Posts Tagged ‘American Rescue Plan’

Legislative Update: Secretary Cardona Testifies and Makes State CTE Visit

Friday, May 6th, 2022

Over the last two weeks U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified before House appropriators while also leading several efforts to celebrate the importance of teachers and promote much-needed reforms to the Pell Grant program. Elsewhere, lawmakers introduced legislation to attract and retain a robust teacher workforce while the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee highlighted the importance of workforce development and apprenticeship programs. 

Secretary Cardona Testifies on FY23 Budget

On Thursday, April 28, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies regarding the Biden Administration’s 2023 federal fiscal year (FY23) funding requests for programs overseen by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). This hearing is part of wider, ongoing efforts in Congress to consider aspects of President Biden’s FY23 budget request released a few weeks ago. During his formal testimony, Secretary Cardona focused on the need to close opportunity and achievement gaps by investing more in educational programs, addressing student mental health needs, growing the educator workforce, and building creative on-ramps to more affordable college and career pathways. During the hearing, lawmakers discussed a wide range of issues, including STEM education and lingering stigmas attached to “skilled trades” instruction. An archived webcast of the hearing, including Secretary Cardona’s testimony, can be found here

Although the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins V) basic state grant program was not mentioned explicitly during this hearing, House CTE Caucus co-chairs Reps. Langevin (D-RI) and Thompson (R-PA) successfully led a Dear Colleague letter calling for robust funding for this program ahead of Cardona’s appearance. Nearly a third of Representatives in the House, 127, signed on in support of this letter– a reflection of the strong support the program has in Congress. 

Lawmakers Introduce RAISE Act 

Coinciding with national Teacher Appreciation Week, Sen. Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Schiff (D-CA) introduced the Respect, Advancement, and Increasing Support for Educators (RAISE) Act– legislation that, if enacted, would provide a sliding scale of refundable annual tax credits specifically for teachers. Tax credit amounts would be determined by school poverty levels where teachers work. Importantly, CTE instructors who meet state certification requirements would be eligible for up to $15,000 in tax credits. Advance CTE is proud to endorse this legislation and urges its swift enactment to help address persistent teacher shortages across the country. More information on the proposal can be found here

Cardona Promotes Pell Grant Modernization 

Secretary Cardona attended an event celebrating Second Chance Month last week, where ED announced it had invited 73 postsecondary institutions to participate in the third round of the Second Chance Pell Experiment– an effort that expands access to Pell grants for incarcerated individuals. During this event Secretary Cardona also expressed support for the expansion of the Pell Grant program for high-quality short-term CTE programs. As a reminder, lawmakers in Congress are debating whether to include a short-term Pell Grant program provision as part of wider conference negotiations over economic competitiveness legislation. Recently the Senate held a series of procedural votes to formally begin this negotiation process. Advance CTE has continued to advocate in favor of this change which is modeled after legislation long sponsored by Sens. Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH). 

ED Celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week 

This week commemorates Teacher Appreciation Week—a time to honor the contribution of teachers nationwide. As part of these efforts,. Secretary Miguel Cardona kicked off the week with a visit to Richmond, Virginia to tour high school and postsecondary CTE programs with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). The event also included a visit to Richmond’s Teacher Residency Program which aims to attract and retain teachers in high-needs subject areas. Later in the week, Cardona hosted a roundtable further celebrating teachers and the invaluable contributions that they make each day. At this event, the Secretary discussed a public service loan forgiveness waiver announced last fall aimed at discharging student debt carried by eligible teachers. 

Encourage Lawmakers to Join CTE Caucuses 

In conjunction with the House and Senate CTE Caucuses, Advance CTE and ACTE are working to encourage Senators and Representatives over the next several weeks to join their respective CTE Caucuses, if they have not done so already. To find out if your Members of Congress have joined their respective Caucus, you can review House and Senate membership lists. Membership in these caucuses is an important way for lawmakers to signal their support for CTE and the millions of learners across the country who enroll in these programs. To encourage your Senator or member of Congress to join, click here and scroll down to the request form corresponding to your needs.

Odds & Ends 

 

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Stacy Whitehouse in Public Policy
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Legislative Update: FY23 Budget Released as House Moves Forward With WIOA

Friday, April 1st, 2022

This week the Biden Administration formally published its annual Congressional budget request for federal fiscal year 2023 (FY23). Meanwhile, lawmakers in the House introduced legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) while U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona urged stakeholders to use pandemic aid funding to address nationwide teacher shortages and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a new study on Career Technical Education (CTE). In addition, Advance CTE continues to encourage its members and partners to support legislation to improve learner access to Pell Grants for high-quality, short-term postsecondary CTE programs. Finally, be sure to encourage your Senators and Representatives to join the House and Senate CTE Caucuses if they have not already done so! 

