On Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a bicameral and bipartisan legislative compromise to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). Due for reauthorization since 2003, WIA supports workforce development activities throughout the country and funds job training programs for displaced adults and youth. WIOA reauthorizes this critically important piece of workforce development legislation and the Senate’s strong vote in favor of the compromise legislation constitutes a significant milestone in the bill’s pathway towards becoming law.
NASDCTEc’s initial overview of WIOA can be found here. The legislation makes substantial changes to the nation’s workforce development system and would streamline existing employment and workforce-related education and training systems via unified planning and delivery, common measurements for program performance and more uniform data collection and usage among many other positive new elements contained in the bill.
A procedural agreement reached between both parties late last week significantly reduced the time for debate, and a “managed amendment” process was established to consider three separate amendments to the bill. The first of these, put forward by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), would have permitted Governors to restructure a local workforce board if a local area failed to meet its performance target after just one year. This amendment was ultimately voted down 33-63. As passed, WIOA would allow this type of restructuring to take place after three years of missing these targets.
A second amendment, introduced by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), would have withheld funding by 5 percent to the U.S. Department of Labor if it failed to submit certain evaluations by statutory deadlines in WIOA. The Senate rejected this amendment as well by a margin of 40-58 before proceeding on one put forward by WIOA’s original co-sponsors. This “manager’s amendment” was a package of minor technical modifications to the original text of the bill which did not alter the fundamental content of the legislation. This amendment was adopted, before the chamber began its final vote on the passage of WIOA.
Encouragingly, the Senate voted 95-3 in favor of WIOA, which has now been sent over to the House for consideration. The strong vote from the Senate will likely improve the bill’s prospects in the House. NASDCTEc expects this will occur sometime after the July 4th Congressional recess and as early as July 9th. While there is still a long pathway for WIOA to become law, the Senate’s overwhelming support for the legislation constitutes a significant step forward in that process. NASDCTEc is encouraged by these developments and is hopeful that WIOA will move swiftly through the House next month on its way to becoming law later this year.
Senator Warner Introduces Perkins Proposal
Earlier this week, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced S. 2524 or the Pathways to Prosperity Act of 2014 (Pathways). The bill proposes a number of modifications to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins) and seeks to more closely align Career Technical Education (CTE) programs of study to the needs of the local, regional and state economy. Pathways introduces new statutory definitions for CTE programs of study, credit transfer agreements, labor market information and industry-recognized credentials and then seeks to promote these elements through various portions of current Perkins law.
The bill also directs the National Research Center for CTE (NRCCTE) to provide technical assistance to states to help develop their capacity to collect information on industry-recognized credentials earned by students in an effort to promote their use and help students, parents and policymakers understand their value relative to the labor market. Pathways would also make a small amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to ensure that rigorous, state-identified CTE standards are included alongside academic standards, a shift that is aimed at more closely aligning Perkins and CTE to ESEA and the activities supported under that legislation.
NASDCTEc applauds Senator Warner’s support and dedication to the CTE enterprise, and is hopeful that many elements of his Pathways bill will be included in the reauthorization of the Perkins Act. Read the full bill here.
HEA Proposals Begin to Emerge
On Wednesday, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced a discussion draft for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The proposal focuses on four main objectives:
- Increasing college affordability
- Assisting student loan borrowers
- Strengthening accountability
- Improving transparency
There are a number of positive elements contained in this draft proposal supporting the above goals; however, the Community College and Industry Partnerships Program (CCIPP) is of particular interest to the CTE community. This proposed competitive grant program seeks to support education and career training programs at community colleges and other types of eligible postsecondary institutions. It also seeks to build upon early college high school models and improve linkages between secondary, postsecondary and adult education programs including programs supported by the Perkins Act.
While this draft proposal is a long way from becoming law, these types of programs and other such provisions are encouraging developments for the CTE community as Congress begins to more fully consider the reauthorization of HEA. NASDCTEc will continuing to follow HEA’s progress in the Senate and is tentatively expecting further consideration of this proposal by the HELP committee in the late summer. The text of Chariman Harkin’s proposal can be found here and a factsheet can be found here.
In other HEA news, earlier in the week in the House, Chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) released a white paper outlining key principles that will guide the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in that chamber. The paper centers on four primary goals, many of which have been the subject of Congressional hearings on HEA over the past year:
- Empowering students and families to make informed decisions
- Simplifying and improving student aid
- Promoting innovation, access, and completion
- Ensuring strong accountability and a limited federal role
The white paper includes a number of policy proposals the committee would like to take up during the reauthorization process and the full paper can be found here.
Three legislative proposals were introduced as part of the release of this whitepaper in an effort to more fully realize the goals outlined above. More information on these bills can be found here and additional legislation is expected to be introduced in this space in the coming weeks and months.
Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate