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NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Federal Funding Deadline Looms as Congress Looks to Higher Ed after ESEA Push

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

United States CapitalSeptember 30th is quickly approaching and with it an end to the current 2015 federal Fiscal Year (FY). With only 12 legislative days left on the Congressional calendar until this deadline and the Congressional August recess set to begin later this week, lawmakers and the Obama Administration are still grappling with how to fund the federal government beginning on October 1st—the first official day of FY 2016.

Congressional appropriations committees in both the House and the Senate successfully passed the 12 necessary funding bills to fund federal programs—an achievement not seen in over six years and aided by unified Republican control of both Chambers of Congress. Despite this accomplishment, these funding bills all adhere to the Budget Control Act of 2011’s (BCA) statutorily mandated ‘sequester caps’ that dramatically reduce funding for many domestic programs, including education and relatedly the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) which would receive approximately $3.6 million in reduced funding for national activities while providing level funding for the law’s state grant program.

These caps significantly limit the amount of funding available for all federal discretionary programs, severely impacting education and other domestic spending priorities that are dear to Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration. As such, lawmakers and the White House have been in a protracted stand-off over how to fund the federal government later this fall.

As September quickly approaches, the likelihood of another ‘Continuing Appropriations Resolution’ (CR) is rapidly increasing. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded as much at a recent press conference saying, “it’s pretty clear given the number of days we have here in September that we’re going to have to do a CR of some sort.”

In response to the gridlock, nearly all Congressional Democrats, and an increasing amount of Republicans, have begun to call for a broader budget deal outside the scope of the normal appropriations process.  Such a deal could address the underlying problem of the sequester caps, even temporarily, to relieve some of the fiscal pressures created by the BCA. Much like what the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 did for the previous two fiscal years, an agreement later this year would be the best case scenario for making much needed investments in education and workforce development programs possible, particularly for the Perkins Act.

NASDCTEc remains committed to this type of agreement and we encourage the CTE community to urge members of Congress to tackle this challenge head-on, rather than passing stop-gap measures such as a CR at the expense of longer term agreements that allow for greater investments in critically important programs such as the Perkins Act. Be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis as things continue to play out on Capitol Hill.

Congress Pivots to Higher Ed

As we’ve shared previously, both education committees in the House and the Senate have prioritized the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in this Congress. Due for reauthorization since 2013 and extended to this year for further consideration, the law governs nearly all federal financial aid programs for postsecondary education. Issues such institutional accreditation, supporting innovation in postsecondary education, financial aid risk sharing, the role of consumer information and data, and campus sexual assault have all been the subject of hearings and discussions in both Chambers as lawmakers gear up for the law’s renewal.

In the Senate, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced four staff-level working groups earlier this year focused on four key areas that they hope to address in the upcoming reauthorization process: accountability, accreditation, college affordability / financial aid, and campus sexual assault / safety. It is hoped that these groups can work through these issues on a bipartisan basis prior to the committee and later the full chamber considering full reauthorization legislation.

More recently, the Committee held a hearing exploring barriers to innovation in postsecondary education. Members focused on the role that regulations (and at times overregulation) have in stymieing innovation within the higher education system, how to address current funding structures that are tied to the credit hour in order to better support competency-based learning programs, and the need to expand HEA’s experimental sites initiative to allow for more experimentation, among other topics. More on the hearing can be found here.

In the House, members of the Education and Workforce (HEW) Committee introduced a series of four bipartisan higher education bills that they hope to piece together later on to form the basis for their proposal for the law’s renewal. These bills seek to simplify the student aid process, improve consumer access to relevant data and information to make informed decisions on where to go to school, and strengthen loan counseling to improve students’ financial literacy when making decisions about their financial aid. Of particular note is the Flexible Pell Grant for 21st Century Students Act (H.R. 3180) introduced by Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) which would reinstate “year-round” Pell Grants for qualifying students in accelerated programs—a move NASDCTEc supports in future HEA legislation. More on that bill can be found here and information related to the all of the bills is located here.

The Obama Administration has also repositioned itself ahead of possible HEA consideration. Speaking at UMBC earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered a speech on HEA which encouraged the higher education community to not just focus on the rising specters of college debt and cost, but also on student outcomes and educational quality. More on his remarks can be found here.

Lawmakers Seek to Give FERPA a Facelift

The Student Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 3157) was recently introduced by Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) of the HEW Committee. The bill seeks to update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by barring schools and private companies from selling student information, creating minimum data security protocols, and allowing parents greater access and control over their child’s information. The legislation is one of several proposals from both Chambers of Congress that seek to modernize the law to reflect changes in the digital education landscape. At present, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) enforces provisions under FERPA governing how companies handle student data. However, competing proposals in the Senate would hand that responsibility over to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce these rules more vigorously.

Odds & Ends

USDE and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) are requesting public comment on proposed templates and data definitions for performance information required under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The comment period is open for 60 days and must be submitted by September 21 at: www.regulations.gov (Docket ID is ETA-2015-0007). Last week marked WIOA’s first birthday.

