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NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Spring Wrap-Up Edition (Part I)

Monday, May 4th, 2015

cherry-blossoms-at-jefferson-150x150A lot has happened this season on Capitol Hill, particularly with regards to Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding, and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). As summer draws closer, we wanted to take a moment and re-cap all of the exciting activity going on in Washington D.C. as we look ahead to what the rest of the year has in store for the Career Technical Education (CTE) community. Below is Part I in a two part series of springtime legislative updates.  

The Federal Funding Landscape

As shared previously, President Obama formally kicked-off the FY 2016 budget and appropriations process this year with one clear message to Congress— end sequestration in order to make vital reinvestments in our nation’s domestic discretionary programs. At present, federal funding is constrained by specific limits required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). These limits, also known as caps, are in place for each federal fiscal year and well into the next decade. They require Congressional appropriators to stay within those limits and if funding legislation exceeds those caps, the additional funds above each annual BCA cap are “sequestered” to bring them back down within the BCA funding ceiling for that particular year.

The President’s budget proposal requested billions of dollars above these caps, calling for new investments in many programs, including CTE. While the Administration requested flat-funding for the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) basic state grant program (BSG), it has sought an additional $200 million in funding for the American Technical Training Fund (ATTF)— a proposed competitive grant program for consortia of CTE stakeholders and employers— as well as an additional $2 million to administer this new program. NASDCTEc’s response to the budget can be found here.

Since that time, Congress has been crafting budget resolutions— frameworks outlining the planned spending for the year and years to come— that would adhere to the BCA caps and essentially freeze FY 2016 funding at near current levels. In doing so, funding increases for most programs (including Perkins) become even less feasible and could further squeeze many education and workforce development programs which have already been cut dramatically since 2010.

Despite these unfavorable headwinds, well over 100 members of Congress signed two separate letters to Congressional appropriators urging them to make a strong investment in the Perkins Act’s BSG program in FY 2016. NASDCTEc has applauded the work of CTE Champions Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) in the House and the Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) in the Senate for spearheading these efforts in both Chambers of Congress. The letters, similar to NASDCTEc’s own FY 2016 request, have urged Congressional appropriators to increase Perkins funding to pre-sequester levels— approximately $5 million above what the program received in FY 2014 and 2015. Make sure to thank your members of Congress for supporting CTE! Find out who signed-on here and here.

As the FY 2016 budget and appropriations cycle continues, check back here for updates and analysis for what the CTE community should expect from the federal funding environment.

Moving Past No Child Left Behind

The 114th Congress has been in full swing this spring, bringing with it warmer weather in D.C. and, surprisingly, the possibility of a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize one of the largest federal education laws in the country. While tourists have flocked to the Capitol to gaze at the Cherry Blossoms, Congress has been eyeing the possibility of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)— more commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The primary source of federal funding for K-12 education throughout the country, the law has been due for renewal since 2007, but has languished in a Congressional limbo due to widespread disagreement on how to appropriately navigate the nation’s education system out of the NCLB era.

As with all federal education and workforce legislation, the first step in the ESEA reauthorization process has been for the House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) and the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to develop and pass proposals to renew and reform the current law.

In the House the Student Success Act – successfully passed on a partisan basis by the full Chamber in the 113th Congress— was reintroduced in the early part of this Congress and passed the HEW Committee on a contentious, partisan basis. This legislation proposes to dramatically dissolve a majority of the current federal role in education, giving those responsibilities back to the states and their educational districts. Widely opposed by House Democrats and the Obama Administration, the Student Success Act made its way back to the House floor for the Chamber’s full consideration in the early part of this year. Despite the backing from House Republican leadership and many in their Caucus, the bill was removed from consideration after outside conservative groups began opposing the legislation for not doing more to diminish the federal role in education. Since that time, the House has not made future plans to consider the Student Success Act. You can learn more about the bill and the HEW Committee’s plans for it here.

In the Senate, the process seemed to be unfolding in much the same way. In January the new Chairman of the HELP Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), introduced a discussion draft to reauthorize ESEA and was similar in many respects to the House’s proposal. Following this, an impromptu meeting at a favorite D.C. eatery between the Chairman and the new Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), led to bipartisan negotiations on compromise legislation. The product of these months-long negotiations is the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA)— the first bipartisan proposal for ESEA reauthorization in the 114th Congress.

ECAA was successfully marked up by the HELP Committee in April and included an amendment from Senator Baldwin (D-WI) to add a requirement that student attainment of CTE proficiencies be incorporated into the law’s mandated report card system. ECAA also requires alignment between CTE standards and core academic standards which is an encouraging step as NASDCTEc works towards the further integration of the two.  The bill would also eliminate the harmful “highly qualified teacher” provision from current law— a significant priority for NASDCTEc in this reauthorization. Another encouraging aspect of ECAA was the retention of elementary and secondary education counseling programs in Title IV of the legislation. Aspects of the Career Ready Act (S. 478) and the Career Choice Act (H.R. 1079)— both supported and endorsed by NASDCTEc— found their way into this section of the proposed legislation before clearing the HELP Committee.

