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State Policy Update: Workforce Development, Job-driven Training and More

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

This week, the National Skills Coalition released its roundup of this year’s major state legislative actions aiming to close the middle-skills gap across the country. Be sure to check out the full paper and related webinar, which includes deep dives on new workforce development efforts in Virginia and Minnesota, to learn more.

Here are some of the workforce-related highlights from this year’s legislative sessions:

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

By Andrea Zimmermann in Public Policy
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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: 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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NASDCTEc Legislative Update: Spring Wrap-Up Edition (Part II)

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

cherry-blossoms-at-jefferson-150x150A lot has happened this season on Capitol Hill, particularly with regards to the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), new CTE-related legislation and various announcements from the Obama Administration. 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 II in a two part series of springtime legislative updates. 

Implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

On April 16th, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services (DOL, ED, HHS) formally published a long overdue series of Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). These NPRM’s are a proposed set of rules developed by the Obama Administration that would govern the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). They were released in five parts:

  1. Unified and combined plans, performance accountability and the one-stop system (DOL/ED)
  2. DOL-administered activities (DOL only)
  3. Title II adult education and family literacy activities (ED only)
  4. Miscellaneous program changes (ED only)
  5. State vocational rehabilitation services program, state-supported employment service programs and limitations on the use of subminimum wage (ED only)

 

The National Skills Coalition recently released a helpful summary and webinar overviewing the main elements of this proposal. Moreover, DOL recently released a Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) that outlines the governance-related activities that States must complete by July 1st of this year. As a reminder, all of WIOA’s required implementation dates can be found here.

While the five NPRM’s cover the full spectrum of WIOA implementation, the most relevant proposal for the CTE community is the first NPRM listed above, jointly developed and released by both DOL and ED. This NPRM seeks to provide additional guidance to states as they choose to pursue the unified or combined planning options available under WIOA, a clearer articulation of two of WIOA’s common performance metrics— “indicators of effectively serving employers” along with “measurable skills gains”— and attempts to provide clarity regarding the sharing of infrastructures costs for WIOA’s One-Stop system of which postsecondary CTE is a required partner.

Published in the Federal Register on April 16th, the Obama Administration has opened up these NPRMs for public consumption and comment. Responses to the department are due no later than June 16, 2015 and can be submitted here by following the on-screen instructions.

NASDCTEc and its partners plan to provide formal comments on the issues outlined above in the coming weeks and will continue to monitor and engage with the federal rulemaking process as it continues throughout the rest of this year.

CTE Legislation Round-Up

In March Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), co-chairs of the Senate CTE Caucus, introduced the Next Generation High Schools Act (NGHS), a bill that would create a $300 million competitive high school redesign program to increase the number of students who graduate college-and-career ready by connecting schools with comprehensive, evidence-based reform models similar to those found in CTE.

Specifically, the bill would support applied learning instructional approaches and rigorous CTE curriculum to overhaul high schools in an effort to boost graduation rates and increase student achievement. NASDCTEc supported the introduction of this bill and has fully endorsed the proposal. A press release on the legislation can be found here and more information is located here. In a recent op-ed article, Senator Baldwin reiterated her intent to introduce additional CTE-related legislation further on this year.

Last week Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Go to High School, Go to College Act which seeks to increase student access to postsecondary education. The bill would incentive early college and dual / concurrent enrollment models offered at the high school level by expanding federal Pell Grant program eligibility to qualifying students to pursue these opportunities.

A companion bill sponsored by Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Chris Gibson (R-NY) has also been introduced in the House. NASDCTEc has fully supported and endorsed this legislation and applauds these lawmakers’ commitment to providing a quality postsecondary education to all students. More information on the bill can be found here and a press release from Senator Portman’s office is located here.

Updates from the Obama Administration

Last week, ED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) released a fourth round of non-regulatory guidance for issues surrounding the implementation of the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins). Common questions regarding the law’s implementation and corresponding answers, along with the three previous versions of this Q&A, can be viewed on OCTAE’s newly renovated Perkins Collaborative Resource Network.