President Biden Releases Disappointing FY23 Budget Request 

On Monday, March 28, President Biden published his Administration’s FY23 budget request to Congress. The $5.8 trillion budget proposal would provide a nearly 21 percent increased investment for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and an 18 percent increase for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). While these topline figures are encouraging, this budget was developed and published before Congress enacted final full-year funding for the previous federal fiscal year (FY22). Because of this timing ED has requested an effective $25 million decrease in investment for the Carl D. Perkins Act’s (Perkins V) basic state grant program. Since the publication of this budget request, ED has framed this (and other proposed reductions in funding for education and workforce programs) as “artificial cuts,” publicly maintaining that they support enacted FY22 funding levels in instances where the budget request fell short of FY22 funding totals.

Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) released a statement expressing significant disappointment in this budget request. The statement also calls into question the budget request’s proposed creation of a new $200 million competitive grant program as part of a new “Career-connected High Schools” initiative. 

Despite these disappointing elements in the President’s proposed budget, Advance CTE looks forward to working with partners in Congress to ensure robust funding levels for Perkins V formula grants. The full ED budget summary can be found here and more detailed justifications for individual requests can be found here. DOL’s summary can be found here, along with more detailed information here

House Democrats Release WIOA Reauthorization Proposal 

For the last year, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been quietly considering making updates to WIOA– the nation’s primary workforce development law. Yesterday, March 31, Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee released a comprehensive proposal to reauthorize this law. While Advance CTE is still analyzing this legislation, the organization is encouraged to see a number of its priorities reflected in this draft. 

Most particularly, the proposal would make significant improvements to the sharing of one-stop center infrastructure costs and would also provide greater flexibilities, along with improved coordination, with regards to youth workforce funding. In addition, the proposal would make notable improvements to the law’s underlying data infrastructure, softening an existing prohibition on the creation of a national database to more effectively understand and evaluate the impact WIOA-funded programs and services have on individuals and communities. 

As mentioned, Advance CTE is still in the process of analyzing all aspects of this draft proposal and looks forward to working with the committee to further improve and refine this legislation. A committee markup of the legislation is expected to be scheduled soon. 

Secretary Cardona Encourages States to Use ARP Funding to Address Teacher Shortages

On Monday, March 28, the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona called on education stakeholders to make use of funding provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to address persistent and widespread teacher shortages. With the use of  ARP funds, Secretary Cardona urged states, postsecondary leaders, districts and schools to consider establishing evidence-based teacher residency programs, creating registered apprenticeship programs for the teaching profession, and increasing teacher compensation along with a slew of other proposals. The full announcement can be found here

GAO Publishes Study on CTE 

On Wednesday, March 30, the GAO published a new study examining CTE programs, strategies, and related challenges. The publication interviewed stakeholders from Delaware, Georgia, Ohio and Washington, including representatives from national organizations. The study looked at how stakeholders are using federal CTE funding, the challenges they currently face, and how these efforts are aligned with other education and workforce development efforts. Among several findings, researchers found that learners have experienced significant challenges in accessing CTE programs due to the lack of federal financial aid eligibility for nondegree postsecondary programs. 

To more effectively address this longstanding inequity, Advance CTE and its partners have continued to advocate for the enactment of the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act – legislation that would make long-overdue improvements to the federal Pell Grant program by expanding eligibility for high-quality shorter-term postsecondary CTE programs. As lawmakers continue to negotiate and craft forthcoming legislation to increase the competitiveness of the American economy, this reform would significantly enhance the nation’s ability to provide pathways for workers and learners to earn valuable postsecondary credentials needed in today’s economy. 

To help ensure lawmakers understand the importance of this legislation and the role it has in ensuring that postsecondary education is truly working for everyone, Advance CTE encourages state and local CTE affiliates, including individual nonprofit CTE institutions serving postsecondary learners, to sign-on in support of this letter ahead of anticipated legislative action later this year. Please share and add your support by April 13! 

Encourage Lawmakers to Join CTE Caucuses 

In conjunction with the House and Senate CTE Caucuses, Advance CTE and ACTE are working to encourage Senators and Representatives over the next several weeks to join their respective CTE Caucuses, if they have not done so already. Membership in these caucuses is an important way for lawmakers to signal their support for CTE and the millions of learners across the country who enroll in these programs. To encourage your Senator or member of Congress to join, click here and scroll down to the request form corresponding to your needs.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Brittany Cannady in COVID-19 and CTE, Legislation
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Legislative Update: President Biden’s State of the Union Address and a New CTE Fact Sheet

Friday, March 4th, 2022

This week lawmakers have continued to negotiate a forthcoming full-year spending bill for the 2022 federal Fiscal Year (FY22), while President Biden delivered his annual State of the Union address to Congress. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released a new factsheet on how to use pandemic aid funding to support Career Technical Education (CTE), while lawmakers in the House examined the important role Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) have in providing economic opportunity to learners. 

