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: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Highlights

November 16th, 2021

On November 15, President Biden signed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R.3684). The new law provides $1.2 trillion in total funding over ten years, including $550 billion in new spending during the next five years. The new funding includes $284 billion for the nation’s surface-transportation network and $266 billion for other core infrastructure. 

The nation’s schools and learners will benefit from many of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s investments, including: 

  • $55 billion for upgrading the nation’s water systems, including $200 million dedicated to eliminating lead contamination in schools; 
  • $5 billion for school districts to acquire clean-energy school buses; and
  • $500 million for schools and non-profit organizations to improve energy efficiency.

The new law also reauthorizes and extends, until 2023, the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which provides supplemental assistance to schools in 700 counties that have federal forest land.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes significant funding for broadband infrastructure that will help close the “Homework Gap:” 

  • $42.45 billion for a new Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program to help states close the digital divide in rural and other areas that lack sufficient broadband connectivity; 
  • $2.75 billion for the Digital Equity Act to support digital inclusion activities and promote increased broadband adoption; and 
  • $14.2 billion for the Broadband Benefit Program, renamed by the new law as the “Affordable Connectivity Program,” to provide $30 per month broadband service subsidies (higher in some limited circumstances) to qualified low-income households. 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides new policy and funding for workforce development initiatives, including: 

  • Directing the U.S. Department of Energy to create three competitive grants for fiscal year 2022: 
    • $10 million for training individuals to conduct energy audits or surveys of commercial and residential buildings; 
    • $10 million for colleges and universities to establish training and assessment centers focused on energy-efficient construction; and 
    • $10 million for non-profit organizations that collaborate with employers to deliver training in energy efficiency and renewable energy industry skills.
  • $5 million for a Transportation Workforce Outreach Program promoting awareness of career opportunities across the transportation sector;
  • Establishing a new Commercial Vehicle Apprenticeship pilot program to provide up to 3,000 apprentices younger than 21 with 120 hours of experience driving commercial motor vehicles; and 
  • Authorizing the U.S. Department of Transportation funded training to be delivered by vocational schools in addition to community colleges. The existing DOT transportation workforce development curriculum program is expanded to include hands-on training opportunities.

Legislative Update: Historic Investment in the Nation’s Infrastructure

November 8th, 2021

Congressional Democrats continued to negotiate and debate two interrelated pieces of legislation over the weekend, including investments in the nation’s physical infrastructure as well as a set of wider domestic spending priorities. Late Friday evening, lawmakers came together and passed a historic investment in the nation’s infrastructure while setting up a timeline to pass the remainder of President Biden’s domestic agenda.

House Democrats Pass Infrastructure Bill and Aim to Complete Budget Reconciliation by mid-November 

Since the spring, Congressional Democrats have pursued a “two-track” legislative strategy tying together legislation that would invest in the nation’s physical infrastructure (i.e. roads, bridges, waterways, and connectivity), known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF), along with complementary legislation intended to invest in the human infrastructure via the Congressional budget reconciliation process. These domestic priorities related to human infrastructure are necessary, at least in part, to preparing the skilled workforce needed to make the BIF’s vision for the nation’s future infrastructure a success. Connecting the two pieces of legislation–together representing the totality of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda–has been Congressional Democrats’ core strategy to garner the necessary support in both chambers to pass both of these bills this year. 

On Friday, this months-long effort bore fruit as House lawmakers passed the BIF, which will invest $550 billion in the nation’s physical infrastructure over the next decade. Projects for this investment will range from updates to the electrical grid to the electrification of busses and improvements for roads and other transit hubs. Significantly, the bill includes $65 billion for the expansion of broadband connectivity efforts along with $200 million for lead pipe remediation in public K-12 schools. 

In the lead up to the BIF’s passage late Friday night, however, lawmakers continued to struggle to find the necessary votes within the Democratic Caucus to pass the Build Back Better Act (BBBA)– legislation that would invest $1.75 trillion over the next several years in a slew of complementary domestic priorities including Career Technical Education (CTE) and workforce development (as shared last week). 