The path forward for ESEA remains long and full of potential roadblocks. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see this level of compromise on such a large piece of federal legislation. ECAA is widely expected to be considered by the full Senate sometime in the two weeks before or after the Memorial Day recess. However, the path forward for the Student Success Act in the House remains much more uncertain, throwing the wider reauthorization process into question. As this process continues, check back here for updates and analysis of this reauthorization process.

Part II of this legislative update will be released tomorrow morning.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Congress Continues Consideration of ESEA as a Busy CTE Month Comes to a Close

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

CapitolReauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been at the top of lawmaker’s to-do lists since the 114th Congress began in January. Both the House Education and the Workforce (HEW) Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee have prioritized a complete overhaul of the law still known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  However, recent developments have slowed the process down and thrown ESEA’s reauthorization prospects into question.

In the House, HEW Chairman John Kline (R-MN) reintroduced the Student Success Act (H.R. 5)— legislation that was passed by the House in 2013. With a few modifications and small changes, H.R. 5 cleared the HEW Committee earlier this month on a strict party line vote and is now under full consideration by the House. Overall the bill would significantly roll back the federal role in K-12 education and would make a number of substantial changes to NCLB’s current structure (more information on the bill can be found here).

Late last week, the House considered 44 amendments to the legislation focused on a wide range of issues. One of the most significant amendments adopted came from Rep. Bob Goodlattee (R-VA) which would allow local school districts to develop and use their own assessments in lieu of state tests. In total a dozen amendments were adopted, including one from Rep. Langevin (D-RI) and Rep. Thompson (R-PA) that would afford states additional flexibility to use Title I funding for work-based learning opportunities—a measure that NASDCTEc has been supportive of.

Despite several veto threats from the Obama Administration and vehement opposition from House Democrats, H.R. 5 seemed to be moving along to final passage late Friday afternoon. However in a surprise move, conservative groups began opposing the legislation for not going far enough to limit the federal role in K-12 education.  With no Democratic support for the bill to count on, House Republican leaders were forced to delay consideration of the legislation for a yet-to-be determined period of time. The longer this delay lasts, the more unlikely passage of H.R. 5 becomes. As some have already pointed out, failure to pass a rewrite of ESEA will only perpetuate the U.S. Department of Education’s current waiver framework— an increasingly unpopular (at least among members of Congress) series of state waivers  from certain elements of NCLB.

In the Senate, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a discussion draft for the reauthorization of ESEA and opened up the draft for public input last month. Like H.R. 5, this proposal would also significantly limit the federal role in K-12 education and seeks to increase flexibility for state and local decision making. Titled the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015,” the bill would eliminate the Adequate Yearly Progress and Highly Qualified Teacher provisions of NCLB— a proposal NASDCTEc has long championed for throughout the reauthorization process. However, the draft would eliminate the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program and has little to say regarding the importance of career readiness for the nation’s students— two issues that still need to be addressed as the bill continues to take shape.

The draft served as the basis for several HELP committee hearings on ESEA reauthorization over the past few months and received lots of attention following its release despite its lack of Senate Democrats’ input. More recently, HELP Committee Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced their intent to negotiate a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the law— a process that is still underway between the two. Nevertheless, the Committee remains optimistic that they will begin mark-up of a bipartisan bill sometime by the second week in March. As this process and more unfolds over the coming weeks and months, stay tuned here for updates and impacts as they relate to the CTE community.

Senators Introduce the Career Ready Act of 2015

Earlier this month Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and co-chairs of the bipartisan Senate Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus introduced the Career Ready Act of 2015 (CRA), a bill that seeks to promote career readiness in secondary school and helps to better align the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) with the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act (Perkins).

Specifically the bill would encourage states to incorporate multiple indicators of career readiness within their accountability systems and make this information available for public use and consumption. As NASDCTEc and Achieve’s 2014 report pointed out last year, nearly half of states already have such indicators within their systems. The bill would also align career exploration course offerings and counseling to the needs of the local and regional economy and would encourage greater collaboration between ESEA, Perkins, and the recently passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Additionally, CRA would strengthen the existing Elementary and Secondary School Counseling grant program— an existing program under ESEA— by encouraging a stronger focus on career counseling, providing relevant professional development opportunities for counselors to use labor market information, and to build collaborative partnerships between community stakeholder groups such as schools, businesses, and local workforce investment boards.