The final text of the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) was released this week. The bill is the Chamber’s proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and now bicameral negotiations are about to begin to reconcile it with the House’s ESEA proposal the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). More information on the debate can be found here and a great breakdown of where key issues stand in the wider discussion can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

By Steve Voytek in News, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Congress Finalizes Funding Proposals for Perkins as the Obama Administration Makes CTE Scholars Announcement and Adjusts Higher Ed Agenda

Monday, June 29th, 2015

CapitolFor the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) communities, last week was busy to say the least. Congressional appropriators in both the House and the Senate marked up and ultimately approved two separate appropriations bills for the Labor-HHS-ED portion of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 federal budget—an accomplishment not seen in several years despite intense partisan disagreement over the funding levels constraining each proposal. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) both derive funding from these funding bills which would need to be reconciled and ultimately signed into law by the President before becoming law. However, both bills propose to stay within the Budget Control Act’s (BCA) sequester caps— self-imposed overall limits on how much Congress can spend on the programs falling under this and other portions of the budget.

These sequester caps have been at the center of much partisan disagreement since 2013 when they were first triggered. Democrats would like to see these caps raised in order to make much needed investments in education and related programs while Republicans largely want to stay within the caps or offset additional investments with related cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. Without changes to the underlying BCA legislation— something that the 2014 Ryan-Murray budget agreement achieved for FY’s 2014 and 2015— funding levels for the majority of programs will stagnate and be at risk of further cuts for FY 2016 and many years to come.

In light of this, the House Appropriations Committee approved their FY 2016 Labor-HHS-ED bill on a vote of 30-21. As we shared earlier, the bill would reduce ED’s discretionary budget by $2.8 billion dollars—a cut that would bring the Department’s overall discretionary budget back to FY 2004 funding levels. Final approval of this bill also gave further clarity to what lawmakers intend for the Perkins Act. While Perkins basic state grants would remain level-funded at the same amounts the program received in FY 2015, the bill would reduce Perkins’ national activities funding by $3.6 million dollars. The bill also contains a number of policy riders (both education related and otherwise) such as prohibiting ED from enforcing its recently upheld “gainful employment” regulations and its proposed college ratings system, a move that when taken together with the bill’s overall proposed funding levels virtually guarantees that the proposal will not be signed by the President.

In the Senate, the Appropriations committee moved quickly throughout the week to get a Labor-HHS-ED bill through subcommittee and to a final vote by its full membership. Approving the bill on a 16-14 vote along party lines, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s bill would cut ED’s discretionary budget by $1.36 billion. Like the House, the Senate would cut Perkins national activities by $3 million and level-fund Perkins state grants at $1.117 billion—the same amounts the program has received in FY 2014 and 2015. While these figures reflect a nearly 96 percent restoration of the FY 2013 sequester cuts imposed on Perkins, the program on the whole remains well below what it received in FY 2010 and approximately $5.4 million below pre-sequester levels.

Despite the gloomy outlook for most of the education community, the central issue in the ongoing funding debate in Congress centers on the BCA sequester caps. As lawmakers struggle to meet the needs of students and families across the country, more will need to be done to raise or eliminate these caps. Until that happens, federal investments in education, and in particular CTE, will continue to stagnate until Congress decides to act. With Congress poised to pass the necessary 12 spending bills needed to fund the government before the August recess, and with Congressional Democrats and the President making clear that they will not support the funding levels contained in these proposals, it remains unclear how this appropriations fight will play out as the end of FY 2015 on September 30th looms ever closer.

Be sure to check back here for more updates on the Congressional appropriations process and what that means for the wider CTE community.

Obama Administration Changes Direction with College Ratings Framework

Late last week the Obama Administration announced a major revision to their proposed accountability-based college ratings system originally due for release later this summer. When first announced, ED solicited public comments on the proposal and NASDCTEc, along with the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), provided feedback on the feasibility of the initiative. Many stakeholder groups within the higher education community shared substantial concerns regarding the viability of the effort and questioned the appropriate role and responsibilities Ed should have in ensuring access to and affordability of postsecondary education.

In light of these comments Jamienne Studley, ED’s Deputy Under Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, announced that the Department’s original proposal—which would have “rated” postsecondary institutions into three wide-ranging categories of low, medium, and high performing and tied federal financial aid decisions to that determination— would now be revised to be a public-facing consumer information tool, providing prospective students and their families with a information regarding postsecondary institutions in order for them to make more informed decisions when making choices about their postsecondary education.

This proposal has been a source of much partisan discomfort in Congress, particularly in the House where the most recent Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill included additional provisions that would have prevented the Administration from implementing the system. Read the House Education and Workforce Committee’s response to the announcement here.

ED plans to have the newly reimagined system available for public use by the end of the summer. Learn more about the effort here.

This announcement comes on the heels of another major development for the Administration’s higher education agenda. Last Tuesday, the U.S. District Court of D.C. ruled that ED’s “gainful employment” regulations can be implemented as scheduled on July 1st, 2015 after several lawsuits from for-profit and private institution trade groups challenged the premise of the new rules. The regulations will require career education programs to meet specific debt-to-income ratios for graduates based on their annual and discretionary income following program exit.

This is ED’s second attempt at implementing these regulations and this latest ruling paves the way for the rules ultimate adoption later this week. Read Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s formal response applauding the court’s ruling here.

