Legislative Update: House Passes BBBA and New Guidance from ED

November 23rd, 2021

Democratic lawmakers in Congress have made progress on a domestic spending package aimed at investing in the nation’s human capital infrastructure, including Career Technical Education (CTE). Meanwhile, a House subcommittee recently examined how states and school districts are making use of education-related pandemic aid while the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued new nonregulatory guidance, announced changes to civil rights data collections and more.  

House Passes Build Back Better Act (BBBA)

After months of intense debate and negotiations, House Democrats successfully passed the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376) on November 19. The passage of this legislation is an important next step in Congressional Democrats’ ongoing efforts to pass a wide-ranging domestic spending package to complement the recently passed and enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). While the IIJA was passed via the regular legislative process, Congressional Democrats are making use of the budget reconciliation process which allows certain legislation, like the BBBA,  to be passed by simple majorities in both Chambers of Congress (thereby avoiding a likely Republican filibuster of the legislation). 

In the lead up to the BBBA’s passage in the House, the Congressional Budget Office released an official “scoring” of the legislation, including for the bill’s education and workforce development provisions. This was a key point of contention for some House Democrats who wanted this score prior to a formal vote. Following the release of this score, the BBBA was passed narrowly along party lines by a margin of 220-213. The BBBA now heads to the Senate where the lawmakers in the upper chamber are widely expected to make additional changes to the legislation in the coming weeks ahead. 

As shared previously, this version of the BBBA would provide $600 million for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act’s (Perkins V) basic state grant formula program and $100 million for the law’s Innovation and Modernization competitive grant program. If enacted, the legislation would address a host of Advance CTE’s policy priorities and would also provide $5 billion for Community College and Industry Partnership grants while also ensuring that certain Area Technical Centers are eligible to apply for this funding. As the BBBA works its way further through the legislative process, Advance CTE will continue to advocate for these important investments as part of a final package which is widely expected to be complete by the end of the year. 

House Subcommittee Examine Pandemic Aid Spending

On November 17 the House Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education and its Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee held a joint hearing titled “Examining the Implementation of COVID-19 Education Funds.” ED’s second highest ranking official, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, along with James Kvaal, ED’s top official for postsecondary education, provided testimony and answered questions as part of this hearing. The purpose of the hearing was to scrutinize state, district and institutions’ use of over $160 billion in collective pandemic-related funding provided since March 2020 to help the nation’s educational systems respond to and recover from the public health crisis. 

The nearly four hour hearing explored a wide range of topics including ED’s ongoing efforts to monitor and oversee how these funds are being used by states, school districts and postsecondary institutions. In addition, lawmakers expressed a strong desire to ensure that this monitoring and oversight process ensures these funds are being spent in ways Congress intended. Relatedly, lawmakers also discussed efforts to develop reliable measures of student performance to more accurately assess the impact of programs and initiatives being funded with these pandemic relief resources. An archived webcast of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here

ED Issues New Guidance Related to Student Transportation 

This month, ED published new guidance related to the use of pandemic aid dollars for student transportation. The guidance, in the form of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), provides answers to several questions related to the use of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funding to provide transportation services to eligible students. Of note for the CTE community, this guidance affirms that school districts are permitted to use these funds, in certain circumstances, to provide transportation for students participating in after-school learning and enrichment programs. The full guidance can be found here

MOU Signed to Expand Apprenticeship Programs 

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves and Switzerland’s President Guy Parmelin signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) as part of a series of events and announcements marking the nation’s 7th annual National Apprenticeship Week (NAW). The MOU will expand and make wider use of apprenticeships among Swiss companies operating in the United States. More information on the announcement can be found here

ED Soliciting Feedback Regarding Civil Rights Data Collection 

On November 18, ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it has submitted to the Federal Register for public comment a proposed Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) Information Collection Request package for the 2021–22 school year. OCR plans to introduce new data categories by proposing the following data which were informed by listening sessions with stakeholders:

  • The addition of COVID-19 (coronavirus) data elements to learn the extent to which schools are offering remote and/or in-person instruction to students during the school year;
  • Revisions to restraint and seclusion definitions;
  • The restoration and expansion of data about preschool students and teachers, including data elements regarding preschool students with disabilities who receive special education and related services and those who are English Learners; the extent to which schools have teachers with one or two years of experience; and teacher certification status; and
  • The addition of a nonbinary option to male/female data categories for those schools and districts that already collect that data, to ensure the CRDC captures accurate and inclusive information about all student identities and student experiences, where the data are available.

Comments regarding these proposed changes to the CRDC information collection are due by January 18, 2022. The full announcement, including the portal to submit input, can be found here

Odds & Ends 

  • ED approved Puerto Rico’s plan for using $990 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding on November 18 to support K-12 schools and students. More information about the plan is located here
  • President Biden announced plans to nominate Glenna Gallo to serve as Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Ms. Gallo currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Special Education for the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

Legislative Update: Budget Reconciliation and Demand for Broadband Funding

August 27th, 2021

This week, the House adopted a budget resolution that allows for progression on the budget reconciliation process. Read below to learn more about the implications and timeline, as well as an update on national demand for broadband funding, a grant program for displaced workers and newly approved stimulus funding plans.

House Adopts Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Resolution

Written by Michael Matthews, Government Relations Manager, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Original post can be found here

On Tuesday, the House adopted the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget resolution, by a 220-212 party-line vote. The resolution is significant because it officially starts the reconciliation process, paving the way for the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan to be passed by a simple majority. The Senate already adopted the budget resolution on a party-line vote earlier this month.

The House vote also included the rule for floor debate governing a separate voting rights bill and eventually the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, for which Democratic leaders have set a tentative vote date of September 27.

Now that the reconciliation rules have been adopted in both chambers through the budget resolution, committees can begin officially writing their respective pieces of the larger $3.5 trillion package. For example, the education committees have been allocated over $700 billion to fund initiatives under their jurisdiction, ranging from Pre-K programs to free college, and including any workforce development or CTE investments.  

Within the resolution, there is a deadline of September 15 to have bills done on the committee level, so they can be combined into one large proposal for passage on the floor of each chamber. However, with many moving parts and disagreements even among Democrats it seems somewhat unlikely that the reconciliation bill will be done by the prescribed deadline and may go later into the fall.

There are a handful of moderate Senate Democrats, namely Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), who have publicly expressed concern over the price tag of the reconciliation bill. With a 50-50 tie in the Senate, it is critical that all Democrats are on board to ensure its passage. This means that there will likely be longer negotiations that may pare down the bill before it is brought to a vote.

FCC Announces Over $5 Billion in Funding Requests for Emergency Connectivity Fund

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it has received $5.137 billion in requests to fund 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections, including schools and libraries in both rural and urban communities, as part of the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. The first filing window closed on August 13, and resulted in applications from all 50 states, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The FCC will open a second application filing window from September 28 to October 13 in light of the outstanding demand. A state-by-state breakdown of funding requests can be found here

On Wednesday Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) highlighted this widespread demand in a press release that called for passing of the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act, which was introduced in July.  

DOL Announces Grants for Workers Displaced by the Pandemic

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the availability of an increased $90 million of funding grants for employment opportunities for displaced workers, historically marginalized communities or groups and those unemployed for an extended period of time or who have exhausted unemployment insurance or other pandemic unemployment insurance programs. This means that funding for Comprehensive and Accessible Reemployment through Equitable Employment Recovery (CAREER) National Dislocated Worker Grants, announced in June, is more than doubled. Applications for CAREER National Dislocated Worker Grants are open through August 31 and can be used for one of the following activities: 

  • Delivering comprehensive workforce services, including career, training and supporting services to help participants gain employment; or
  • Purchasing, building or expanding virtual technology platforms, software systems or services for job search, career guidance, training or other allowable activities. 

ED Approves More State K-12 Stimulus Plans

ED announced the approval of additional America Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) state plans and distributed remaining funds to those states. The newly approved states and funding levels include: 

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: OCTAE Assistant Secretary Nomination and Senate Budget Resolution

August 13th, 2021

This week, the nomination for Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) was announced. Read below to learn more about the nominee, as well as updates on the Senate budget resolution and infrastructure bill and the latest approved state stimulus plans. 

The White House Nominates the Assistant Secretary for OCTAE

On Tuesday the White House announced its intent to nominate Dr. Amy Loyd to serve as Assistant Secretary for OCTAE. Currently, Dr. Loyd serves as OCTAE’s Acting Assistant Secretary. Before this role, she was a Vice President at JFF (Jobs for the Future) where she designed and led programs across the country that improved education and workforce outcomes. She also oversaw JFF’s work in workforce development with a lens on economic advancement, state policy, federal policy, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Dr. Loyd previously was the Director of Education at Cook Inlet Tribal Council, leading a network of schools in providing culturally responsive education, training and wraparound services to the Alaska Native and Native American communities

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona shared a statement of support for Dr. Loyd’s nomination. Next, there will be a Senate confirmation hearing and vote on this nomination.   

Senate Democrats Release Budget Resolution for $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Package

Written by Michael Matthews, Government Relations Manager, Associate for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Original post can be found here

On Monday, Senate Democrats released their Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget resolution, setting the stage for a $3.5 trillion “budget reconciliation” package that would implement major changes to social programs, climate policy and other domestic policies.

The instructions within the resolution directs committees of jurisdiction to produce their pieces of the reconciliation package by September 15, then each would be bundled together for floor debate as a single piece of legislation. This piece of legislation could be approved by the Senate with a majority vote and would not be subject to the 60-vote threshold needed to move most bills forward in that chamber. The proposal estimates about $1.75 trillion in offsets, including tax increases on upper-income households and corporations, among other savings efforts. The resolution also includes a specific mandate that ensures no taxes are raised on families earning less than $400,000 a year.

More specifically to education programs, the reconciliation instructions include $726.4 billion for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the biggest allotment to any committee. Within that figure, the budget resolution assumes the committee will provide funding for programs like universal prekindergarten, free postsecondary tuition, job training and workforce development programs, community health centers and educator investments. It is important to remember that just because something is included initially within the budget resolution, it doesn’t mean it will eventually make it into the final package. It is critical that we continue to advocate to policymakers for CTE and workforce development funding throughout the rest of the process.