While the bill amends current law, the sponsors of the bill hope to incorporate aspects of this legislation into the wider ESEA reauthorization process. NASDCTEc proudly endorses this legislation and remains hopeful that Career Ready Act of 2015 will be used to infuse a newly reauthorized ESEA with stronger career readiness components. Late last week, NASDCTEc moderated a Senate CTE Caucus discussion panel exploring these issues at great length and looked for ways to support collaborative alignment between the Perkins Act and ESEA. The text of the bill can be accessed here.

A Busy CTE Month in Congress Comes to a Close

February typically ushers in some of the coldest months of winter, but it also marks CTE month— an entire month dedicated to lifting up and celebrating Career Technical Education around the nation. Congressional CTE champions in both the House and the Senate have been busy these past few weeks vocalizing their support and formally introducing resolutions acknowledging the occasion.

At the beginning of the month Project Lead the Way (PLTW) co-hosted a CTE and STEM Reception on Capitol Hill in conjunction with the Senate CTE Caucus and the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Senators and their staff had the opportunity to see first-hand some of the wonderful work on display by PLTW students from Maryland, Virginia, and DC.

Further into the month, the House CTE Caucus hosted a briefing titled “CTE 101: The Nuts & Bolts of Establishing a Qualified Workforce” which was co-hosted by Caucus co-chairs Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA). Kicking off the event, Congressman Thompson spoke at length about the value of CTE to every Congressional district and the need to strengthen and renew the Perkins Act. NASDCTEc Executive Director Kimberly Green participated in this panel and provided an overview of CTE’s evolution over the past decade as well as priorities for Perkins reauthorization. The co-Chairs also took to the House floor in support of CTE and CTE month— their statements can be found here and here.

Odds & Ends

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Senate CTE Caucus Examines Rural CTE, Senators Re-introduce CTE Legislation as ESEA Continues to Dominate Congressional Education Debate

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

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

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

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

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

Kline Talks Perkins Reauthorization, Outlines Priorities

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

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

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

Video of the event can be accessed here.

Senate HELP Committee Holds ESEA Hearing

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

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

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

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

HEW Holds Organizational Meeting

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

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

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

Odds & Ends

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

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

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

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Flurry of ESEA Activity Ahead of Congressional Reauthorization Push

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

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

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

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

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

Congress Sets Its Sights on ESEA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where To From Here? 

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

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

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in News, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Obama Administration Announces Two New Training and Education Initiatives as the 114th Congress Begins

Friday, January 9th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congress Comes Back to the Hill

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and Ends

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in News, Public Policy
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CTE Caucus Comes to the Senate, White House Releases Additional Information on SOTU

Friday, 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 

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: FERPA, WIA, Race to the Top, ESEA

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Department Releases Final FERPA Regulations

The U.S. Department of Education released its final regulations for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act yesterday after soliciting public comments earlier this year. In a statement released by the Department, they stated that “The regulations announced today will strengthen the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by protecting the safety of student information, increasing the Department’s ability to hold those who misuse or abuse student data accountable and ensuring our taxpayer funds are invested wisely and effectively.”

We are still working through the regulations and will update you on anything that relates to CTE.

NSC Releases State-by-State Impact Analysis of Proposed Cuts to WIA

In their draft Labor-HHS-Education funding bill released last month, the House proposed to cut Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs by more than $1.9 billion for FY12. To help states better understand the impact of these cuts, the National Skills Coalition developed a state-by-state impact analysis of proposed cuts to the WIA Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth programs in FY12. Their analysis finds that as many as 6.5 million jobseekers would lose access to employment and training services if the House funding levels are enacted.

Seven States Apply for Third Round of Race to the Top Grants

As we told you last week, the nine runner-up states in the last round of Race to the Top grants are eligible to apply for the latest round of grants totaling $200 million. The seven states that submitted applications are: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. South Carolina did not submit an application, and California submitted an incomplete application, according to the Department of Education.

States will now have to submit a budget by December 16 for how they would use the grant and identify which part of their Round 2 application they want funded. The Department will announce the winners by the end of December.

Secretary Duncan Voices Concern about ESEA Draft

In a recent radio interview on Bloomberg EDU, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed his concerns with the Senate’s draft ESEA bill. While the Department has been happy with the bipartisan process of crafting the bill, it is not happy with much of the bill’s content, especially teacher evaluation and accountability. However, Duncan hopes that this is just a starting point, and that the bill can be further strengthened:

“There are some good things in the bill, but you don’t want to walk away from accountability, you don’t want to walk away from focusing on achievement gaps, you don’t want to walk away from making sure we’re rewarding great teachers and great principals and shining a spotlight on excellence in education. So you want a good process, but at the end of the day you want really strong policy. And it’s early innings, obviously, in the bill that came out of the Senate HELP committee, and we think it can be strengthened going forward. So I applaud the work that’s gone on so far, clearly not a finished product, but a long way to go.”