Several lawmakers in the House withheld their support for this bill citing the need for a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score detailing the costs and related benefits of the legislation. As a consequence, Democratic leaders and key members of the caucus struck a deal to pass the BIF while committing to a vote on the BBBA during the week of November 15. Following the BIF’s passage, President Biden issued a statement early Saturday morning in support of the legislation while also committing to the passage of the BBBA aligned with this agreement. 

Yet it remains unclear when the CBO score will become available and whether House lawmakers will vote on the BBBA, as agreed to Friday evening and codified in a related rule, during the week of November 15. Despite this uncertainty, House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) circulated a Dear Colleague letter on Sunday re-committing to this timeline when the House reconvenes next week. Should the House pass the BBBA during the week of November 15, a timeline for its consideration and passage in the Senate remains much more opaque. As this process continues to unfold, Advance CTE will continue to advocate for a robust investment in CTE, via the BBBA, to ensure the historic investments Congress made in the nation’s infrastructure can be made a reality.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

Legislative Update: Continued debates on federal spending, a new resolution introduced for National Career Development Month and more approved state ARP plans

November 5th, 2021

Congressional Democrats continued to negotiate and debate within their caucus the shape and contents of their forthcoming domestic spending bill. Meanwhile, a key lawmaker in the House has introduced a resolution to recognize November as National Career Development Month. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) approved two more state plans as part of the most recent COVID-19 (coronavirus) aid package passed by Congress earlier this Spring.

House Democrats Revise BBBA and Are Poised to Approve It

On Wednesday, the House Rules Committee unveiled revised text for the Build Back Better Act (BBBA)– $1.75 trillion legislation that would invest in a number of President Biden and Congressional Democrats’ domestic priorities, including Career Technical Education (CTE) and workforce development. As shared last week, this proposal 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. In addition, the proposal would provide new funding for several other programs of interest including apprenticeship expansion, “Grow Your Own” teacher and school leader development programs, and additional funding for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Connectivity Fund among other initiatives.

Following the release of this draft proposal, Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) issued a joint  statement outlining the organizations’ support for the legislation but calling for the inclusion of Community College and Industry Partnership grant funding. Significantly, this revised version of the BBBA now includes $5 billion for this program. Advance CTE applauds House lawmakers’ acknowledgment of the importance of this proposed investment in the nation’s postsecondary education system and is particularly encouraged to note that certain Area Technical Centers would be eligible to apply for these grants under the current proposal. 

Following the release of this revised text, the House Rules Committee met late into the night on Wednesday, teeing up a possible vote on the legislation sometime on Friday, November 5. The measure, along with legislation investing in the nation’s physical infrastructure, are widely expected to pass by a slim margin in the chamber later today (Friday, November 5) although a vote and related debate have not yet started at the time of this writing. 

Should this current timeline hold, and with both Chambers out on recess next week, the earliest the BBBA could be taken up by the Senate is sometime during the week of November 15. However, key members of the Democratic caucus, particularly Sen. Manchin (D-WV), have so far been noncommittal regarding their support for the proposal as currently constructed in the House. This likely means that the Senate will make changes to the legislation prior to final passage. It remains unclear what potential changes will be made to the bill in order to garner the Senator’s support. As this process unfolds, Advance CTE will continue to advocate for a robust investment in these programs as part of any final legislative agreement.

CTE Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Langevin Introduces Measure Career Development

On Monday, Rep. Langevin (D-RI) introduced a legislative measure in the House expressing support for designating November 2021 as “National Career Development Month.” The resolution highlights the immense importance of career development activities and its impact, including the work of career counselors, that it has on learners. The resolution also elevates a recent Harris Interactive Poll which found that only 13 percent of those surveyed had received career development support from a school or private counselor, or other career specialists.  

ED Approves Two More State ARP Plans

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed exclusively by Congressional Democrats earlier this year, authorized $122 billion in additional pandemic aid funding to be disbursed to states and K-12 school districts this past spring. Since that time, ED has distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a formula detailed in the legislation. The Department held back the remaining third of these funds, however, until states and territories submitted plans detailing how they would make use of these resources to support students as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

On Monday, November 4, ED approved two more of these plans, sending these additional funds to California and Colorado. Only five more states, along with Puerto Rico, have yet to have their ARP plans approved. The current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans approved by the Department so far, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor 

Legislative Update: Build Back Better Framework Agreement Announced, ED Nominee Update and ECF Funding Requests

October 29th, 2021

This week Congress took a significant first step in enacting President Biden’s wider domestic policy agenda. Additionally, the Senate advanced a key Biden Administration nominee to oversee Career Technical Education (CTE) policy for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) while work continued to implement broadband connectivity efforts to close the homework gap.  

