Legislative Update: Hearing on Education Budget and Updates from Departments of Education and Labor

This week, the U.S. Secretary of Education testified to a House committee about the discretionary budget request. Read below to learn more about how Career Technical Education (CTE) came up during this hearing, as well as new resources, new grant opportunities, the budget hearing with the U.S. Secretary of Labor and information on the stimulus emergency connectivity funds. 

House Appropriations Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Education Budget

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified at a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) hearing on the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget request from the Biden Administration. This was in reference to the skinny FY22 discretionary budget request that the White House shared in April, but the hearing also made mention of the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. A full budget request is expected in the coming weeks. 

In his opening statement, Secretary Cardona named the importance of CTE, as well as plans to address the full education continuum from early childhood to postsecondary education. Regarding the postsecondary level, Secretary Cardona emphasized the need to make higher education affordable and accessible for each student. He also highlighted investments in Pell Grants, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), as well as programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP. 

Throughout the hearing, Secretary Cardona reiterated that the education system needs to evolve to meet the needs of learners, and not the other way around. Representative Josh Harder (D-CA) used his time to speak about the impact of CTE programs, the need to expand Pell Grant eligibility and funding streams for high-quality short term programs and the importance of early exposure CTE and workplace skills. In response, Secretary Cardona agreed with the value of CTE and the need to give learners options early on, as well as recognizing that learning also happens outside of a classroom. He also said that he is interested in getting more perspective on funding for short-term programs. 

Other common themes of the hearing were reopening schools, social and emotional learning, civics education, charter schools, teacher shortages and meeting the needs of communities who are traditionally underserved.

ED Launches Best Practices Clearinghouse for Reopening Schools and Campuses

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse (the Clearinghouse). This website highlights the innovative work being done across the country to safely reopen K-12 schools, postsecondary institutions and early childhood centers. It also provides examples of how educational institutions can safely reopen. Through the Clearinghouse, “ED aims to collect and disseminate innovative, evidence-based, or solutions-oriented approaches to school reopening and make this information available to elementary and secondary schools, early childhood centers, and postsecondary institutions across the country so they can learn from each other.” The Clearinghouse covers three topic areas: safe and healthy environments; supports for students and supports for the well-being and professional development of teachers, faculty and staff. 

DOL Announces New Funding for Women in Registered Apprenticeships

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new $3.5 million funding opportunity- the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grant program. Up to 10  grants will go to community-based organizations with the purpose of increasing and retaining the number of women in high quality Registered Apprenticeship Programs and nontraditional occupations in industries such as manufacturing, infrastructure, cybersecurity and healthcare. This grant is administered by the DOL Women’s Bureau and Employment and Training Administration. Applications can be submitted here through June 4, 2021. 

Additional information on the WANTO grant program can be found here and frequently asked questions here.  

House Appropriations Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Labor Budget

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

On April 28, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh testified at a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education hearing focused on the Administration’s FY22 Budget Request for the Department of Labor. Workforce Development and job training programs were a large topic of discussion given the backdrop of the jobs crisis caused by the pandemic. In his opening statement Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) stated, “I think there’s a strong bipartisan commitment (for job training) in this subcommittee. We see it not only in this budget, but the education budget on everything from Job Corps to, again, the apprenticeship program to career tech kinds of programs where we managed to work together.”

Secretary Walsh went into the need for Congress to work with the Administration on passing the American Jobs Plan. He then went into detail on the proposed benefits of the plan, including funding for sector-based training programs focused on growing, high-demand sectors, such as clean energy, manufacturing and caregiving, and helping workers of all kinds to find good-quality jobs in an ever-changing economy. During the questioning part of the hearing, Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) discussed the Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grant Program, and asked Secretary Walsh “How will the Department of Labor leverage this program, bring it to scale to address the economic effects of the pandemic to support community colleges, dislocated workers, and their families?” He replied, “That question is key to the success in the rebound of America right now. I think we have to work closely with community colleges.” 

FCC Announces Information on Stimulus Emergency Connectivity Fund Program

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced a draft Report and Order that outlines the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). ARP included this funding to be used through the E-rate program through September 2030 for schools and libraries to purchase internet connectivity and technological devices. An in depth fact sheet and the draft Report and Order can be found here and a Public Notice can be found here

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

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