Senate Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Package
This week, the Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure proposal in a 69-30 vote. The package will cost $1.2 trillion over eight years, including $550 billion in new spending. The bill includes a $65 billion investment in broadband. This would provide grants to states for broadband and middle-mile deployment, as well as support for broadband affordability. The expansion of eligible private activity bond projects to include broadband infrastructure is also included in this investment. Additional education-related provisions include: 

  • $5 billion for clean-energy school buses;
  • $1.5 billion for the establishment of the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program;
  • $500 million for competitive grants to schools for energy efficiency improvements;
  • $200 million for the removal of lead contamination in school drinking water; and
  • $200 million to support voluntary testing or compliance monitoring for and remediation of lead contamination in drinking water at schools and child care programs

Next, this bill will be taken under consideration by the House. 

ED Approves More State K-12 Stimulus Plans

ED announced the approval of additional America Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) state plans and distributed remaining funds to those states. The five newly approved states and funding levels include: 

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: ED Announces Expansion of Second Chance Pell and Return to School Roadmap

August 6th, 2021

This week the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released information about the expansion of Pell Grant eligibility. Read below to learn more about what this means, as well as ED’s “Return to School Roadmap” and a new wave of approved state K-12 stimulus plans. 

ED Announces Expansion of Second Chance Pell Program 

ED announced the expansion of the Second Chance Pell experiment for the 2022-2023 award year. This will allow up to 200 colleges and universities to offer prison education programs with support from the Pell Grant program- an increase from the 131 that are currently participating. So far, the Second Chance Pell experiment has provided education opportunities to thousands of justice-involved individuals who previously did not have access to federal need-based financial aid, and over 7,000 credentials have been earned. 

ED plans to implement the recently-enacted legislative changes to allow eligible learners in college-in-prison programs to access Pell Grants beginning on July 1, 2023. The Department also announced plans to publish regulations on the program ahead of its implementation. Institutions can submit an application to participate in the new cohort of Second Chance Pell. 

Advance CTE supports permanent Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals, and is pleased that the program is expanding. 

ED Releases Return to School Roadmap 

On Monday ED released the “Return to School Roadmap,” a resource to support students, schools, educators and communities as they prepare to return to safe and healthy in-person learning this fall. In the upcoming weeks, the Roadmap will lay out actionable strategies to implement the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance for K-12 schools. The Roadmap includes three “Landmark” priorities that schools, districts and communities are encouraged to focus on to set all learners up for success, including: 

  • Prioritizing the health and safety of students, staff and educators; 
  • Building school communities and supporting students’ social, emotional and mental health; and 
  • Accelerating academic achievement. 

ED will release resources for practitioners and parents on each of the priorities, highlight schools and districts that are using innovative practices to address the priorities and elevate ways that the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and other federal funds can be used to support the priorities.

Along with the launch of the Roadmap, ED released: 

  • A fact sheet for schools, families and communities on the Roadmap, reviewing the three “Landmark” priorities, as well as elevating schools and districts that are addressing each in effective ways.
  • A guide for schools and districts outlining what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students, including strategies to increase access to vaccinations and implement the CDC’s recently updated K-12 school guidance.
  • A checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall.

Upcoming resources and supports from ED as part of the Roadmap include: 

  • Holding town halls with parents and parent organizations to highlight ways schools and districts are preparing to keep learners safe during in-person learning, while also attending to social, emotional and mental health supports in addition to academic supports.
  • Working with partners across the federal government to provide support to schools and districts and answer questions about increasing vaccination access. 
  • Releasing implementation tools for learners, educators and parents to address the above three priority areas, as well as provide information on how ARP funds can be used to expand access to mental health supports for learners and educators.
  • Updating Volumes 1 and 2 of the ED COVID-19 Handbooks. 

The White House also released a fact sheet on the Administration’s efforts to safely reopen schools and support learners.

ED Approves More State K-12 Stimulus Plans

ED announced the approval of additional ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) state plans and distributed remaining funds to those states. The five newly approved states and funding levels include: 

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: House Appropriations Process and Infrastructure Deal

July 29th, 2021

This week, the appropriations process moved forward in the House. Read below to learn more about the latest movement, as well as an update on a bipartisan Senate infrastructure agreement, newly released higher education stimulus funds and information on how to apply for the Emergency Connectivity Fund.

House Appropriations Process Moves Forward 

This week the House Rules Committee determined which of the proposed 197 amendments filed for the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) bill would be approved for debate. Ultimately, 15 education-related amendments will be considered. One of the amendments, introduced by Representative Cindy Axne (D-IA), adds $5 million for community colleges that provide training programs for dislocated workers. The Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill is part of a seven-bill minibus package (H.R. 402) under consideration by the full House. 

Senate Reaches Agreement on Infrastructure Deal 

On Wednesday night the Senate voted, 67-32, to begin consideration of a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure package that includes $550 billion in new spending. While work on the full bill text has not been finished and released, a fact sheet of the agreement can be found here

The bill includes a $65 billion investment in broadband. This would provide grants to states for broadband deployment, as well as support for broadband affordability, expansion of eligible private activity bond projects to include broadband infrastructure and support for middle-mile deployment efforts. The breakdown of the full broadband funding is as follows: 

  • $40 billion in formula-based grants to states, territories and DC for broadband deployment. This funding also includes a 10 percent set-aside for high-cost areas. Each state and territory would receive an initial minimum allocation, of which a portion could be used for technical assistance in either establishing or supporting a state broadband office; 
  • $600 million for private activity bonds, which would finance broadband deployment for projects in rural areas where a majority of households do not have access to broadband; 
  • $2 billion to support rural areas;
  • $2 billion to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program; 
  • $2.75 billion in formula-based and competitive grants to promote digital inclusion and equity for communities; 
  • Creation of a state grant program for the construction, improvement or acquisition of middle-mile infrastructure; and 
  • Support for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which subsidizes broadband services for eligible households. 