 

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

 

By Nancy in Legislation, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: ESEA, Bills Introduced

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Senate Marks Up ESEA

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee met on Wednesday to begin markup the draft Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization bill introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (IA) last week. The markup was threatened with delays when Senator Rand Paul (KY) objected to the Committee meeting longer than two hours after the Senate convened on Wednesday. This is a procedural rule, rarely employed in the Senate, that is almost always waived. Senator Paul was concerned that no hearing had been held on the bill this session (10 were held last session) and he felt there was not enough time to review the bill before the markup. On Thursday, Senators Harkin and Enzi (WY) reached an agreement with Senator Paul that in exchange for dropping his objection, the Committee will hold a hearing on the bill on November 8.

The Committee reported the bill last night by a vote of 15-7. Three Republicans, Senators Enzi, Lamar Alexander (TN) and Mark Kirk (IL), joined all Democrats in voting for the bill. Senator Harkin hopes to bring the bill to the floor for debate and a vote before Thanksgiving.

During the markup, Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT) introduced an amendment to expand internships and apprenticeships, with the goal of alleviating dropouts and providing skills training. Because the amendment would require locals to use the money for this purpose, several Senators opposed it, but said they would support it if it were an allowable use of funds. Blumenthal agreed to withdraw the amendment and change the language, but wants to be sure that there are strong incentives for locals to use funding for internships and apprenticeships.

Bills Introduced

Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act

This week Senators Menendez (NJ), Reid (NV), Harkin (IA), Stabenow (MI) and Casey (PA) introduced S. 1723, Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act.  The bill contains the provision of the American Jobs Act that provides $35 billion to create or protect education jobs, as well as jobs for police officers and firefighters.  The jobs supported in this bill are not just teachers, but any public school K12 employee.

However, last night the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the bill by a vote of 50-50. All Republicans voted against it, as did Senators Lieberman (CT), Nelson (NE) and Pryor (AR). As result, the bill will not be voted on.

Preparing Students for Success in the Global Economy Act

Senators Jeff Merkley (OR), Al Franken (MN), Mark Begich (AK), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) introduced S. 1675, Preparing Students for Success in the Global Economy Act. This bill aims to increase student access to courses in STEM subjects and provide additional resources to recruit, train, and support STEM teachers.

Grantees must include in their applications a description of how their activities will be coordinated with other programs and activities, including Perkins-funded CTE programs. Local subgrantees must also describe in their applications how grant funds will be coordinated with programs and activities, including Perkins-funded CTE programs.

“If we don’t train our children for the jobs of the future, we won’t be able to compete in the future,” Merkley said. “Whenever I talk to companies like Intel back in Oregon, they tell me that STEM education is key, and in far too many schools, the resources aren’t there to prepare our students for careers in engineering and science. This legislation will help address this deficit.”

 

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

By Nancy in Legislation
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Legislative Update: House Bill Would Cut 43 Education Programs

Friday, May 13th, 2011

This morning, Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, introduced the first in a series of bills to move forward with reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bill would identify and eliminate ineffective K-12 education programs, many that were defunded in the FY 2011 budget.

During his floor statement, Hunter remarked “It’s time to trim the fat. Today I will introduce legislation that will eliminate – not consolidate, not defund, but eliminate – 43 wasteful K-12 education programs.”

The bill, the Setting New Priorities in Education Act (H.R. 1891), would eliminate 43 of the more than 80 programs operated by the Department of Education. The bill proposes to eliminate each of the programs listed below.

Programs defunded in the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution

Programs consolidated or eliminated in President Obama’s FY 2012 Budget

Programs not recently funded

Programs never funded

Programs that are duplicative or inappropriate for the federal government

Republican members of the House continue to craft additional bills in the series on issues such as funding flexibility. A bill addressing accountability measures likely will not be introduced until the fall. Ultimately, bipartisan support will be necessary to pass final ESEA legislation in both the House and the Senate.

For a detailed summary of the first bill and the proposed list of eliminated programs, click here.

By Kara in Public Policy
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Sneak Peak at ESEA Proposal: President Obama’s Weekly Address

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

PresidentOn Monday, the Administration will to send to Congress its blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Leading up to this unveiling was today’s Presidential Weekly Address, titled ‘Education for a More Competitive America & Better Future.’  The address can be viewed here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/weekly-address-education-a-more-competitive-america-better-future 

Key messages:

The President’s closed the address by stating,

“As a nation, we are engaged in many important endeavors: improving the economy, reforming the health care system, encouraging innovation in energy and other growth industries of the 21st century.  But our success in these efforts – and our success in the future as a people – will ultimately depend on what happens long before an entrepreneur opens his doors, or a nurse walks the rounds, or a scientist steps into her laboratory.  Our future is determined each and every day, when our children enter the classroom, ready to learn and brimming with promise.” 

Check back on Monday for a summary of the ESEA blueprint!

By Kimberly Green in Legislation, Public Policy
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