Build Back Better Framework Agreement Announced

Yesterday, President Biden announced that his administration, and  Democratic congressional leaders had come to an agreement on a $1.75 trillion framework to enact a slew of domestic priorities, including those impacting the CTE community. Following this announcement, the House Rules Committee held a hearing to begin formal consideration of the proposed Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376). While the legislation must still move forward via the Congressional budget reconciliation process—a maneuver that allows certain spending legislation to be passed by simple majorities in both legislative chambers—this announcement and related introduction of legislative text marks a significant step forward in Congressional Democrats’ efforts to enact President Biden’s wider domestic agenda. 

If enacted, the proposal would include $600 million for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act’s (Perkins V) basic state grant formula program. The bill also includes a proposed $100 million for the law’s Innovation and Modernization competitive grant program, $1 billion for apprenticeship programs, $113 million for “Grow Your Own” programs to train teachers in high-needs fields, $4.6 billion for industry and sector partnership grants, along with numerous other investments within the wider workforce development space. The proposed legislation would also include $300 million in additional funding for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)—a key Advance CTE legislative priority to close the homework gap.

Despite this progress, this legislation remains far from being enacted and is still subject to change as lawmakers in Congress continue to debate and negotiate the contents of this package. As this process unfolds, Advance CTE will continue to advocate for a robust investment in CTE and the aforementioned programs via this legislative effort.  

View Advance CTE’s and ACTE’s joint statement on the framework here.

FCC Announces Additional ECF Funding Requests; Biden Administration Nominates New Leadership

Earlier this week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it had received nearly $1.3 billion in requests for funding as part of its second application window for the ECF program. The $7.2 billion ECF program was authorized as part of the American Rescue Plan and allows eligible schools and libraries to apply for financial support to purchase connected devices like laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve unmet needs of learners, school staff, and library patrons at home during the ongoing pandemic. This round of funding will provide nearly 2.4 million connected devices to eligible recipients and over 564,000 broadband connections. More details about which schools and libraries will receive funding can be found here.

The day after this announcement, President Biden announced the nomination of  Jessica Rosenworcel to serve as the next commissioner and Chair of the FCC. The Biden Administration also announced that Gigi Sohn has been nominated to serve as another FCC commissioner, likely serving as the administration’s point person on issues pertaining to net neutrality. Senate Democratic leaders are widely expected to move forward with Rosenworcel’s confirmation process relatively soon as this seat must be vacated if she is not confirmed by the end of the year. 

Senate HELP Committee Advances ED Nominees

On Tuesday the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee considered the nominations of several Biden Administration nominees, including two officials to serve in key roles within ED—Sandra Bruce to serve as  the Department’s next Inspector General and Amy Loyd to serve as the next Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Adult, and Technical Education (OCTAE). The committee approved both Loyd’s and Bruce’s nominations, along with five other nominees, via voice vote, advancing both nominees for further consideration by the full Senate chamber some time in the future.

Advance CTE has strongly supported Loyd’s nomination earlier this year and is looking forward to a swift confirmation process to ensure ED has the necessary leadership in place to advocate for high-quality and equitable CTE in the months and years ahead.

 Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

Legislative Update: Short-term Extension of the Debt Limit, Newly Approved State ARP Plans and ECF Applications

October 22nd, 2021

Over the past two weeks, Congress approved a short-term extension of the nation’s borrowing authority and made further progress on Fiscal Year 22 (FY22) appropriations. Federal agencies have also advanced efforts to approve new state American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding proposals and distribute additional funding for broadband connectivity efforts. More recently, the Senate has advanced additional U.S. Department of Education (USED) nominees while President Biden issued an Executive Order aimed, in part, at advancing economic and educational opportunities for Black Americans. 