ED Announces $3.2 Billion in Emergency Higher Education Grants

Today the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced $3.2 billion in additional emergency grants under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). This funding will support learners at institutions of higher education, as well as provide resources to institutions to help recover from the pandemic. $2.97 billion of the funding is from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and is comprised of the the following: 

  • $1.6 billion to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); 
  • $143 million to Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs); and 
  • $1.19 billion to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and under-resourced institutions eligible for the Strengthening Institutions Programs (many of which are community colleges). 

Additionally, $225 million of the total funding comes from grants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CCRRSAA) to support public and non-profit institutions and their students with unmet needs related to the pandemic. 

Additional information on the ARP, CARES Act and CCRRSAA- including the latest HEERF programs- can be found here

FCC Shares Instructions on Emergency Connectivity Fund

The FCC announced that a webinar on the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) and frequently asked questions will be held on August 3 at 2:00pm ET. Additionally, the FCC provided step-by-step instructions of how to apply for the ECF. Applications for schools and libraries to receive this funding for the 2021-2022 school year are open through August 13. 

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: House, Senate and Administration Support for $100 Billion in Workforce Investment

July 23rd, 2021

This week, the House Education and Labor Committee held a press conference calling for a $100 billion federal investment in workforce programs. Read below to learn more about the outlook for this investment, as well as a House letter in support of workforce funding, a bicameral bill to close the homework gap, the newest approved stimulus funding plans and Senate letter in support of educator investments. 

House Education and Labor Committee Holds Press Conference on Workforce Investments

Written by Jori Houck, Media Relations and Advocacy Associate, Associate for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Original post can be found here

On July 22, the House Education and Labor Committee held a press conference featuring Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten, Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), manufacturing business owner Traci Tapani of Wyoming Machine and National Skills Coalition Executive Director Andy Van Kleunen to express the urgent need to include the $100 billion investment in workforce development laid out in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan proposal as a part of the upcoming reconciliation package.

Chairman Scott noted that workforce development programs have not been properly funded, particularly in any of the pandemic-related stimulus packages, and workers are seeking the skills necessary to be competitive in the workforce. Adding to Chairman Scott’s observations, Secretary Walsh expressed that Career Technical Education (CTE) is an area of priority – 22 million jobs have been lost to the pandemic, and the country is falling behind the pace of change in the workforce. 

Education Deputy Secretary Marten identified CTE as providing critically important opportunities for students and noted that the $10 billion in CTE investments proposed by the Biden Administration will help scale best practices, provide an evidence base for successful CTE programs and support middle and high school career pathways. Marten also cited statistics showing CTE enrollment leads to higher high school graduation rates, increased college enrollment and higher earnings gains. 

Secretary Walsh, Deputy Secretary Marten, Senator Klobuchar and Representative Bonamici each emphasized the importance of apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships and work-based learning. Bonamici highlighted the need to invest in traditionally underinvested workers; Klobuchar drew attention to the fact that every dollar spent on apprenticeships in Minnesota will increase the state’s GDP by $20. 

Bringing the business-owner perspective, Traci Tapani of Minnesota-based Wyoming Machine celebrated the skilled workers who helped the country during the pandemic, but cautioned that the country cannot forget their efforts, and labor shortages have gotten progressively worse for the last decade. Equity efforts are also an area of need, according to Tapani. 

Van Kleunen called on Congress not to negotiate away the $100 billion investment in workforce training originally included in the Administration’s American Jobs Plan (AJP) to help provide those most impacted by the pandemic a chance at a fulfilling career. Citing a figure that 89% of voting Americans think that Congress needs to invest substantially in workforce training, Van Kleunen concluded that investments in workforce development are vital to economic recovery. 

In response to press questions, Chairman Scott expressed his belief that new workforce spending would be included in the final passage of the bill, but he is not approaching negotiations with any deal breaker in mind. Sen. Klobuchar continued that the Senate’s focus is on a bipartisan infrastructure package, in addition to focusing on the budget reconciliation process. 

You can watch the full press conference at the House Education and Labor Committee’s YouTube channel

House Sends Letter Calling for $100 Billion for Workforce Development in Reconciliation Bill

On Thursday, Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Steven Horsford (D-NV) sent a letter signed by 101 members of the House to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The letter requests that at least $100 billion in new spending for workforce development be included in the upcoming reconciliation package. The letter shares data on unemployment trends, worker upskilling and reskilling needs and economic recovery. In light of the changing  21st century economic landscape, the letter also states that federal spending on workforce programs and employment services is at its lowest levels in 50 years and funding for community college CTE programs has decreased by 38% over the last 20 years.  

The letter calls for a minimum of $100 billion in new investments for workforce development programs, including: 

  • CTE; 
  • Registered apprenticeships; 
  • Adult workforce training and dislocated worker programs; 
  • Youth career pipeline programs and re-entry employment opportunities; and
  • The full spectrum of training and career pathway supportive services, including income support, counseling and case management. 

