Although Congress is out of session until the first week of April, lawmakers continued to examine the Obama Administrationâ€™s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget just before their â€œEaster Recessâ€ was set to begin late last week.
Newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Education John King appeared before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee last week to discuss his departmentâ€™s proposed spending priorities contained in the Presidentâ€™s FY 2017 budget.
As we have shared previously, the Obama Administration proposed flat-funding for the Carl D. Perkins Actâ€™s (Perkins) basic state grant programâ€” approximately $1.118 billion at current levels. Rather than proposing to fully fund the core formula grants that compose Perkins (which are still $5 million below â€œpre-sequesterâ€ levels) the Administration renewed its call for a new competitive grant program known as the â€œAmerican Technical Training Fundâ€ (ATTF).
Thus far Congressional lawmakers have met this proposal with measured skepticism. Members have been raising a number of concerns related to the ATTF and the U.S. Department of Educationâ€™s (USDE) other proposed CTE-related spending priorities, all of which would be made at the expense of fully investing in the Perkins Act.
During the House hearing last week Rep. Roby (R-AL) echoed these sentiments saying, â€œRather than funding a large competitive grant, it seems to me that these funds would be better used to support state formula grants which would ensure more students are able to benefit from the CTE experience.â€ Rep. Womack (R-AR) also reiterated these concerns, questioning why USDE was proposing to fund a â€œnew and unproven programâ€ while failing to fully invest in its existing CTE commitments like Perkins.
The full hearing and related testimony can be viewed here.
Although the CTE-related spending priorities in the Presidentâ€™s FY 2017 budget have been disappointing, a group of 150 lawmakers have taken the opportunity to champion Perkins funding in the upcoming budget and appropriations cycle. In the House 118 members of Congress signed on in support of â€œpre-sequesterâ€ funding levels for the Perkins basic state grant programâ€” a record number of signatures from both sides of the aisle. In the Senate, 32 Senators signed-on in support of a similar letter calling for the same funding levels in the upcoming appropriations process.
Advance CTE applauds these lawmakers for formally expressing their support of Perkins funding and a special note of thanks goes to House CTE Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) who lead these efforts in their respective chambers.
The letters can be viewed here and here. If your member of Congress signed-on in support of either of these appropriations letters, we encourage you to visit ACTEâ€™s Action Center to send your lawmaker a note of thanks!
Perkins Reauthorization Efforts Continue
As we shared last October, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee began to formally consider the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. While these efforts have been overshadowed by higher profile issues such as the federal budget, the Supreme Court nomination process, and the upcoming Presidential elections, the committeeâ€™s consideration of Perkins has continued behind-the-scenes for much of this year. HELP Committee members have been working to expand upon the bipartisan Perkins reauthorization principles they released last fall and it is possible that this work could culminate in a draft bill as soon as the next few weeks.
In the House, formal consideration of Perkins is still in the early stages but it remains a significant priority for the House Education and the Workforce Committee this year.
As this work continues, Members of Congress have been working on smaller pieces of legislation that they hope will inform the wider reauthorization process. One such bill, the CTE Equity and Excellence Act (S. 2718), introduced by a handful of Senators on and off the HELP Committee proposes to amend Title II of Perkins to fund high school reform efforts by harnessing the potential of CTE to support greater student achievement. Advance CTE looks forward to working with these offices on a wider reauthorization effort where proposals such as this can be thoughtfully considered in the context of the entire legislation.
Odds & Ends
- Congress passed the â€œEvidenced-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016â€ this month which would establish a committee to make recommendations for how the federal government can use data to evaluate federal programs and more effectively spend public resources. More coverage of the bill can found on the Workforce Data Quality Campaignâ€™s blog. Read the full bill here.
- The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing this month to explore current federal policies related to education research and student privacy. This hearing is part of a wider effort to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). More info can be found here and here.
- USDE convened the first round of negotiated rulemaking this month to develop regulations to govern the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A number of topics are being discussed as part of these negotiations, most notably for the CTE community specifics related to ESSAâ€™s new assessment framework and the implementation of the lawâ€™s new â€œsupplement-not-supplantâ€ spending requirements.
Steve Voytek, Government Relations ManagerÂ