Short-term Debt Limit Deal Enacted 

During the week of October 11, the House formally considered and approved a short-term increase of the nation’s borrowing authority, known as the debt limit. Lawmakers passed this measure along party lines by a margin of 219-206. Following passage, President Biden signed the legislation into law, which provides $480 billion in additional borrowing authority for the U.S. Treasury Department. This extension is estimated to provide sufficient borrowing authority through early December—a time when Congress must also act to pass a full-year funding measure for the current federal fiscal year (FY22) for programs like the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). 

Prior to this vote, however, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sent a letter to President Biden making clear that his party will likely filibuster future Congressional efforts to pass a longer-term measure to extend or suspend the current debt limit. 

Make Your Voice Heard

The short-term agreement on the debt limit provides more time to Congressional Democrats who are currently debating the size and scope of a forthcoming domestic spending package, modeled off of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda that could potentially provide $4 billion in additional funding for Perkins V. 

At this stage in the negotiations, it is critical that the Career Technical Education (CTE) community makes its voice heard to ensure a Perkins funding increase is included in a final agreement. Be sure to contact your members of Congress to remind them of the importance of investing in CTE. To do so, click here!  

Senate Release Remaining FY22 Spending Bills 

On October 18, the Senate Appropriations Committee released drafts of the remaining nine FY22 spending bills that had not been considered by the committee. Among these was the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-ED) appropriations bill, which provides funding for USED and the related federal programs it oversees. Overall, the proposal would, if enacted, provide $98.4 billion for USED—an increase of $24.9 billion compared to the previous fiscal year. Most of this proposed increase would be devoted to nearly doubling the size of Title I formula funds for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

Significantly, the bill proposes a $50 million increase for the Perkins V basic state grant program. This proposal aligns with House legislation passed earlier this year by the lower chamber which, if enacted, would provide a total increase of roughly $1.385 billion. 

The proposal is not expected, however, to be formally marked up by the Senate. Rather, these bills will be used as the basis to begin bicameral and bipartisan negotiations for full-year FY22 funding—legislation that must be completed by December 3 when current short-term funding is set to expire. As these efforts progress, Advance CTE will continue to advocate for a robust investment in Pekins V’s basic state grant program as part of the wider FY22 process.

FCC Approves Additional Emergency Connectivity Fund Applications

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced $1.1 billion in new commitments as part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF)’s second wave of funding distribution. The funding will cover 2.4 million devices and 1.9 million broadband connections. The approved projects will benefit learners and staff at 2,471 schools, and the patrons of 205 libraries. The FCC has approved over half of the applications filed during the program’s first application window and it is expected that the remaining qualified applications will be approved in the coming weeks. Securing initial funding for the ECF was a key advocacy priority for Advance CTE, at the start of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, as part of wider efforts to close the ‘homework gap.’ 

USED Approves Four More State ARP Plans 

This past spring, Congressional Democrats passed ARP legislation), which authorized $122 billion in supplementary funding for K-12 school districts. Since that time, USED distributed two-thirds of this funding via formula to help schools and states respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Department, however, held back the remaining third of this funding requiring that states and territories submit plans detailing how these new financial resources would be used to support learners coping with the impacts of the public health crisis and related disruptions to schooling. 

As part of this ongoing effort, USED has been periodically reviewing and approving state ARP plans for this purpose. On October 14, the Department approved four more of these plans for Guam, Maryland, Nebraska, and Virginia. Seven states and Puerto Rico are still awaiting approval from the Department, along with the release of these remaining ARP funds. The current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans approved by USED so far, can be found here

President Biden Issues Executive Order to Advance Educational Equity

On October 19, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) creating a new White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans. The order enumerates several actions that the Biden Administration has already taken or plans to take to provide greater economic opportunity for Black families and communities, close educational achievement gaps for Black learners, improve health outcomes for these communities, and outlines a number of steps the administration plans to take regarding criminal justice reform among other elements. Importantly, the EO envisions CTE as being a key way to achieve some of these objectives stating, in part, that it will “[advance] racial equity and economic opportunity by connecting education to labor market needs through programs such as dual enrollment, career and technical education, registered apprenticeships, work-based learning . . .”