The press release can be viewed here and the full letter here

Congress Introduces Bicameral Legislation to Close the Homework Gap

This week Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chriss Van Hollen (D-MD), as well as Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity Fund to Ensure Students Success (SUCCESS) Act. These members of Congress were joined by 15 other Senators and 25 House members to introduce the bill. The SUCCESS Act would build on the Emergency Connectivity Fund that was established under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and provide schools and libraries with $8 billion per year over five years to ensure Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and internet-enabled devices are available to students, staff and library patrons. This bill continues congressional efforts to close the homework gap seen by 12 to 17 million students who do not have internet access at home. 

The SUCCESS Act would provide the necessary continued funding once the one-time investment provided by the ARP expires. Advance CTE is pleased to support this bill. 

ED Approves More State K-12 Stimulus Plans 

ED announced the approval of additional ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) state plans and distributed remaining funds to those states. The seven approved states and funding levels include:

Kaine Leads Letter Urging Investment in Educator Workforce 

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a Co-Chair of the Congressional CTE Caucus, led a letter signed by 13 other Senators to Senate leadership urging them to invest in a well-prepared, diverse, supported and stable educator workforce in upcoming infrastructure legislation. The letter is aligned with the proposed educator investments from the American Families Plan (AFP). Senator Kaine consistently supports workforce development in education. He recently reintroduced the Preparing and Retaining Educational Professionals (PREP) Act, with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), to address teacher and principal shortages. 

The press release can be found here and the full letter here

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: House Appropriations Bill and Announcements from ED

July 14th, 2021

This week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies released its Fiscal Year 22 (FY22) funding bill. Read below to learn more about the proposed increase for Career Technical Education (CTE) and other implications for the CTE community, as well as new information from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) about stimulus funding, federal aid and department appointees. 

House Appropriations Subcommittee Releases FY22 Bill

Written by Alisha Hyslop, Director of Public Policy, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Original post can be found here.

On July 11, the House Appropriations Committee released the first draft of its FY22 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which funds education and workforce development programs including Perkins. In the bill, the Perkins Basic State Grant received a $50 million increase over the FY21 level, and $30 million above what the President recommended in his budget proposal in May, for a total funding level of $1.38 billion. While this is still not enough to meet the critical needs in CTE as the economy and educational system recover from the pandemic, it is a step in the right direction.

The bill also matched the President’s request for a $100 million competitive grant program to carry out evidence-based middle and high school career and technical education innovation programs, although few details are included about what this program would entail. Few details are also included about a piece of legislative language that is dropped into the bill to more closely tie apprenticeship programs to Perkins, but more information on that provision will be available as the Committee releases more supporting documents.

Overall, the bill provides $14.7 billion for the Department of Labor, an increase of $2.2 billion above the FY21 level, and a total of $102.8 billion for the Department of Education, an increase of $29.3 billion above the FY21 level. Most of the increases, particularly at the Department of Education, are concentrated on a few large programs that were campaign priorities of the Biden Administration, including Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which received a $19.5 billion increase (more than doubling its current funding), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which received a $3.1 billion increase, and Pell Grants, where the maximum annual award for each student was increased by $400 to a total of $6,895. Additional funding levels of interest to the CTE community include:

  • Federal Work Study – $43 billion, a $244 million (21%) increase over FY 2021
  • ESEA Title II – Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants – $2.3 billion, a $150 million increase over FY 2021
  • ESEA Title IV-A – Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants – $1.3 billion, an $85 million increase over FY 2021
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act State Grants – $3.1 billion, an increase of $250 million above the FY 2021 level
  • Registered Apprenticeships – $285 million, an increase of $100 million above the FY 2021 level
  • Strengthening Community College Training Grants – $100 million, an increase of $55 million over the FY 2021 level
  • Adult education – $738.7 million, a $50 million increase over FY 2021

The bill was considered briefly by the Subcommittee on July 12 and approved by voice vote. A report on the draft bill was released on July 14. Additional discussion and amendments are expected in the full Appropriations Committee markup, scheduled for Thursday, July 15, then the bill will need to be approved by the full House, and a similar process will begin in the Senate. There is a long way to go in this year’s appropriations process, so stay tuned for additional information and opportunities to take action!

ED Approves First State K-12 Stimulus Plans 

ED announced the approval of the first seven American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) state plans and distributed remaining funds to those states. The seven approved states and funding levels include:

  • Arkansas: $418,634,738
  • Massachusetts: $611,331,608 
  • Rhode Island: $138,468,766 
  • South Dakota: $127,339,745 
  • Texas: $4,148,464,081 
  • Utah: $205,578,303 
  • Washington, D.C.: $128,932,230 

The state plans share how each state will use the ESSER funds to safely reopen and sustain the operation of schools, as well as address the needs of students, including by equitably expanding opportunities for students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. 40 states have submitted plans, and you can view submitted and approved plans here. ED is also working with states that were unable to submit plans by the June 7 deadline. 

ED Announces Temporary Changes to the Federal Aid Verification Process

On Tuesday, ED announced temporary changes to the federal student aid verification process for the 2021-2022 academic year with the intention of providing relief to millions of students and colleges impacted by the pandemic. Verification is an administrative process by which ED requires a subset of federal aid applicants who are eligible for Pell Grants to submit additional documentation to verify the information in their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Because non-Pell-eligible applicants are not included in income verification, the process can be disproportionately burdensome for students from low-income households and students of color. The temporary changes to the verification process will focus on identity theft and fraud, and will be coupled with tools ED already uses to monitor suspicious activity. 