Lawmakers Continue to Negotiate FY22 Spending Bill

Last October, Congress was unable to come to agreement on full-year funding for FY22. As a result, federal lawmakers have relied on a series of short-term funding measures—known as continuing resolutions (CR)—to continue government operations past the formal start of FY22 on October 1, 2021. These CRs simply extend last fiscal year’s funding levels for federal programs like the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) for a predetermined period of time. The most recent of these CRs is set to expire March 11. 

Until recently, Congressional leaders were optimistic that they would find agreement on full-year funding for the remaining six months of FY22. However, lawmakers are currently disagreeing on how best to provide emergency aid to address the ongoing Ukrainian crisis as well as on whether to provide additional funding to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, March 2, the White House formally requested both of these supplemental appropriations requests to House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA). 

Until these disagreements are reconciled, lawmakers are at an impasse, at least temporarily, on full-year FY22 funding. Should agreement not be reached in the coming days, Congress will likely pass an additional CR to provide more time for these negotiations to continue. As these efforts unfold, Advance CTE will continue to champion robust investments in CTE and Perkins V. 

President Biden Delivers State of the Union

President Biden delivered his annual State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, March 1. While a significant portion of the speech was devoted to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the President emphasized the importance of education and investments in workforce development. During his remarks, the President emphasized his administration’s plans to “. . . cut costs and keep the economy going strong by giving workers a fair shot, [by providing] more training and apprenticeships, [hiring] them based on their skills not degrees.” 

The address also emphasized the important role the American Rescue Plan (ARP) continues to play in helping states, schools, and postsecondary institutions recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, he called for greater investments in community colleges, encouraging lawmakers to, in part, “Invest in America. Educate Americans. Grow the workforce. Build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not from the top down.” A transcript of the speech can be found here

House Holds Hearing on MSIs’ Role in Ensuring Economic Mobility

On Wednesday, March 2, the House Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment held a hearing titled “ Investing in Economic Mobility: The Important Role of Hispanic Serving Institutions and Other Minority Serving Institutions.” The hearing focused on how these institutions are effectively serving learners and providing ladders of opportunity for career and economic advancement. In particular, lawmakers focused on strategies these institutions are employing to provide learners with labor market experiences, provide high-quality credentialing opportunities, and partner with employers to make postsecondary-to-career transitions more seamless. An archived webcast of the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here

ED Releases New CTE Fact Sheet

Late last Friday, February 25, ED released a new fact sheet highlighting how states and local school districts can make use of funding from the ARP’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding to support high-quality CTE programs. In particular, the factsheet emphasized CTE as a powerful way to reengage students to cultivate high-demand skills needed for jobs of the future. The resource highlighted several states’ efforts to use these resources to develop, expand, or otherwise implement CTE activities as part of their recovery efforts. The fact sheet can be accessed here. Advance CTE also has a similar resource for this purpose which can be accessed here.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Brittany Cannady in Uncategorized
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Legislative Update: The Road Ahead for FY22, Guidance for Postsecondary and CTE included in Discretionary Grant Priorities

Friday, January 21st, 2022

Over the last two weeks Congress has continued to debate Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) appropriations as the Senate advances a key Career Technical Education (CTE) nominee out of committee. In addition, the U.S. Treasury Department (Treasury) issued a final rule for $350 billion in coronavirus pandemic aid to states and localities, while other federal agencies make important announcements related to broadband funding, updated guidance for postsecondary institutions, new discretionary grant priorities, and efforts to overhaul higher education regulations. 

Lawmakers Still Seeking a Path Forward on the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget

Last autumn, Congressional lawmakers were unable to find agreement on full-year funding for FY22 which began on October 1, 2021. Since that time, Congress has passed a series of short-term funding extensions of current fiscal year 2021 funding levels to continue federal government operations past this date. The most recent of these measures, known as a continuing resolution (CR), is set to expire on February 18. To avert a government shutdown and lapse in appropriations for programs like the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), lawmakers have continued to negotiate a longer-term funding package to cover the remainder of FY22.