OCTAE has also recently released a summary report of the responses ED, DOL, and HHS received from last year’s request for information (RFI) on quality career pathway development and implementation. NASDCTEc, along with 140 other stakeholder groups, provided comment during this solicitation. View the full report here.

In March, the Obama Administration announced the launch of their “TechHire” initiative which will provide $100 million in competitive grant funding through DOL to create partnerships between employers, eligible training institutions, and local governments.  Funded by DOL’s H1-B visa fees, the initiative seeks to invest in innovative, data-driven programs that provide participants specific occupational training. More information on available grants is expected later this year, but an overview of the effort can be found here.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and the Aspen Institute announced the launch of “Communities that Work Partnership”, a new joint effort that seeks to promote industry-led training and workforce development programs. Supported by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s (Commerce) Economic Development Administration, the announcement is part of Commerce’s ongoing “Skills for Business” initiative that is aimed at preparing workings for job opportunities in in-demand occupations and industry sectors. More information on the announcement, how to engage with this work, and relevant deadlines can be found here.

Sector partnerships are one of the new points of emphasis under WIOA. In an effort to support the creation and expansion of these partnerships, DOL’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has announced in a recent TEGL the availability of $150 million in grant funding for state agencies responsible for administering Title I programs and activities under WIOA. Funds may be used for the planning of individual sector strategies, related program services, and administration. More information is available from the National Skills Coalition’s blog.

Last week, the White House hosted its first-ever “Upskilling Summit” to bring together the employer and education communities. The event also marked the unveiling of a new report on how the Administration plans to promote a series of public-private partnerships aimed at supporting workers of all ages and background’s as they seek to secure high-skill, high-wage jobs. Read the report here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Spring Meeting Recap: WIOA Implementation

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Last year Congress passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) with overwhelming bipartisan support. Due for reauthorization for well over a decade, WIOA was passed in an effort to promote a greater degree of cross-program and cross-systems collaboration at the federal, regional and local levels.

Since the law’s passage last summer, the three primary federal agencies— the U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Education (ED), and Health and Human Services (HHS)— have been hard at work modeling this type of collaboration and determining how the law should be implemented over the next few years.

While WIOA contained many improvements to the current workforce system such as common performance metrics across programs, an emphasis on unified and combined state planning, and a wider promotion of career pathways and sector strategies, the law still left a lot to be determined by the Agencies for how many of the legislation’s provisions would ultimately be implemented.

Earlier this month NASDCTEc convened a panel of prominent representatives from the three main Agencies tasked to develop regulations governing WIOA at its recent 2015 Spring Meeting:

Just before the panel was set to begin, these Agencies released a series of Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)— the Administration’s first attempt to develop and promulgate new regulations for WIOA.  Because of the panel’s proximity to this release, the panelists were not able to discuss the regulations in depth, but they did share their collective vision for the law’s implementation.

Speaking about the regulations, Dr. Uvin pointed out during his formal remarks that the proposed rules were developed collaboratively between and among the Agencies so that “they could lead by example for law’s implementation.” Throughout the opening remarks, both Greenberg and Zuidema emphasized the need for the public’s comments over the next few months in order to strengthen and enhance their proposal.

Another area of discussion revolved around WIOA’s combined state planning provision— an option available to states to jointly develop and submit a single plan for core WIOA programs along with their required partners (Carl D. Perkins Act programs are among the latter). Although there remains much to clarify with regards to this option, the panelists agreed that CTE leaders should be proactive regarding WIOA implementation in their state and that combined planning presents “an unprecedented opportunity to create a unified state vision for education and workforce development”.

Be sure to check our blog for further coverage of the WIOA’s implementation in the coming year.

By Steve Voytek in NASDCTEc Spring Meeting
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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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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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Legislative Update: WIOA Becomes Law, VP Releases Federal Job Training Review as Competency-Based Education Gains Support

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

CapitolLast Tuesday, President Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), historic legislation which supports workforce development activities throughout the country and funds job training programs for displaced youth and adults. This legislation reauthorizes and modernizes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and makes a number of positive improvements to that law. Over the past two months, WIOA was approved in both the House and Senate by overwhelming majorities before making its way to the President’s desk for signature.