President Obama Expands Presidential Scholars Program

As we shared last week, President Obama signed Executive Order 11155—a decree that will expand the existing Presidential Scholars program to include up to 20 CTE students each year moving forward. While the details of the CTE component to the program are still being determined, beginning in the 2015-16 school year, the Chief State School Officers will nominate CTE scholars who will then be selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars. Tomorrow, the White House will play host to another CTE-related event where additional details regarding the announcement are expected. Learn more about this exciting development here.

Odds & Ends

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Reauthorization Efforts Push Ahead for ESEA, WIOA NPRM Comment Period Ends as Funding Battles in and HEA Reauthorization Continue in Congress

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

CapitolAfter a flurry of legislative activity in the Senate early last month, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee successfully reported out the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) from the committee—legislation aimed at reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Read our earlier coverage of the legislation here and the text of the bill, as reported out of committee, here. ECAA is the product of bipartisan negotiations between HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and marks the closest either Congressional chamber has come towards reauthorizing ESEA in several years.

Since clearing the HELP committee last month, lawmakers on and off the committee have been gearing up for the Chamber’s full consideration of the legislation, finalizing a series of amendments that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle hope will improve the largest annual federal investment in K-12 education. As currently written and amended, ECAA has a number of notable Career Technical Education-related provisions:

NASDCTEc expects ECAA to most likely be brought up for full Senate consideration shortly after the July 4th Congressional recess, but the possibility of the bill being brought to the floor sooner still remains a goal of many in the Chamber. However, with defense-related legislation currently up for debate, the window for consideration is quickly closing. Lawmakers will have to decide between ECAA and additional trade legislation later today which will ultimately determine the timeline for ECAA’s consideration. Nevertheless, NASDCTEc is continuing to work and support a number of promising CTE-related amendments in the upcoming debate, whenever that may be.

Shifting over to the House, H.R. 5 or the Student Success Act still remains on hold after the Chamber pulled the bill from floor consideration earlier this year. In May, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) released a memo outlining his caucus’ June agenda which included the possibility of further consideration of the bill. However, no formal action has been taken since that time. Nevertheless, there has been new talk about the legislation being brought to the floor under a new rule relatively soon that will allow members of the House to vote on several amendments before final passage. If both Chambers pass their respective ESEA proposals, the next hurdle will be reconciling the two bills—a challenging feat considering the large differences between ECAA and the Student Success Act.

As both of these processes unfold, be sure to check back here for updates on ESEA activity and what that means for the wider CTE community.

NASDCTEc & ACTE Weigh-In on WIOA NPRM

Late last year, Congress passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—legislation that reauthorized the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, the bill’s passage was only the first step in what will be an extensive implementation process. Since that time, the U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Education (USDE), and Health and Human Services (HHS) have been hard at work drafting proposed rules for carrying out WIOA’s new provisions. After missing their statutory deadline earlier this year, the Departments finally released these proposed rules in what is known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The regulations, which can be viewed here, were released in five separate releases, each focused on different aspects of WIOA and were opened up to the public for comment and further discussion.

NASDCTEc, along the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), participated in this comment period and issued a joint response that can be viewed here. It is important to note that the NPRM’s remain simply a proposal until the Departments finalize these rules by January 2016. So long as the Departments adhere to this statutory deadline, the CTE community can expect much more clarity regarding the law’s implementation at that time.

Nevertheless, throughout the NPRMs, the Departments make many references to “future joint planning guidance” as it relates to WIOA’s combined state planning provisions—a state plan option available under the new law that could allow Perkins programs to be included in a state’s overall plan for its WIOA activities. While a specific release date for that guidance remains uncertain, NASDCTEc remains hopeful that the Departments will expedite its release to support further state planning and a greater degree of cross systems collaboration.

Postsecondary Education Updates

In addition to prioritizing the reauthorization of ESEA, the education committees in both the House and the Senate have also set to work to renew the Higher Education Act (HEA)— legislation that governs the nation’s largest investment in postsecondary education among many other important features. As the reauthorization process for ESEA continues, lawmakers from both Chambers have reiterated their desire to pursue HEA reauthorization later this autumn.

Since that time, HEA activity has primarily centered in the Senate where HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) recently solicited public input on a series of white papers focused on three broad issues the committee would like to tackle in a newly reauthorized HEA:

NASDCTEc and ACTE provided formal comments on the accreditation and consumer information pieces as a supplement to the comments both organizations endorsed and supported from the Postsecondary Data Collaborative. Following the comment period, the HELP Committee has hosted two hearings on issues related to the topics covered in these papers. A helpful overview of the hearing on consumer information can be found here and more information related to yesterday’s hearing on accreditation can be found here. In between these hearings, both the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the HELP Committee announced staff working groups to address four major issues related to the reauthorization process on accountability, accreditation, financial aid, and campus safety.