ED Announces More Biden-Harris Appointees

More political appointees to ED were announced to lead various parts of the agency, including: 

  • Katy Neas, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
  • Toby Merrill, Deputy General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel
  • Hayley Matz Meadvin, Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary
  • Chris Soto, Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary
  • Antoinette Flores, Senior Advisor for ARP Implementation, Office of Postsecondary Education
  • Deven Comen, Chief of Staff, Office of Communications and Outreach
  • Abel McDaniels, Special Assistant, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund and Apprenticeship Grants

July 2nd, 2021

This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened applications for the Emergency Connectivity Fund. Read below to learn more about what this funding covers, as well as grant awards for apprenticeship programs, progress in the postsecondary negotiated rulemaking process and a notice for public comment. 

FCC Opens Application for Emergency Connectivity Fund
On Tuesday FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced that schools and libraries can now apply for the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund. The Emergency Connectivity Fund was established through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and provides financial support for laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and broadband connections. Eligible schools and libraries can submit applications through August 13 for funding to purchase equipment and services for the 2021-22 school year.

A fact sheet about the program can be found here and frequently asked questions can be found here

DOL Awards Grants to Support Registered Apprenticeships

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced over $130 million awarded in grants to develop, modernize and diversify Registered Apprenticeship Programs in 15 states and establish Registered Technical Assistance Centers of Excellence in three states and Washington, DC. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh shared the following statement about the grants: “Today’s announcement reflects the Department of Labor’s renewed commitment to expanding Registered Apprenticeship to train U.S. workers and ensure that diversity and inclusion are core elements of our nation’s post-pandemic economic recovery. Using Registered Apprenticeships to expand career opportunities for all workers, especially those in under-represented populations, is a priority for the department and a critical component of the Biden-Harris administration’s American Jobs Plan.”

DOL awarded close to $31 million through cooperative agreements to create four Registered Apprenticeship Technical Assistance Centers of Excellence to provide technical support to programs. These centers will support successful and inclusive pipelines, provide technical assistance to employers and industry and work across public and private sector partners to expand apprenticeship opportunities for women, youth, people of color, rural communities, justice-involved individuals and people with disabilities. 

The full list of states and organizations that are recipients of this grant can be found here

ED Begins Postsecondary Negotiated Rulemaking Process

Over the course of three days (June 21-24), the U.S. Department of Education (ED) held virtual public hearings for stakeholder input on proposed federal student aid policies. This started the negotiated rulemaking process. Following these three hearings, ED will look for nominations of non-federal negotiators to serve on negotiated rulemaking committees that will review regulatory issues to improve outcomes for students- likely to convene later this summer. 

ED Invites Public Comment for Future Discretionary Grants

Secretary Cardona proposed, and opened for public comment, six priorities and related definitions for use in future discretionary grant programs. These are aligned with evidence-based and capacity-building strategies to address interconnected policy issues within the country’s education system with a focus on creating conditions to provide equitable access to educational opportunities. Career Technical Education (CTE) that is equitable and high-quality comes up throughout the priorities. Comments can be submitted through July 30, 20201. Additional information about the notice and comment submission can be found here

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: Congressional Hearings and Updates from ED

June 17th, 2021

This week, the House held its final hearing on Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reauthorization. Read below to learn more about this hearing, as well as a hearing on the federal education budget and movement in the appropriations process, newly shared state plans for stimulus K-12 funds, a new statement on Title IX and more education appointees. 

House Subcommittee Holds WIOA Hearing

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment held a hearing on “WIOA Reauthorization: Examining Successful Models of Employment for Justice-Involved Individuals.” The following witnesses provided testimony and then answered questions from committee members: 

  • Ms. Traci Scott, Vice President of the Workforce Development Division, National Urban League;
  • Mr. Gregg Keesling, President of DBA RecycleForce Workforce, Inc., Indianapolis, IN; 
  • Dr. Pamela Lattimore, Senior Director for Research Development for the Division for Applied Justice Research, RTI International; and 
  • Ms. Wendi Safstrom, Executive Director, SHRM Foundation.

Safstrom is also a member of the Advance CTE Board. Common themes that came up throughout the hearing were the need to look at the full workforce ecosystem and engage all stakeholders, the importance of wraparound supports for reentry into the workforce and understanding the full background of justice-involved individuals to learn about the scope of resources that best suits their needs.

Advance CTE’s recommendations for reauthorization of WIOA can be found here. A recording of the full hearing as well as member statements and witness testimonies can be found here

Cardona Testifies to Senate on FY22 Budget Proposal
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) on the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget request for the U.S. Department of Education (ED). In her opening statement, Subcommittee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) emphasized the need for the federal education budget to increase not only because of the needs pre-pandemic, but because of the inequities that were increased because of the pandemic. Subcommittee Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) spent time in his opening remarks to say that he is a proud supporter of the Career Technical Education (CTE) Perkins Basic State Grant. 