Following its enactment into law, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education have now set to work developing the necessary policies and regulatory guidance for states and local areas to implement the provisions of WIOA.  NASDCTEc will continue to engage in this process and keep the CTE community up-to-date as the law is implemented. Additional information from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education can be found here and here. Important dates and key deadlines for WIOA’s implementation can be found on this timeline.

Vice President Releases Review of Federal Job Training Programs

On the same day that President Obama signed WIOA into law, Vice President Joe Biden released a long anticipated review of federal job training programs. Following his 2014 State of the Union address President Obama directed the Vice President to lead an across-the-board review of these programs, working closely with members of the President’s Cabinet. This review is the result of that months-long process. In Vice President Biden’s remarks, he called the passage of WIOA an opportunity to outline in greater detail “how to keep and maintain the highest-skilled workforce in the world.”

The  report titled “Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity” presents a number of findings on the effectiveness of existing job training programs and makes a series of recommendations for how to improve on those efforts. Among the many actions steps proposed in the report is a seven-component “Job-Driven Checklist,” which will guide the Administration’s efforts to strengthen existing workforce programs and supplement the positive steps taken in WIOA:

Beginning on October 1, all eligible applicants for 25 different federal competitive grant programs across federal agencies will be required to incorporate each of these elements into their application. In total, these programs represent approximately $1.4 billion in annual funding for workforce development activities throughout the country. Additionally, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education will begin to encourage states to incorporate this checklist into their unified state plans— a new requirement introduced under WIOA.

The report goes on to highlight a number of other Administration-led initiatives which have already been announced, such as the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC), the Performance Pilot Partnerships for Disconnected Youth (P3), and the American Apprenticeship Grant among a handful of others. As part of the report’s release, the Department of Education also announced that it will launch the Career Pathways Exchange, “an online information dissemination service that will give all states and interested stakeholders access to resources and guidance to develop, expand, and strengthen their career pathways systems.” Read the full report here.

Support for Competency-Based Education Grows

In conjunction with the Vice President’s report, the Department of Education (ED) also announced a new round of its “experimental sites” (ex-sites) initiative, which aims to test and showcase innovative strategies and approaches to delivering postsecondary education. These experimental sites hope to demonstrate that it is possible to transition away from “seat time” in favor of demonstrated student competency— an approached widely known as competency-based education.

Since the early 1990s, ED has had the ability to waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements under the Higher Education Act (HEA). These restrictions determine if postsecondary institutions can receive funds from federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of HEA. Through the ex-sites initiative, ED will waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements under the Higher Education Act (HEA) requirements which affect Title IV federal student aid funding to provide institutions greater flexibility when implementing competency-based programs. Learn more about this announcement from ED here and Department’s official notice with detailed application instructions can be found here.

Activity around competency-based programs is also happening in Congress. Following a voice vote from the House Education and Workforce Committee, H.R. 3136 – also known as the Advancing Competency-based Education Demonstration Act – went before the full House and passed unanimously. This bill is part of the House committee’s larger strategy of reauthorizing HEA through a series of smaller bills aimed at renewing the law. The legislation has similar objectives to ED’s ex-sites initiative by allowing up to 20 institutions to offer competency-based education programs without meeting existing federal aid requirements under Title IV HEA. Eleven amendments were proposed and adopted during the bill’s vote. Among them was one offered by Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), encouraging the greater dissemination and collection of enrollment and employment information of students participating in programs supported by the legislation.

Congressional Appropriations Lose Steam

Both the House and the Senate Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 appropriations processes have stalled after months of negotiations. Congress looks set to pass a Continuing Resolution, a move that would temporarily extend current FY 2014 funding levels past the October 1 deadline when current federal funding is set to expire. Encouragingly, the Senate Appropriations Committee released the text of its intended FY 2015 Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education appropriations bill which included a $5.4 million increase for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s (Perkins) basic state grant program.