One of the most critical issues for NASDCTEc during the HEA reauthorization process has been repealing the ban on the creation of a postsecondary student unit record system (read NASDCTEc’s full HEA priorities here). In May, Senators Rubio (R-FL), Wyden (D-OR), and Warner (D-VA) reintroduced the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act (S. 1195) which would do just that. By amending HEA, the bill would require postsecondary institutions who are Title IV eligible to submit student-level data to USDE. This data would then be matched with tax data from the Social Security Administration to produce aggregated information on median student earnings for programs at two, six, and 15 years after completion. The information would be disaggregated by various student groups with the aim of sharing this information with the broader public who could then make more informed choices about postsecondary education. NASDCTEc was strongly supportive of this legislation and it is important to note that elements of this bill have begun to gain some traction in the wider HEA reauthorization process.

In the postsecondary regulatory arena, USDE’s final “Gainful Employment” regulations have cleared a significant legal obstacle, with a U.S. District Court judge tossing out the Association of Proprietary Colleges’ lawsuit over the new rules. A separate lawsuit, from the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, is still ongoing and barring any further judicial interventions stemming from that case, the new regulations will go into effect starting July 1, 2015.

USDE also recently released important institutional guidance on student eligibility for Pell Grants and other federal financial aid programs authorized under Title IV of HEA. The letter provides further clarification regarding the recent restoration of HEA’s “ability-to-benefit” (ATB) provision which allows students who do not have a high school diploma to receive financial aid if enrolled in an eligible career pathway program. The letter clarifies what a career pathway program must do to be eligible under this provision and clarifies the dates of eligibility for students enrolling before or after July 1, 2015. NASDCTEc has continued to advocate for ATB provisions in the next iteration of HEA and remains hopeful that this option will be strengthened for students moving forward.

House Marks Up Perkins Funding Bill

Following up on what we shared Tuesday, the House appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) successfully reported out an appropriations bill yesterday after a two hour hearing on the draft bill. USDE, along with the Perkins Act, both derive funding from this legislation. Although it still remains unclear how much funding the drafters of the bill intend to designate to CTE and the Perkins Act, the bill would dramatically reduce funding for USDE’s discretionary budget.

It is important to note that this cut is the result of Congress’ self-imposed sequester caps for this fiscal year and fiscal years into the next decade, as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). One of the main themes throughout the hearing was the need to change the underlying BCA legislation to increase these caps in order to design an appropriations bill that can adequately fund much needed investments in education and workforce development programs— a desire expressed by members of both parties.

Nevertheless, all Democratic amendments that were put forward to increase funding for various portions of the bill were voted down along party lines, ostensibly because such proposals would violate the sequester caps. The bill is now moving on to the full House appropriations committee where it is expected to be marked up sometime next week. A draft report and table for the bill— which will include more specific information related to Perkins funding— will be released 24 hours prior to this markup.

NASDCTEc is also expecting similar appropriations activity in the Senate, beginning as early as next week. Be sure to check back here for further updates and analysis of the Congressional appropriations process and what that means for the CTE community.

Odds and Ends

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: House Subcommittee Considers Perkins Funding Bill

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

2014-11-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-washington-dc-back-Marko-BerndtTomorrow morning the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) will mark-up an appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016— the portion of the federal budget that funds the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and, relatedly, the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program. While still a long way off from the House’s full consideration, reconciliation with a forthcoming Senate proposal, and ultimate enactment, the subcommittee’s mark-up of this bill is still a significant step in the federal budget and appropriations process that has not occurred successfully in several years. The mark-up process, where the bill will be further amended by members of the subcommittee, will provide insight into the committee’s funding priorities for education and workforce development programs as the Congressional appropriations process continues.

As we have shared previously, both the House and the Senate have agreed to and passed a budget framework that stays within the bounds of the Budget Control Act’s (BCA) statutorily required budget caps (also known as sequester caps) which limit the overall size the federal budget well into the next decade. Early this morning, the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor-HHS-ED released its draft of the FY 2016 Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill which adheres to these caps and would cut USDE’s budget by $2.8 billion—a figure that is larger than the reduction to USDE’s budget as a result of BCA-mandated sequestration in FY 2013.

At present, it remains unclear what the subcommittee is proposing with regards to the Perkins basic state grant program. The bill as currently written combines funding for adult education and Career Technical Education (CTE) into a single lump sum which is approximately $7 million below FY 2015 levels. What is uncertain is how this $7 million reduction will be distributed between adult education and CTE— something tomorrow’s mark-up process should make clearer.

As a reminder, the Perkins basic state grant program has been funded at $1.117 billion since FY 2014 where the program restored 96 percent of its sequestration cuts from FY 2013. Nevertheless, the state grant program remains $5.4 million below pre-sequester levels. More information on Perkins funding levels can be found here. NASDCTEc and the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) have been urging Congress to fund Perkins at pre-sequester levels in FY 2016 and we encourage you to contact your members of Congress to remind them about the importance of Perkins funding. Be sure to voice your support through ACTE’s action center here!

In addition to the above implications for Perkins state grants specifically, the draft bill also proposes to eliminate 19 existing education programs of interest to the CTE community including School Improvement grants, funding for elementary and secondary school counseling, and Investing in Innovation (I3) grants among others. It contains a few USDE-related policy riders too—provisions unrelated to funding— that would prohibit the Department from enforcing its imminent “Gainful Employment” regulations, block USDE from implementing its forthcoming college ratings system later this summer, prevent the Department from using 21st Century Community Learning Centers funds to expand learning time, and would create limitations for how USDE defines “credit hour” for the purposes of federal financial aid as well as changing program integrity rules related to how distance learning programs are authorized by states.