You can follow this link to advocate for CTE funding in FY22 by asking your Senator to sign the “Dear Colleague letter” supporting robust CTE funding. A recording of the full hearing as well as Secretary Cardona’s testimony can be found here

ED Posts State Plans for Use of K-12 Stimulus Funds 

On Monday ED announced that the 28 plans submitted by State Education Agencies (SEAs) describing use of American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to support schools, students and educators have been posted to the ED website while awaiting approval from the department. The ARP ESSER Fund provides nearly $122 billion to states to support the nation’s schools in safely reopening and sustaining safe in-person operations while meeting the social, emotional, mental health and academic needs of students impacted by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

ED shared that plans highlight the following strategies:

  • Accelerating and sustaining the safe return to in-person instruction; 
  • Implementing coronavirus prevention and mitigation strategies, including expanding access to vaccinations for school staff and students; 
  • Offering summer learning and enrichment programs; 
  • Providing social, emotional and mental health support to students; and
  • Addressing the academic impact of lost instructional time. 

ARP ESSER state plans were submitted by Arkansas, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. ED is also working with states that were unable to submit plans by the June 7 deadline. 

House Approves Total Spending Level for FY22 

Written by Michael Matthews, Government Relations Manager, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Full post can be found here.  

On Monday, the House approved a resolution, along party lines, that would set the topline discretionary spending level for House appropriators for fiscal year (FY) 2022 to $1.506 trillion. The “deeming resolution,” however, does not specify the 302(a) allocations, which are the topline funding levels for both defense and nondefense discretionary spending. Once those are set, House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) can begin to establish the 302(b) allocations for each of the twelve spending bills prior to the beginning of subcommittee mark-ups, which are slated to begin June 24.

Under normal circumstances, the budget resolution is an agreement between the House and Senate on a budgetary plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Once agreed to by both chambers, the budget resolution creates parameters that may be enforced by points of order and using the budget reconciliation process. When the House and Senate do not reach an agreement on this plan, Congress may employ alternative legislative tools to serve as a substitute for a budget resolution, which are usually called “deeming resolutions.” It is important to note that deeming resolutions do not include reconciliation instructions to authorizing committees, so in order for House Democrats to implement the Administration’s infrastructure and other spending plans, they will still need to introduce and pass a budget resolution for FY 2022.

The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee is expected to mark-up their proposal on July 12, according to a recent announcement from the chairwoman. Typically, the committee does not announce programmatic funding levels prior to the mark-up, so this should provide the first look at the committee’s funding priorities for FY 2022.  

ED Confirms Title IX Protects Students from Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

ED’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced a new Notice of Interpretation stating that it will enforce Title IX’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity offered by a recipient of federal financial assistance. This follows the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County that it is impossible to discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation or gender identity without discriminating against that person based on sex. 

Last week a report from OCR found that the vulnerability of LGBTQ+ students has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving them without access to school-based mental health services and other supports. One survey found that 78 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth reported that their mental health was “poor” either all or most of the time during the pandemic , compared with 61 percent of cisgender youth.

ED Announces More Biden-Harris Appointees

More political appointees for ED were announced, including two positions within the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE): Emily Lamont and Elias Romans, both Special Assistants. The full list of most recent ED appointees includes: 

  • Alice Abrokwa, Senior Counsel, Office for Civil Rights
  • Elizabeth Baer, Deputy Director of Scheduling, Office of the Secretary
  • Larry Bowden, Special Assistant, Office of the Secretary
  • Miriam Calderon, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Policy and Early Learning, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Cristina Flores, Director of Scheduling, Office of the Secretary
  • Anna Hartge, Special Assistant, Office of the Secretary
  • Rachel Hegarty, Confidential Assistant, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development
  • Emily Lamont, Special Assistant, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
  • Kevin Lima, Special Assistant, Office of Communications and Outreach
  • Ben Martel, Confidential Assistant, Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs
  • Clare McCann, Special Assistant, Office of the Under Secretary
  • Gypsy Moore, Senior Counsel, Office of the General Counsel
  • Keigo O’Haru, Confidential Assistant, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Elias Romanos, Special Assistant, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
  • Sebastian Rozo, Confidential Assistant, Office of the Under Secretary
  • Marco Sanchez, Special Assistant, Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs
  • Tiffany Taber, Managing Writer, Office of Communications and Outreach
  • Kalila Winters, Special Assistant, Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs
  • Addie Zinsner, Confidential Assistant, Office for Civil Rights

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

Legislative Update: ED Releases Actions to Advance Equity and COVID-19 Handbook Volume 3

June 11th, 2021

This week the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced new actions that will be taken to advance equity in education. Read below to learn more about the initiative, including an Equity Summit Series launching on June 22nd, as well as the third COVID-19 (coronavirus) handbook from ED and a status update on the expansion of Pell Grant eligibility to short-term programs. 

ED Announces Actions to Advance Equity in Education 

On Thursday ED announced new actions that will be taken to advance equity in education to ensure each learner is served. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the following regarding this announcement: “This is our moment as educators and as leaders to transform our education systems so they are truly serving all of our nation’s students. While COVID-19 has worsened many inequities in our schools and communities, we know that even before the pandemic, a high-quality education was out of reach for too many of our nation’s students and families. Our mission at the Department is to safely reopen schools for in-person learning, dramatically increase investments in communities that for too long have been furthest from opportunity, and reimagine our schools so that all students have their needs met. We must take bold action together to ensure our nation’s schools are defined not by disparities, but by equity and opportunity for all.”

Below are the actions that are part of this initiative.

