Getting to Know Advance CTE and Federal Policy

The “Getting to Know” blog series will feature the work of State CTE Directors, state and federal policies, innovative programs and new initiatives from the Advance CTE staff. Learn more about each one of these topics and the unique contributions to advancing Career Technical Education (CTE) that Advance CTE’s members work on every day.

Meet Meredith Hills! Meredith serves as Advance CTE’s Senior Associate for Federal Policy, and runs the organization’s federal strategy from research to analysis to advocacy- and everything in between! Meredith’s work is focused on ensuring that federal legislation and guidance supports the state CTE leaders in implementing high-quality, equitable and forward-thinking programs. Meredith works on all CTE, or CTE adjacent, education and workforce development policies, whether a bill is up for reauthorization or is a standalone piece. This includes but is not limited to, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), Higher Education Act (HEA), Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

At the moment, Advance CTE is largely focused on advocating for increased CTE funding for Fiscal Year 2022, as well as monitoring guidance for how American Rescue Plan funds can be used for CTE needs. WIOA is up for reauthorization and Congress has named this bill as a priority, check out Advance CTE’s WIOA recommendations! Meredith is also excited about the federal interest in apprenticeships and reauthorization of the National Apprenticeship Act. 

Q: How does Advance CTE’s federal policy agenda align with the new shared vision for CTE, CTE Without Limits? 

A: There is an opportunity for federal policy to be a driving force behind all principles of Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits). Some of the foundations of the organization’s federal policy agenda are connecting education and the workforce and being responsive to the current needs of learners, employers and communities. By addressing these topics within federal policy, each state, DC and the U.S. territories will have federal support in implementing high-quality programs. Each principle of the vision aligns with federal policy- whether through actions from Congress, the U.S. Department of Education or the White House. 

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge when it comes to stakeholder engagement from policymakers in CTE? 

A: Fortunately, CTE is a bipartisan and largely supported issue area. However, this does not mean that “buy-in” from policymakers is easy. Two of the main challenges with engagement are: 

  1. A misunderstanding of what CTE is and the full impact of CTE programs for learners of all ages. Despite the significant strides that have been made in the CTE community toward high-quality programs, there is still a lack of knowledge from many policymakers of what it looks like to be a CTE student in the 21st century. These programs are bold and responsive to high-wage, high-skill and in-demand career pathways for those in the middle grades, high school and postsecondary levels, as well as adults looking to continue their education. When a policymaker understands the significant benefits CTE has for learners, employers and communities they are more likely to be engaged. 
  2. A shifted focus to more urgent topics, and the misconception that CTE policies can come later. Especially since March 2020, policymakers have had their attention pulled to pandemic response bills and policies- but CTE has largely been left out of these conversations. There is an inaccurate understanding that CTE comes into play later, during recovery and not in response. But the CTE community needs support from the federal level now in order to sustain and improve programs. In fact, many CTE programs have seen increased enrollment during the pandemic! 

Q: What are some steps for CTE leaders to follow in building and maintaining relationships with policymakers?

A: As a state CTE leader, you can contact your representatives with information about what CTE implementation looks like in your state and/or district. Share stories from the perspective of a CTE leader as well as from the student perspective, so that your representatives understand the significant role CTE plays in academic and career success. Constituents are always going to be the most compelling advocates to a policymaker, so reach out to start a dialogue and then reaching to affirm a positive action from the policymaker or to request support for a new action.

Q: When should advocacy for CTE take place? Nationally, state, locally? 

A: Always and all three! Advocacy for CTE doesn’t need to happen only when there’s a specific policy in question. As a CTE leader you are witnessing successes and barriers in your daily work- share these updates at the local, state and national levels! Your voice will keep CTE at the forefront of policymakers’ minds.

Brittany Cannady, Senior Associate Digital Media

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