The order goes on to note that, “Eliminating these inequities requires expanding access to work-based learning and leadership opportunities, including mentorships, sponsorships, internships, and registered apprenticeships that provide not only career guidance, but also the experience needed to navigate and excel in successful careers.” In addition, the order establishes an interagency governmental working group, inclusive of federal CTE representatives from USED, to support the initiative’s broad remit. A related factsheet outlining this order can be found here

Senate Confirms OCR Leader While Setting Sights on OCTAE Nomination Next Week 

On October 20, Catherine Lhamon was narrowly approved by the Senate to become the next Assistant Secretary for USED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The vote was evenly split along partisan lines, requiring a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. Lhamon previously led OCR under President Obama where she oversaw a controversial overhaul of Title IX regulations—a move that has continued to be a primary source of opposition for Republican lawmakers. 

In addition to Lhamon’s confirmation, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to consider the nominations of two other USED officials, including Amy Loyd, to serve as the next Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Adult, and Technical Education (OCTAE) along with Sandra Bruce to be the Department’s next Inspector General next week. Advance CTE has strongly supported Loyd’s nomination and looks forward to a swift confirmation process in the coming weeks and months ahead.   

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

Legislative Update: Continued Debates in Congress, New USED Nominees and Approved ARP State Plans

October 8th, 2021

Over the past two weeks, lawmakers in Congress have grappled with several intertwined issues including the debt ceiling, FY22 appropriations, and continued debate over the scope and content of President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda. 

Short-term Agreement on FY22 Appropriations

On September 30, lawmakers passed short-term funding legislation, known as a continuing resolution (CR), that extends current funding levels for federal programs, like Perkins V, through December 3 for the current federal fiscal year (FY22). The measure ensures that Congress will avoid a shutdown of federal government operations and disruptions to education and workforce development programs, at least for the time being. Democratic lawmakers had hoped to tie a debt ceiling increase to this measure, but Senate Republicans unanimously rejected this approach. With the debt ceiling provision removed, the Senate and House overwhelmingly passed the short-term measure with President Biden signing it into law later that evening. 

Nation’s Borrowing Limit Extended 

Following the passage of the CR, Congressional Democrats turned their attention back to the issue of the national debt limit—the total allowable amount of money the U.S. Treasury Department is statutorily permitted to borrow to pay the nation’s debts. Failure to raise or suspend the debt limit would result in a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt. Until Wednesday, Senate Republicans remained unanimously opposed to addressing this issue, arguing that Congressional Democrats should achieve this via the Congressional budget reconciliation process. With time running short, however, Senate leaders announced that they had reached an agreement to modestly increase the nation’s borrowing authority by $480 billion. 

The agreement, at least temporarily, ensures that the nation will avert a default on its debt obligations. The short-term agreement is intended to provide additional time for lawmakers to determine a longer-term solution for the debt limit. Significantly, the agreement likely means that the debt ceiling will need to be addressed again around the same time that lawmakers must determine full-year funding for the federal government and related programs for the current federal fiscal year (FY22).

Reconciliation Remains in Limbo 

Vigorous debate within the Democratic Party remains fluid and ongoing regarding Congressional Democrats’ efforts to pass a domestic spending bill—known collectively as the Build Better Act agenda—via the Congressional budget reconciliation process. This process allows certain legislation to be passed by simple majorities in both chambers, thereby avoiding a likely Republican filibuster in the Senate. Most recently the House Budget committee repackaged the various component pieces of their $3.5 trillion proposal into a single bill for further consideration— a proposal which includes $4 billion in additional funding for the Perkins V and related programs.  

However, progress on the legislation remains stalled as progressives and moderates within the Democratic party continue to disagree on the timing of a vote for this legislation, the contents of the package, and its overall size. It is widely expected that the topline figure of $3.5 trillion will likely be decreased prior to final passage. At present, Democratic Congressional leaders hope to finalize a deal on this package, along with additional infrastructure legislation, by the end of October. 

Second Funding Window for Connectivity Funds

On September 29, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the opening of a second application filing window for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. Created as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the ECF Program allows eligible schools and libraries to apply for financial support to purchase connected devices like laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve unmet needs of students, school staff, and library patrons at home during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. 

