school diploma and/or a postsecondary credential that prepares them for employment.

Democrats on the Committee are not supportive of the bill, and offered a substitute bill as an amendment. Their bill focused on career pathways in high demand industries that lead to industry recognized credentials and postsecondary attainment. It would also expand the role of community colleges in job training. The Democrats’ amendment was voted down along party lines.

A summary of H.R. 4297 can be found here.

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

By Nancy in Legislation
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Grant Competition Focused on Advanced Manufacturing Now Open

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Last week the Obama administration announced a new $26 million grant competition – the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge – designed to support advanced manufacturing and stimulate economic growth. Proposals should show how applicants “will help grow a region’s industry clusters by strengthening connections to regional economic development opportunities and advanced manufacturing assets, enhance a region’s capacity to create high-quality sustainable jobs, develop a skilled and diverse advanced manufacturing workforce, increase exports, encourage the development of small businesses and accelerate technological innovation.”

The initiative is being funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, the Small Business Administration, and the National Science Foundation. It will also be supported by eight other federal agencies, including the Department of Education. According to OVAE, one goal of the competition is to engage education and training providers, such as community colleges, to ensure that individuals are prepared for new jobs in the manufacturing industry.

Twelve projects are expected to be awarded the competitive grants. The deadline to submit applications for the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is July 9th. Guidelines for submissions are available at http://www.manufacturing.gov.

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

 

By Nancy in Public Policy
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Department of Education Releases Plan to Improve Measures of Postsecondary Success

Monday, April 16th, 2012

In response to President Obama’s goal of increasing the number of college graduates, the Department of Education has developed an action plan for improving measures of postsecondary student success. This action plan is based on the recommendations of the Department’s Committee on Measures of Student Success, which found that the “current federal graduation rate measure is incomplete and does not adequately convey the wide range of student outcomes at two-year institutions.” The Committee also found that “data are not collected on other important outcomes achieved by students at two-year institutions.”

The Department’s Action Plan for Improving Measures of Postsecondary Success seeks to provide more complete information on student persistence and completion by augmenting current postsecondary measures of student success. For example, graduation rate reporting required for institutions of higher education will be broadened to include part-time and other students who have previously attended postsecondary education.

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

By Nancy in Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Appropriations, Bills Introduced

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Congress is on recess this week and next for the Easter and Passover holidays. They will reconvene on Monday April 16, 2012.

 

Dear Colleague Letters Call for Investment in Perkins

Members of both the House and Senate have signed on to “Dear Colleague” letters, asking the appropriators in their respective chambers to invest in Perkins during the FY13 appropriations process. The Senate letter, authored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT), was signed by 22 Senators. In the House, the letter was authored by Reps. Glenn Thompson (PA) and Jim Langevin (RI), and was signed by a total of 65 Representatives.

At a time when Congress is looking to cut spending in all areas, letters such as these show appropriators the level of support among members for individual programs. While it is hard to predict what will happen with funding for any programs this year, we hope that these letters will resonate with the Appropriations Committees and will stave off further cuts to Perkins.

Bills Introduced

Rebuild America Act

Senator Tom Harkin (IA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has introduced S. 2252, the Rebuild America Act, aimed at restoring the middle class through investments in education, infrastructure and job training, and changes to the tax code. Among other things, the bill would:

 

 Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

 

By Nancy in Legislation, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: WIA, Budget

Friday, March 30th, 2012

House Introduces Workforce Investment Act

The House this week introduced a comprehensive Workforce Investment Act reauthorization proposal, H.R. 4297, The Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012. This builds upon three separate bills introduced earlier this session by Reps. Virginia Foxx (NC), Rep. Buck McKeon (CA), and Rep. Joe Heck (NV). Rep. Foxx’s earlier bill, the Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act, allowed states to submit a unified plan encompassing two or more job training and related programs, including both Perkins secondary and postsecondary programs. Under Foxx’s bill, Perkins funds would have been eligible to be consolidated into a Workforce Investment Fund and used for workforce activities. We shared our opposition to this proposal with the members of the Education and the Workforce Committee, and we are happy to report that new language was added to the Workforce Investment Improvement Act that singles out Perkins as the only program that cannot be consolidated in the unified state plan.

House Passes Budget Resolution

Yesterday the House passed the FY13 Budget Resolution introduced by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (WI) by a vote of 228 to 191. This proposal would cap federal spending at $1.028 trillion, which is $19 billion below levels set by the Budget Control Act and the level that the Senate is plans to use.  Such a large difference between the chambers sets up another potentially long and drawn out appropriations process.

Duncan Testifies Before Congress on Budget
This week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee to discuss the Administration’s FY13 Budget, much like he did last week before the Appropriations Labor-HHS- Education Subcommittee.  There was push back from this committee about the focus in the President’s budget on new competitive grant programs, as opposed to the long-standing formula programs. Secretary Duncan also spoke about the value of community colleges and the need to increase capacity to meet the growing demand of individuals seeking to upgrade their skills.