It is important to note that both Democrats and Republicans remain extremely divided over how to fund federal programs in FY 2016 and in particular how to grapple with the self-imposed sequester caps that are anathema to both party’s distinct funding priorities. This partisan disagreement will continue to deepen as the year continues and it remains highly unlikely that lawmakers will reach agreement on the 12 independent funding bills, including Labor-HHS-ED, that are needed to fund the totality of the federal government. While CTE and the Perkins Act remain solid, bipartisan issues, the larger debate around federal appropriations will continue to take center stage as the end of the 2015 fiscal year draws to a close on September 30th.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for additional updates on this process, along with a host other CTE-related information from the past few weeks.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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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: Obama Administration Releases FY16 Budget Request

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

CapitolOn Monday, President Obama formally kicked-off the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget and appropriation process by releasing his annual budget request to Congress.  The request makes funding level recommendations to Congress for all federally funded programs, charts the course for the Administration’s policy priorities over the next year, and serves as a vehicle for new proposals the President would like to see enacted by the 114th Congress.

Overall the President proposed $74 billion in additional funding above and beyond the spending limits imposed by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011— limits more commonly known as sequestration. These caps have come back into full force this year, after the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA) of 2014 slightly expanded the overall caps for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015. With these caps back in full effect for the upcoming 2016 fiscal year and beyond, the President’s budget request amounts to an overall increase of 7 percent over these mandatory spending limits with increases for both defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) split nearly evenly.

The President’s proposal to set spending levels above these caps is significant as we approach the budget and appropriations cycle for the upcoming fiscal year. Without changes to sequestration there is little room for further investment in education and other critically important programs. As a consequence the President’s budget proposal is a strong message to Congress that more needs to be done to address these harmful mandated limits on federal investment.

In light of this, the President’s request proposes $70.7 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) which is an increase of $3.6 billion over enacted FY 2015 levels or 5.4 percent overall. The U.S Department of Labor (DOL) saw an overall proposal of $13.2 billion for their discretionary budget which is an increase of $1.2 billion over the last fiscal year or a 10.3 percent increase.

Of particular significance to the CTE community was an additional $200 million proposal for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins)— an increase that would be realized through the creation of the American Technical Training Fund (ATTF), a newly proposed competitive grant program to, “support the development and operation of innovative, evidence-based job training programs in high-demand fields” to be jointly administered by both ED and DOL. While an additional $2 million was proposed to be included for Perkins’ national activities to provide technical assistance for the ATTF, no new funding was proposed by the administration for the formula-based basic state grant program— the core program under Perkins which still remains approximately $5 million below pre-sequestration spending levels.

In addition to the initiatives noted above, the President’s request also includes several other proposals of interest to the CTE stakeholder community contained in both the ED and DOL budgets:

NASDCTEc and the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) released a statement upon the request’s release expressing appreciation for the budget’s stronger focus on CTE issues. Find the press release here.

More information on ED’s budget can be found here and additional coverage of DOL’s budget is here.  It is important to note that this is only the beginning of the FY 2016 budget and appropriations process. The budgetary baton has now been passed to the House and Senate budget committees who must now craft a similar proposal outlining funding levels for federal programs in the coming fiscal year. As that gets underway, check back here for updates and analysis for how the CTE community will likely be impacted.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in News, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Cromnibus Edges Through Congress, Administration Announces New Apprenticeship Grants

Monday, December 15th, 2014

CapitolBy narrow margins in both the House and the Senate, Congress managed to pass omnibus appropriations legislation over the weekend to fund most of the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Totaling $1.1 trillion, the legislation will fund the majority of the federal government until October 1, 2015.

Earlier in the week, House Republicans had introduced the 2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 83)— hybrid legislation that combined aspects of a continuing appropriations resolution (CR) and more comprehensive appropriations for all federal departments and agencies with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Known as a cromnibus, this legislation was heatedly debated in the House on Thursday night and passed by a margin of 219 – 206. Following the vote the Chamber adjourned for the rest of the 113th Congress and is not expected to return until the start of the new 114th Congress beginning in early January.

With the December 11th deadline for the most recent CR having come and gone, Congress also passed another short-term CR to avert a government shutdown while the bill worked its way over to the Senate for further debate this past Friday and Saturday. Despite strong opposition from conservatives and liberals alike, the cromnibus was approved in the Senate by a 56 – 40 vote late Saturday night.

On the whole, H.R. 83 largely maintains funding levels from the previous fiscal year for most programs and departments, although it cuts approximately $166 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) discretionary budget. Fortunately the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program (BSG) was excluded from these reductions. Instead this legislation level-funds the BSG program at $1.118 billion— the same amount the program received in FY 2014.

Although NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) recently urged lawmakers to fund the program at slightly higher levels, maintaining current investment levels for the BSG program is a minor victory in the context of the changing political and fiscal dynamics on Capitol Hill— particularly at time when other programs in the discretionary side of the federal budget have been forced to shoulder even larger reductions over the past several years.