  • The Department will launch an Equity Summit Series starting on June 22nd.
    The Educational Equity Summit Series will launch virtually on June 22nd with a focus on how schools and campuses can make positive changes as they continue to reopen for in-person instruction, instead of returning to the status quo. The first session of the series will explore how schools and communities can reimagine school systems so that each learner has a voice- particularly those from underserved communities, including communities of color, students with disabilities and multilingual students. The session will also include discussions on how each learner can access a high-quality education that is responsive to their needs, and how schools can be responsive and inclusive of all learning environments. 
  • The Department released a new report highlighting the disparate impacts the coronavirus has had on underserved communities.
    ED’s Office of Civil Rights released a new report that highlights how the pandemic threatens to deepen the divides in educational opportunities across the country if the impacts are not fully addressed. It discusses how learners who already had the fewest educational opportunities, and are often from marginalized and underserved communities, are disproportionately affected. The report shows how the coronavirus furthered disparities in access and opportunities facing learners of color, multilingual learners, learners with disabilities and LBGTQ+ learners- at the K-12 and postsecondary levels. There is also data showing an increased risk of harassment, discrimination and harm for Asian American and Pacific Islander learners. 
  • The Department released new guidance to support states as they invest American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds in communities and schools with the least access to educational opportunity.
    ED released its Maintenance of Equity guidance regarding a provision of the ARP. These requirements will ensure that districts and schools that serve a large number of students from low-income families will not experience disproportionate budget cuts, and that districts with the highest poverty levels do not receive any decrease in state per-pupil funding below the pre-pandemic level. These schools will also be protected from disproportionate cuts to staffing. This follows last month’s guidance on how states and districts can use ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to advance educational equity in pandemic response.  
  • President Biden’s budget proposes historic investments in Title I to address entrenched disparities in the education systems.
    The Administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget proposes $36.5 billion in formula grants for Title I schools, which is a $20 billion increase from the 2021 enacted level. The point of this investment is to enable states and communities to reinvest in historically under-resourced schools and reimagine their education systems so all students can access high-quality education and have the support they need to succeed. 

ED Releases COVID-19 Handbook Volume 3

ED announced the release of the COVID-19 Handbook Volume 3: Strategies for Safe Operation and Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education Students, Faculty and Staff. This handbook provides additional strategies for institutions of higher education (IHEs) and communities to equitably reopen for in-person instruction. It also provides strategies on how postsecondary institutions can use funds from the ARP and previous relief bills to meet the needs of each learner, increase vaccination rates on campus, address inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, etc. 

This third volume addresses some priority areas for the postsecondary level, with an emphasis on response and recovery that will position IHEs  and students to be stronger than before the pandemic. This includes: 

  • Providing practices to aid IHEs in implementing CDC guidance, such as ways to offer and promote the coronavirus vaccine, and mitigation strategies to pursue for campuses where everyone is fully vaccinated, as well as campuses where not everyone is fully vaccinated. The Handbook also identifies common prevention strategies and provides examples of actions IHEs can take with Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEERF) grant funding from the three relief bills to pursue these efforts;
  • Describing the ways in which IHEs have responded to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic—particularly challenges faced by underserved student populations—by supporting students’ transition to online learning and addressing basic needs such as broadband access, financial assistance, housing and childcare;
  • Noting ways in which IHEs have already been and can continue to be sources of support to their communities’ ongoing response and recovery from the pandemic— including in vaccination efforts; and
  • Providing a catalog of the resources and administrative flexibilities offered to IHEs as they address rapidly changing conditions and needs on the ground, including resources that support both learners and IHEs under the ARP.

This handbook includes feedback from IHEs and over 40 organizations representing stakeholders and institutions across 15 listening sessions. 

Senate Passes China Competitiveness Bill Without Short-Term Pell Provision

Written by Michael Matthews, Government Relations Manager, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Full post can be found here

On Tuesday, the Senate passed a sweeping proposal that would provide more than $200 billion to aid American manufacturing, technology, research and development, in an effort to quell China’s growing economic influence worldwide. Last week an amendment introduced by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) that would expand Pell Grants to short-term Career Technical Education (CTE) programs was accepted into a larger package of amendments that was closely negotiated between party leadership. The goal was to have them included into the larger manager’s amendment offered by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), by making a simple unanimous consent (UC) procedural request, then passing everything in the final bill. Unfortunately, the package that included the short-term Pell amendment was defeated when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to the UC request offered by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and the bill moved on to final passage without the amendment package.

Although the short-term Pell amendment was not ultimately included, there was another provision that was included in the bill related to dual enrollment. The provision would create a new grant program that would provide states with grants to expand Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) pathways for high school students into postsecondary education through expanding advanced coursework like dual enrollment and early college. The program is a rewrite of the state grant component of the Fast Track to and Through College Act introduced by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Todd Young (R-IN). The original bill has been changed by focusing the funding on expanding STEM pathways and removing the provisions around expanding Pell eligibility for high school students taking dual enrollment. ACTE and Advance CTE endorsed this bill when it was originally introduced. 

The House is expected to take up the proposal in late June or July and it is likely to be split into smaller pieces rather than as one package. Past that, it is unclear whether House leadership will write their own version of the legislation or take the more traditional route of trying to negotiate the differences between the chambers through a conference committee. As for the short-term Pell amendment, there is no indication as of now if the House plans on trying to include it in their version of the legislation, or if the Senate tries to revive it in conference or pursue another vehicle. ACTE and Advance CTE support the expansion of Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality short term programs.

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

 

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