 

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

By Nancy in Legislation
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Legislative Update: Budget, ED Priorities, DOL Priorities

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

House Marks Up Budget Resolution

Rep. Paul Ryan Chairman of the House Budget Committee released his budget resolution this week, which will serve as a blueprint for the House as the appropriations process moves forward. The budget passed committee by a vote of 19-18. The resolution sets the FY13 discretionary cap at $1.028 trillion, which is $19 billion below the cap set by the Budget Control Act last summer. The proposal would cut education, training, employment, and social services programs by $16.4 billion, which is 22 percent below FY12 levels. The resolution specifically targets Federal job training and workforce programs, calling them duplicative, and proposing to streamline the system and consolidate existing programs into “career scholarship programs.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) has said that the Senate will adhere to the spending levels set in the Budget Control Act and will not release a budget resolution.

Secretary Duncan Testifies Before Congress

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday to discuss the budget and policy priorities of Department of Education.  Duncan spoke about some CTE-specific proposals such as increased funding for career academies and community colleges. He also addressed the need to reauthorize the Perkins Act:

The Administration’s reauthorization proposal would transform CTE by increasing the focus on outcomes and career pathways that ensure that what students learn in school is more closely aligned with the demands of the 21st century economy, while creating stronger linkages between secondary and postsecondary education. The proposal would also promote innovation and reform in CTE.

A number of members, from both sides of the aisle, expressed concern that the President’s budget would cut or freeze existing programs, in exchange for funding new programs such as the Community College to Career Fund.

Secretary Solis Testifies Before Congress

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee this week about the budget and policy priorities of the Department of Labor. Solis began her testimony by saying that the labor market grew stronger last year, and that over 2 million private sector jobs were created, while the unemployment rate fell in 48 states. However, there is still work to be done and the President’s budget outlines the steps his administration intends to take to address unemployment and the skills gap.

As we told you after the President’s State of the Union address, he plans to create an “economy built to last,” founded on strengthening manufacturing, energy, education, and skills training for individuals. Secretary Solis outlined the proposed programs in the President’s budget that would help address these issues. For example, the Community College to Career Fund would help community colleges to partner with business and industry to develop training programs for workers to enter high growth and high demand industries that meet the needs of local employers.

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

 

By Nancy in Legislation, Public Policy
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House Democrats Introduce Alternative WIA Bill

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Democratic members of the House Education and Workforce introduced their version of Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization this week. The bill, introduced by Reps. Ruben Hinojosa (TX), George Miller (CA), and John Tierney (MA), is similar to a draft WIA bill circulated in the Senate last summer. This bill is also considered an alternative to Republican WIA bills, such as Rep. Virginia Foxx’s (NC) Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act.

The Democratic bill focuses on a number of issues raised in NASDCTEc’s WIA reauthorization recommendations, including sector-based strategies, adult career pathways, direct contracting with community colleges, common measures, and One Stop infrastructure funding. More information on the bill can be found here.

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

By Nancy in Legislation
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Students Assigned to Remedial Courses May Have Succeeded in Entry-Level College Courses, Studies Show

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

New studies from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at the Columbia University Teachers College suggest that many students assigned to remedial courses based on placement test scores alone could have succeeded if instead enrolled in entry-level community college courses.

Concerns about preparing students who are college and career ready have been on the rise, in part because of a national agenda to increase the number of college graduates in the United States. Experts have noted that too many students who enter postsecondary institutions, particularly community colleges, do not graduate with a certificate or degree.

Many of these beginning community college students are placed into remedial courses for which students pay but receive no credit. According to a New York Times article on the subject, less than a quarter of students placed in remedial courses ever complete a two-year degree or transfer to a four-year university. But the CCRC studies indicate that many students who are placed in remedial classes, based solely on their placement test scores, may have earned a grade of “B” or higher in an entry-level college courses had alternate placement measures been used.

Instead of only using college placement tests, the authors suggest considering additional factors – such as high school grade point averages – when making decisions about whether or not a student requires remediation.

Kara Herbertson, Education Policy Analyst

By Kara in News, Research
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New Round of Community College Grants Now Open

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced a solicitation for a new round of grant applications for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant Program. The announcement was made with Second Lady Jill Biden during the “Community College to Career” bus tour at Davidson County Community College in North Carolina.

Congress allocated $2 billion for the TAACCCT program to be awarded in each of fiscal years 2011-2014. This round will fund up to $500 million in grants to community colleges for targeted training and workforce development to help dislocated workers obtain the skills they need to change careers. The grants support partnerships between community colleges and employers to develop programs that provide career pathways and build instructional programs that meet industry needs. The deadline to apply is May 24, 2012.

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

By Nancy in Public Policy
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