H.R. 83 also contained a number of controversial policy riders— provisions unrelated to appropriations— that were the focus of much debate on the legislation. Nearly all of the most contentious riders, such as changes to campaign finance and banking laws, were ultimately included in the legislation. Despite these riders, President Obama has publicly committed to signing the legislation into law sometime this week.

Of particular interest to the CTE community was the partial restoration of the federal Pell Grant program’s “ability-to-benefit” (ATB) provision— something that NASDCTEc has been advocating for in the context of the Higher Education Act’s reauthorization. This change affords students who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, access to the federal financial aid program if they are also enrolled in a career pathways program as defined in the new law. An additional $6 million in funding was also set-aside for a competitive grant program under ED to improve data system coordination and quality at the local, state and national levels and is expected to roll-out in the coming year.

Despite the late night passage of the bill in the Senate, the Chamber remains open today and possibly further into the week as lawmakers there work on last-minute legislation and confirmations for many Obama Administration nominees for various government posts.

DOL Unveils Apprenticeship Grants

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new $100 million competitive grant program to support the expansion of apprenticeship programs in high-growth and high-skill occupational areas. The American Apprenticeship Grant (AAG) program, is the successor to last year’s Youth CareerConnect grants and are funded through H-1B visa fees. Administration and Department officials hope the program will spur an expansion of apprenticeship programs into sectors of the economy which has not traditionally used them, such as information technology, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.

Approximately 25 grants will be awarded to public-private partnerships consisting of at least one public and private entity. Eligible entities include employers, industry associations, joint labor-management organizations, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, non-profits and faith-based organizations. Grant amounts will range from $2.5 million to $5 million each and must make efforts to align and coordinate with other postsecondary education programs and career pathways available in a state or local area.

Applications are due April 30, 2015 and more information on how to apply, including program factsheets and checklists, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Congress Considers a Cromnibus, ED Announces Start of P3 Initiative

Friday, December 5th, 2014

CapitolA new term is quickly entering the beltway lexicon this holiday season— a hybrid funding approach known as a “cromnibus” is now under consideration by House Republicans which would fund most, but not all of the federal government for the remainder of the 2015 federal Fiscal Year (FY). As we have shared previously, Congress failed to enact the necessary appropriations legislation earlier this summer to fund governmental operations in FY 2015.

To avert another government shutdown, lawmakers passed a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) in late September which temporarily extended FY 2014 funding levels into FY 2015 which began on October 1 of this year. Unfortunately, this extension resulted in a 0.054 percent across-the-board cut to all discretionary programs, including the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) basic state grant program, because of lower revenue levels and lost savings elsewhere in the federal budget in FY 2015. Since that time, Congress has struggled to come to a longer-term agreement for how to fund the federal government past the current CR’s expiration date on December 11, 2014.

NASDCTEc and its partners in the Career Technical Education (CTE) community have recently called on Congress to pass comprehensive omnibus appropriations legislation in lieu of another temporary funding measure. An omnibus would replace the current CR with a consolidated package of the necessary 12 individual appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government— a move which would give greater certainty to the CTE community regarding future funding levels for the Perkins Act’s basic state grant program.

Despite a number of obstacles over the past several weeks, House Republicans now seem to be coalescing around the legislative strategy of a cromnibus—legislation which fuses an omnibus and a CR into one bill. In this proposal, eleven out of the 12 annual appropriations bills— including the legislation which funds the U.S. Department of Education and relatedly the Perkins Act— would receive funding for the remainder of FY 2015. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the primary federal agency tasked with implementing President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, would receive another temporary funding bill into the early part of next year.

In pursuing this strategy, House Republicans hope to leverage future concessions on immigration policy from the Obama Administration using a series of CRs to fund DHS moving forward. While a final version of this legislation has yet to be released, Congressional Democrats and President Obama have not said whether they would accept such a deal, although more recently both have signaled they may be open to such an approach. Democratic receptiveness to the cromnibus approach will likely hinge on the inclusion of other “policy riders” in the legislation— something that both parties in Congress are currently negotiating.

Check back here early next week when NASDCTEc expects further Congressional activity on federal funding.

U.S. Department of Education Announces P3 Initiative

As we shared earlier this year, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Labor (DOL), and Health & Human Services (HHS) announced a new initiative to more effectively support disconnected youth by granting additional flexibility to existing federally-funded programs to develop innovative solutions and strategies in local communities across the country.

Dubbed Performance Pilot Partnerships, or P3 for short, the agencies will select ten local applications to launch pilot projects using additional flexibility for existing discretionary grant programs administered by the agencies. Local Perkins grant recipients are among the programs eligible to participate in these pilots. An additional $700,000 in funding will be available for successful applicants who the departments hope will “braid” existing funding streams together in new ways to more effectively support disconnected youth.

Applications are due by March 4, 2105 and the winners of the project will be announced further into next year. More information on P3 can be found here and application details can be accessed here.

Senator Harkin Introduces HEA Proposal

Just before Thanksgiving last week, soon-to-be-retired Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, formally introduced the Higher Education and Affordability Act. The bill seeks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act which is set to expire in the coming year.