Although the appropriations process has since stalled and this funding increase is unlikely to be realized in the upcoming fiscal year, the release of the subcommittee’s text is an encouraging demonstration of Congress’ commitment to the Career Technical Education (CTE) enterprise. It is also important to note that Senate appropriators rejected the Obama Administration’s proposal for a new competitive CTE “innovation fund”- a sign that Congress largely remains opposed to a shift from the current formula-funded structure in the Perkins Act to a competitive model.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: House Passes WIOA, Senators Introduce New Perkins Amendment

Friday, July 11th, 2014

CapitolWednesday evening, the House passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA),  bipartisan legislation that reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act. As we shared previously, the Senate approved WIOA by a substantial margin of 95-3 in June, which then sent the bill over to the House for further consideration.

The House followed in much the same way, overwhelmingly supporting WIOA’s passage by a margin of 415-6. This enormous vote of confidence from both chambers of Congress now sends the legislation to President Obama, who is expected to sign the bill into law. NASDCTEc’s initial overview of the bill can be found here and a joint press release on Wednesday’s vote can be found here.

WIOA’s passage this week is the result of more than a decade of work from members of Congress, their staff and advocates alike to overhaul and modernize the nation’s workforce system. The legislation makes many improvements that will help ensure that workers and employers have the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century economy. NASDCTEc applauds this historic legislative achievement and looks forward to additional Congressional bipartisanship in the coming weeks and months as Congress continues work on other major pieces of federal education and workforce legislation such as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

Senators Introduce Perkins Legislation

Last week, Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) announced their intention to introduce a new Career Technical Education (CTE) bill that would make several positive modifications to Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins). Yesterday, these Senators officially introduced this legislation and took to the Senate floor to voice their continued support and commitment to the CTE enterprise. An overview and press release on the Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act of 2014 (ETWA) from both Senator Kaine and Portman’s offices can be found here and here.

ETWA would introduce a more rigorous definition for CTE programs of study (POS) — a framework for delivering high-quality CTE first introduced in the 2006 reauthorization of the Perkins Act. The newly proposed definition would require alignment to state-identified college and career ready standards, support the attainment of employability and technical skills, allow for multiple entry and exit points throughout a program’s secondary and postsecondary components and ultimately result in a recognized postsecondary credential or placement in an apprenticeship.

The legislation would also create an annual needs assessment for local Perkins recipients to better enable them to identify and meet the shifting needs of local CTE students and empower programs to more effectively respond to the evolving needs of the local, regional and state labor market. ETWA would also encourage the wider adoption of career academies among programs receiving Perkins funding.

NASDCTEc supports this legislation and looks forward to a comprehensive reauthorization of the Perkins Act where elements of this bill can be incorporated into the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s efforts to renew this vitally important law.

The full text of the bill can be found here and a joint letter of support from NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education can be found here.

House Committee Moves on Competency-Based Education

Yesterday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW) passed by voice vote the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136). This bipartisan legislation is part of series of bills the Committee hopes to move forward in an effort to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). As we shared previously, the HEW Committee announced a set of principles for HEA reauthorization that will guide their efforts as this process continues.

H.R. 3136 would authorize the creation of competency-based education demonstration projects through HEA and waive current statutory regulations that have acted as an impediment to a wider adoption of competency-based education models at the postsecondary level. Currently, for the purposes of federal financial aid provided under Title IV of HEA, student progress is predominantly measured and determined by credit hour rather than by other more direct methods of measuring student learning. This bill’s cosponsors hope that the legislation will reduce the amount of time it takes to work towards a degree while also reducing the financial burden placed on students seeking a postsecondary education.

NASDCTEc is supportive of competency based education approaches such as the one put forward in H.R. 3136, and looks forward to the wider utilization of these models in a comprehensive reauthorization of HEA. A factsheet on the bill can be found here and the full text here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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