This second opportunity to apply for funding will remain open through October 13. Eligible schools, libraries and consortia will be able to submit requests for funding to make eligible purchases between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. More information on how to apply can be found here

USED Proposes New Maintenance of Equity Implementation Requirements 

On October 5, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) published two notices in the Federal Register regarding the ARP’s maintenance of equity requirement (MOEq). The first notice outlines a set of new data reporting elements regarding a new requirement that states publish information demonstrating that high-poverty school districts are not receiving disproportionate cuts to local school budgets. The second requests information from states and districts regarding the feasibility of this proposed requirement. This MOEq requirement was a condition for states receiving ARP money. More information on these notices can be found here and here

Senate Confirms New USED Nominees 

On Wednesday, October 6, the Senate voted to confirm three high-level nominees for positions within the USED. Those approved for positions included Gwen Graham, who will oversee the Department’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs as Assistant Secretary; Elizabeth Merrill Brown, who will serve as USED’s General Counsel; and Roberto Rodriguez, who will oversee the Department’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. 

There are a number of other USED appointees still awaiting Senate confirmation. This includes Amy Loyd, who has been nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)—a nomination Advance CTE has strongly supported earlier this year. At present, it remains unclear when Loyd’s nomination will be approved by the Senate.  

USED Approves Four More ARP Plans

The ARP, passed exclusively by Congressional Democrats earlier this year, authorized $122 billion in additional pandemic aid funding to be disbursed to K-12 schools this past spring. USED has since distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a formula detailed in the legislation. The Department held back the remaining third of these funds, however, until states and territories submitted plans detailing how they would make use of these resources to support students as they recover from the impacts of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As part of this ongoing effort, USED approved four more of these plans on Thursday, October 7, sending these additional funds to Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, and Wyoming. The current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans approved by USED so far, can be found here.

Kimberly Green, Executive Director 

Welcome Allie Pearce to Advance CTE!

September 29th, 2021

My name is Allie Pearce, and I am so excited to join Advance CTE as the 2021-2022 Graduate Fellow, helping to advance the organization’s federal policy priorities and initiatives. My work will be anchored in the organization’s federal policy agenda, specifically the reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). While completing this fellowship, I will also lead work centered on federal stimulus funding and equity-based initiatives. 

I am currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Educational Transformation at Georgetown University, with a concentration in Advocacy and Policy. My experiences allow me to approach Career Technical Education (CTE) from an education policy perspective. While attending Grinnell College in my home state of Iowa, I volunteered on a local school bond campaign and worked as a preschool teaching assistant. From there, I worked for a variety of organizations, including the Learning Policy Institute; the Food Research and Action Center; and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Through these opportunities, I examined issues of equity and access in public education through policy research and advocacy. 

Increasing equity and access to high-quality CTE will be more important than ever as the labor market continues to respond to the persisting skills gap and systemic inequities exacerbated by COVID-19. I am humbled to join Advance CTE at such a critical time, and I look forward to being a part of innovative systemic change.

In my free time I enjoy visiting the national monuments, hiking with my two dogs, checking in virtually with my family back in Iowa and watching women’s college basketball (go Hawkeyes!).

Allie Pearce, Graduate Fellow

Legislative Update: Next Steps for Congress to Avoid a Government Shut Down and FCC Grants to Close the Homework Gap

September 24th, 2021

This week, funding legislation moves through Congress to avoid a government shut down. Read below to learn about the next steps needed, as well as Advance CTE’s support of proposed funding for Career Technical Education (CTE), newly announced awards for exemplary CTE programs and the first wave of grants to close the homework gap. 

Debt Ceilings, Reconciliation, Infrastructure and Avoiding A Government Shut Down

There are a number of related but separate spending measures working their way through Congress, which create for a confusing and volatile federal landscape. 