Although the bill will not move out of the HELP Committee prior to the new 114th Congress set to begin next year, the legislation does contain a number of promising proposals which NASDCTEc has been supportive of including:

NASDCTEc applauds the Senator’s commitment to affordable high-quality postsecondary education and looks forward to reauthorization process of HEA in the New Year. More information on the bill can be found here and the text of the legislation is located here. The next incoming Chairman for the HELP Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), is widely expected to prioritize the reauthorization of HEA in the next Congress.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Congress Continues to Struggle on Appropriations Ahead of Presidential Announcement, VP Biden Talks CTE

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

CapitolFollowing the midterm elections earlier this month, Congress reconvened last week to begin their final “lame duck” session of the 113th Congress. As the Republican Party prepares to take control of the Senate and with it the entire Congress, lawmakers must still grapple with a number of pressing issues before setting to work in the 114th Congress beginning in the New Year. Topping the list of Congressional to-do’s over the next several weeks is the need to pass legislation to fund the government to avert another shutdown of federal operations— something that only too recently happened late last year.

As we have previously shared, Congress failed to pass the necessary appropriations legislation to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Instead, lawmakers passed a temporary stopgap funding measure known as a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extended FY 2014 spending levels into the current 2015 federal fiscal year that began on October 1, 2014. However due to differences in revenue levels and lost savings elsewhere in the federal budget, this extension resulted in an across-the-board cut of 0.054 percent to all programs, including the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins).

Until recently, it was widely anticipated that a comprehensive omnibus appropriations bill— legislation that combines all of the necessary 12 appropriations bills into one package— would be passed by Congress sometime before the expiration date for the CR on December 11 of this year. Doing so would replace the current CR with a long-term agreement on federal spending until the next fiscal year and could possibly restore some of the funding reductions that were a result of the CR’s passage this past September. Senator Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), the current Appropriations Committee Chairpersons in both the Senate and the House, have been working to finalize such a bill for the past several weeks and appear to be close to a final agreement.

However, it remains uncertain at this time if lawmakers will be able come to such an agreement before the December 11th deadline. Congressional Republicans and the Obama Administration are currently at odds over a widely expected Executive Action from the President on immigration— an announcement that will likely occur this evening. Many Republican lawmakers are opposed to such a move and have debated a number of responses including passing another short-term CR or possibly passing an Omnibus, but eliminating funding for federal departments or agencies which carry out aspects of the President’s expected action on immigration. Publicly, the Republican Party remains divided on how they will respond— whether through the appropriations process or otherwise.

Nonetheless, as Chairman Rogers recently pointed out, “We need to do an omnibus bill funding the entire government for the rest of the year, and get that whole business behind us, so that come January, [we] will have a clean slate rather than looking backwards to old fights that we could look forward to making positive changes.” NASDCTEc applauds this sentiment and remains hopeful that Congress will pass a comprehensive omnibus bill for the remainder of FY 2015. Along with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), NASDCTEc has recently called on Congress to pass this much needed legislation and restore the remaining cuts to the Perkins Act.

As this process unfolds we urge you, the Career Technical Education community, to do the same. Don’t know who your members of Congress are? Find out here.

AFL-CIO & AFT Host Vice President Biden for CTE & Workforce Development Summit

vpbidenLate last week, the AFL-CIO, along with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), hosted a “Career and Technical Education (CTE) Workforce Development Summit” which explored the ways CTE and workforce development programs can create multiple pathways for student success. “CTE has the promise and potential to help equip a new generation of workers with the skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and to forge a new path to college and life,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

Vice President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address for the event, emphasizing the importance of education and employer partnerships. “These partnerships provide a seamless transition so folks can go from a classroom to a job, and from job to job within the industry they’re in,” he said, adding, “We have to maintain and enhance our workforce so we have the most sophisticated, best-trained workforce in the world.” Later on in the day, Snap-on Inc. Chairman and CEO, Nicholas Pinchuk couched this in even clearer terms declaring, ““We are in a global competition for jobs and the single best weapon is CTE. We need to out-skill the competition.”

During the all-day summit, several panels explored a number of CTE and workforce development issues, including employer engagement, apprenticeship programs, effectively using labor market information and strategies for scaling up other innovative education and workforce program models. Yet, the most common theme throughout the day centered on CTE’s evolution over the past several decades from vocational education and into today’s modern conception of CTE. Nearly every panelist agreed that today’s CTE has made extraordinary progress and is now very much a viable pathway for any number of postsecondary and career ambitions.

U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, capped off the day with a rousing address on the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) work on apprenticeships. Perez made a number of references to DOL’s upcoming grant program, the America Apprenticeship Initiative.  Grantees for this $100 million program— the successor to last year’s Youth CareerConnect grants— are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

More information on the summit can be found here.

NASDCTEc Finalizes Higher Education Recommendations

With the next Congress widely expected to take up the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the consideration of the nation’s primary legislation governing the nation’s postsecondary education system presents a unique opportunity for the CTE community to have their voices heard as this process unfolds. To that end, NASDCTEc has recently finalized a set of recommendations for the reauthorization of the legislation which can be viewed here.

Odds & Ends

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) recently released a document outlining the “pillars” of his vision for a new Republican Congressional majority. Although education is part of this platform, the Perkins Act and CTE more generally were notably absent.