  • Congress needs to enact a spending bill to keep the federal government open past the fiscal year end – Thursday, September 30. This bill, called a Continuing Resolution, has been bundled with conversations related to raising the debt ceiling, which also needs to be acted upon sometime in October or the federal government goes into default. This week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved (220-211) a Continuing Resolution to fund the government until December 3. The bill also suspends the federal debt limit until December 2022. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle. Senate Republicans vowed to oppose the CR because of the debt limit provision, creating the possibility of government shut down beginning October 1. 
  • Next up is the reconciliation bill, which is the vehicle being used to move forward a big portion of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. The House Budget Committee is scheduled to markup the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, the Build Back Better Act, over the weekend. The spending bill, which was detailed in last week’s legislative update, includes $3 billion in funding through the Perkins Basic State Grant funding stream, with an additional $1 billion in funding for the existing Innovation and Modernization fund, for a total of $4 billion to be distributed through Perkins V. In addition, there is funding for universal pre-K and childcare subsidies for eligible families, two years of free community college, a $500 increase to Pell grants, K-12 school infrastructure, workforce development programs, teacher residency programs, school leadership programs, and Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 
  • The House is scheduled to vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Monday, September 27.  Progressive and moderate House Democrats are vowing to vote against the bill if the House does not to first vote on the reconciliation bill which includes the “human” infrastructure investments mentioned above. However, the reconciliation bill will not be ready for a floor vote by Monday; in fact, it is likely not going to be ready for vote for several weeks as Democrats negotiate behind the scenes to pare back the top line numbers in order to secure Senate Democrat support. If the progressive Democratic Caucus members votes against the bill on Monday, it will fail on the House floor.  

Advance CTE Joins Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) in Applauding Committee Passage of the Build Back Better Act

Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) applauded the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee on passing its portion of the Build Back Better Act, which includes $4 billion in dedicated funding for CTE programs, and nearly $80 billion total in funding for workforce development programs. Advance CTE joined Rep. Krishnamoorthi’s press statement celebrating the robust funding levels for CTE and workforce development programs. Advance CTE’s Executive Director Kimberly Green shared that “this legislation includes significant, increased funding and new investments that are crucial for states, schools and colleges to deliver high-quality CTE programs that are responsive to the evolving needs of industry and to close skill gaps.” Advance CTE is calling on the Senate to maintain or exceed these levels in the Build Back Better Act. Lend your voice and advocacy of this funding level through ACTE’s advocacy portal

U.S. Department of Education announces Blue Ribbon Schools

U.S. Secretary of Education announced the 325 schools that were selected as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2021. The selection is based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among subgroups. Additional criteria were added for this year’s secondary school applicants to describe the “curriculum supports college and career readiness (e.g., dual credit courses, college prep classes, Career Technical Education (CTE), apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship opportunities, industry-recognized credentials). This may also include student leadership, community and civic responsibilities, entrepreneurship skills, or work-based learning opportunities that align with essential or emerging careers.” Check out the database of schools to see if any of your state’s schools that offer exemplary CTE programs were selected for this honor. 

First Round of Emergency Connectivity Fund Grants Announced

Today, the FCC announced an initial wave of $1.2 billion from the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program to support 3,040 schools, 260 libraries, and 24 consortia across all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. “The funding will support 3,081,131 devices and 774,115 broadband connections and help connect over 3.6 million students who, according to their schools, would otherwise lack devices, broadband access, or both.” second application filing window will open on September 28, 2021 and close on October 13, 2021.  During this window, applicants can submit requests for funding for purchases through June 30, 2022 to meet the needs of learners, school staff, and library patrons who would otherwise lack access to basic educational opportunities and library services.   

Kimberly Green, Executive Director

Legislative Update: ED Confirms Nominee and DOL Grant Updates

September 17th, 2021

This week, the Senate confirmed the new Undersecretary of Education. Read below to learn about this role, as well as new funding opportunities from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), an update on the budget reconciliation process and newly approved stimulus plans. 

Senate Confirms James Kvaal as Undersecretary of Education

On Tuesday the Senate confirmed James Kvaal as the Undersecretary of Education for the U.S. Department of Education (ED), in a 58-37 vote. This is the third highest position at ED. In his capacity as Undersecretary, Kvaal will oversee the Administration’s higher education work- including federal student aid. Previously, Kvaal was the president of the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). He also served in the Obama Administration as the deputy domestic policy adviser at the White House and deputy undersecretary at ED. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona’s statement on Kvaal’s confirmation can be found here

DOL Announces Funding for Registered Apprenticeships in Critical, Nontraditional Industries 

DOL announced that funds are now available for up to four new contracts to Industry Intermediaries in order to launch, promote or expand Registered Apprenticeships in critical industries impacted by COVID-19 (coronavirus) and industries that have not traditionally used apprenticeships to meet employer and sector needs. The request for proposals is geared toward intermediaries looking to expand apprenticeship opportunities in industries disproportionately affected by the pandemic, increase opportunities for under-represented populations and leverage existing resources to support and sustain programs at the local and national levels. This grant will be administered by DOL’s Employment and Training Administration, and additional information can be found here.  

DOL Announces Funding to Expand Job Opportunities for Women in Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Occupations

DOL announced $3.3 million in grant funding to recruit, train and retain more women in pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeships programs, as well as nontraditional occupations. These grants were awarded to organizations in California, Mississippi, New York, Texas and Wisconsin, and were administered by the DOL Women’s Bureau and Employment and Training Administration. Information about grant recipients can be found here.  

House Education and Labor Committee Marks Up Budget Reconciliation Package 

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

The House Education and Labor Committee marked up its portion of the House’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, on September 9 and 10. The Committee’s portion of the bill contains a total of $761 billion in new funding, and in a significant victory, $4 billion for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs through the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V)! 

The bill also includes a significant number of other investments in programs or initiatives that could benefit CTE programs, students and institutions. Relevant components of the bill include: 

  • Perkins Basic State Grant/Innovation and Modernization: $3 billion in funding through the Perkins Basic State Grant funding stream, with an additional $1 billion in funding for the existing Innovation and Modernization fund, for a total of $4 billion to be distributed through Perkins V. 
  • Tuition-Free Community College: Beginning in financial aid year 2023-24, the bill provides two years of tuition-free community college for eligible students. 
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Allocations: $16 billion for dislocated worker employment and training; $15 billion for adult worker employment and training activities; $9.05 billion for youth workforce investment activities; $3.6 billion for carrying out ex-offender activities. 
  • Registered Apprenticeships, Youth Apprenticeships and Pre-Apprenticeships: $5 billion for grants, cooperative agreements, contracts or other arrangements to create or expand registered apprenticeship programs, youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. 
  • Community College and Industry Partnerships Grants: $2 billion for grants to community colleges to expand workforce development and employment opportunities in high-skill, high-wage or in-demand industry sectors or occupations. 
  • Industry or Sector Partnership Grants: $10 billion for competitive grants to partnerships to expand workforce development and employment opportunities for high-skill, high-wage and in-demand industry sectors or occupations, including information technology, clean energy, infrastructure and transportation, advanced manufacturing, public health home care and early childhood care and education. 
  • Direct Care Workforce: $1.48 billion to award competitive grants to provide competitive wages, benefits, and other supportive services to direct care workers, and for the recruitment, retention and training of direct care workers. 
  • Adult Basic Education: $3.6 billion to support adult education programs under Title II of WIOA. 
  • Rebuild America’s Schools Grant Program: $81 billion from FY 2022-24 for grants to state educational agencies (SEAs), with $39.6 billion awarded in each of FYs 2023 and 2024. Funds would be awarded to local educational agencies to create and implement facilities plans to address health, safety, educational equity, enrollment diversity, environmental sustainability and climate resiliency of public school facilities. 
  • “Grow Your Own” programs: $197 million to address teacher shortages in high-need subjects and locations and to increase the diversity of the education workforce. 
  • Retention and completion grants: $9 billion for retention and completion grants to institutions of higher education. 
  • Pell Grants: increase the maximum aid amount by $500 per year through the 2029-30 school year. 

However, based on the definitions included in the draft legislation, area technical centers (ATCs) have been left out of the free community college proposal in particular. In many states, these public, fully accredited institutions are the primary delivery of postsecondary CTE certificate programs, but because they do not grant associate degrees, ATCs would not be included in this important program. 

ACTE and Advance CTE has sent a letter to Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) of the House Education and Labor Committee expressing concern over the exclusion of ATCs in the Committee’s portion of the Build Back Better Act, and is actively working with Congress to support these critical institutions.   

As this bill moves forward, it is important that CTE stakeholders continue to keep up the pressure on Members of Congress to include important investments in education and workforce development in the budget reconciliation bill, and to ensure all CTE programs are included! 

You can read the full text of the Committee’s print of the Build Back Better Act here. Stay tuned for the latest developments impacting CTE during the budget reconciliation process!

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

 

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