Yesterday the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education hosted a town hall listening session on the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to aid in implementation of the new law. More recently, the Department of Education released a short video outlining the various intersection points between WIOA and Perkins IV.

The U.S. Department of Education’s recently finalized regulations defining “gainful employment” have been challenged in court by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Pending action by the court system, these regulations are still set to go into effect next year.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Midterm Elections Place Republicans in Control of Congress, Gainful Employment Regulations Finalized

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

CapitolThe long anticipated 2014 midterm elections took place on Tuesday, ushering in a wave of new Republicans into both chambers of Congress. The central question ahead of these elections rested on the balance of power in the Senate and with it full Republican control of the entire Congress. Late Tuesday night, that question was finally put to rest. As of this post, the GOP has picked up seven new seats in the Senate, with three races still in contention. In the House the results were much the same, with the Republicans swelling their majority in that Chamber to at least 243 and possibly 250— a high water mark for the Republican Party not seen since 1928.

Although a few races are still in contention, the Republican Party looks poised to add additional seats in both Chambers over the next several weeks, as the elections results continue to trickle in. Democrats who have served in both the House and the Senate on the Chambers’ respective education and appropriations committees have lost their seats which, along with the influx of new Republican lawmakers to the Capitol, will significantly change the composition of the Committees that oversee and ultimately fund the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) along with other key education and workforce programs.

Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) along with Representative Tim Bishop (D-NY), who have served on education and appropriations committees in both Chambers have all lost reelection. Two others including Senators Beigich (D-AK) and Landrieu (D-LA), are in races whose final outcome have yet to be determined.

So what does this all mean for the Career Technical Education community? First and foremost, the key Committees in both Chambers which will oversee the reauthorization of the Perkins Act— the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House’s Education and the Workforce (HEW) Committee— will look dramatically different in the 114th Congress which is set to convene formally on January 3rd, 2015.

Current Ranking Member of the Senate’s HELP Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), will likely become Chairman of this influential committee, where he is expected to prioritize the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA) in the committee’s legislative queue. Additionally, the retirement of Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) has positioned Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to likely take the Ranking Member position on the HELP Committee next January. Both Senators Alexander and Murray were among the main architects behind recent reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act— evidence that the two could also work in bipartisan fashion on other education and workforce issues.

In the House current HEW Chairman, John Kline (R-MN), is expected to retain his position pending Republican leadership approval of a request for a term-limit  extension to stay on as Chair (current House rules cap panel leadership at three terms). For the Democrats, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) is anticipated to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of current HEW Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA).

With the Republican Party set to take the reins of Congressional power early next year, the question now shifts to what education and workforce legislation— possibly including the Perkins Act— will be prioritized in a new Congress. Nevertheless, the current “lame duck” Congress still has much to accomplish beginning next week when both Chambers are set to reconvene.

As we have previously shared, Congress passed a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extended Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 spending levels into the current FY 2015. This stopgap funding measure is set to expire on December 11th of this year and Congress must act to fund the federal government past that date. NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) have called on Congress to pass a comprehensive omnibus spending bill to replace the current CR and restore funding to the Perkins basic state grant program. Senate Democrats recently circulated a similar request last month.

As all of this and more unfolds over the coming weeks and months, check back here for more information and updates.

Gainful Employment Regulations Finalized and Released

Last Friday, the Obama Administration’s Department of Education (ED) released the final version of its widely anticipated “gainful employment” regulations which impact postsecondary institutions offering career education programs. These newly finalized rules, set to go into effect July 1st, 2015, regulate institutional eligibility to access Title IV federal student aid under the Higher Education Act (HEA). Current law requires that most for-profit programs and certificate programs at non-profit and public institutions prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” to access Title IV student aid money. However, current statute does not fully define the term “gainful employment” and these regulations have sought to do just that.

As we have previously shared, these regulations are the result of nearly five years of off-and-on negotiated rulemaking sessions between a broad swath of the higher education community and ED. A previous attempt by the Department to implement new gainful employment regulations was struck down by a federal district court in 2012 which ruled that the rules were arbitrarily constructed and applied, but upheld ED’s authority to make a new, more fully justified set in the future. Last Friday, after months of negotiated rulemaking sessions failed to reach consensus agreement, ED released the final version of these regulations for public consumption.

Under the proposed regulations gainful employment will be measured using three criteria which ED hopes will identify and weed out the lowest-performing programs among the institutions and programs these regulations apply to. Almost all programs at for-profit postsecondary institutions, as well as non-degree programs at public and private nonprofit institutions, including some community colleges and area career technical education centers, will be subject to these new regulations which include:

The Department’s factsheet which lays out these metrics in a bit more detail, can be found here.

Significantly, ED did not include a program cohort default rate (pCDR) as a third accountability metric— a measure which was included in the Department’s initial proposal this past spring. Many community colleges and sub-associate degree institutions argued that a pCDR metric would unfairly penalize their programs whose students largely do not receive any federal student aid.

While these regulations are set to go into effect July 1st, 2015, a transition period for institutions to meet the more stringent debt-to-earnings metrics will be established over the next seven years to allow programs to make the necessary changes to meet these new requirements. A press release from ED, containing more information can be found here and the final regulations can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in News, Public Policy
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