Despite the need for full-year funding, the pathway forward for lawmakers to complete work on FY22 funding remains unclear. Last week the top four lawmakers in Congress responsible for appropriations formally met for the first time since last November. These appropriations leaders emerged from the meeting calling the talks “constructive” and striking a tentatively optimistic tone regarding the likelihood of a full-year FY22 funding bill. Rep. DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, briefed House Democrats this week on these talks, insisting that the current February 18 deadline is still the goal for wrapping up current negotiations. As these efforts get more fully underway, Advance CTE will continue to work with Congress to ensure that the FY22 appropriations process meets the significant funding needs of the CTE community.

Senate HELP Committee Advances CTE Nominee

Last Thursday, January 13, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee re-considered the nominations of several Biden Administration nominees, including Dr. Amy Loyd, to serve as the next Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Career, Adult, and Technical Education (OCTAE). While the HELP Committee approved Loyd similarly last year, the full Senate did not formally confirm her prior to the end of the first session of the current 117th Congress. As a consequence, President Biden was required to re-nominate Loyd for this position in the new year. Following a short discussion, the committee approved Loyd’s nomination by voice vote, advancing her for consideration by the full Senate sometime in the near future. Advance CTE has endorsed Dr. Loyd’s nomination and looks forward to a swift confirmation process later this year. 

Treasury Department Finalizes ARP Rule 

Earlier this month the Treasury Department announced that it had finalized and adopted a rule for implementing the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF). The $350 billion SLFRF provides financial support to state, local, and Tribal governments to help with their responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Among other eligible uses of these funds, recipients may use these resources for “responding to negative economic impacts,” caused by the public health crisis. In the final rule Treasury has made clear that workforce development activities for eligible individuals will be an eligible use of these funds. Earlier today, January 21, President Biden strongly emphasized this allowable use of funding to the nation’s Mayors, saying in part, “I urge every Mayor in America to  . . . use your [SLFRF resources] to build pathways to better jobs, through [apprenticeship programs] and on-the-job training . . . to give people in every zip code a chance to deal themselves into this booming economy.” The Department also enumerated several other potential eligible uses of these funds, including for K-12 schools, broadband connectivity, and early learning. The final rule goes into effect April 1, 2022 and can be viewed here. A related overview can be found here

ED Includes CTE in Discretionary Grant Priorities 

As we have shared previously, ED recently published the agency’s final supplemental priorities and definitions for discretionary grant programs in the Federal Register. These priorities will be used by ED to guide decisions regarding specific policy areas and related needs that will be prioritized as part of discretionary grant competitions in the future. Advance CTE submitted comments to the Department ahead of this announcement, requesting that CTE be more prominently embedded as part of these priorities. With regards to the ED’s second priority–  Promoting Equity in Student Access to Educational Resources and Opportunities– the Department has now included CTE as an important dimension for projects seeking to promote equitable access to educational opportunities. 

FCC Launches Seventh Wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund Commitments

Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a seventh wave of funding commitments totaling over $361 million as part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). The $7.2 billion ECF program was authorized as part of the ARP passage last year 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 students, school staff, and library patrons at home during the ongoing pandemic. Securing initial funding for the ECF was one of Advance CTE’s top legislative priorities over the past year as a key way to respond to the Homework Gap. This round of commitments will support 802 schools, 49 libraries, and 8 consortia to receive nearly 654,000 internet-capable devices and over 313,000 broadband connections. More information on the announcement can be found here

ED Announces New Details for Negotiated Rulemaking

ED recently publicized plans for its next round of negotiated rulemaking to make changes to several rules governing programs authorized by the Higher Education Act. This round of negotiated rulemaking is intended to focus thematically on the issue of accountability within higher education. Over the next few months the Department hopes to address a number of issues in this space including gainful employment regulations, 90/10 calculations, and ability to benefit provisions among others. A full list of negotiators, related issue briefs, and other materials are available here. The first negotiation sessions began this week, with negotiators unanimously voting to add an additional civil rights representative to the panel while rejecting a proposal to add an additional negotiator slot for for-profit postsecondary institutions. 

ED Issues New HEERF Guidance and Makes New Funding Available 

On Thursday, January 20, ED published updated guidance for implementing and making use of Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF)– resources that were provided to postsecondary institutions as part of the ARP legislation to help support their recovery. The updated guidance clarifies several frequently asked questions including articulating additional uses of these funds and how best to support learners’ needs more holistically. The new guidance can be found here

At the same time as ED published this guidance, First Lady Jill Biden and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited Bergen Community College in New Jersey to announce the availability of nearly $200 million in additional competitive funding for postsecondary institutions via HEERF. Community colleges and postsecondary institutions in rural areas that serve high percentages of low-income learners and have experienced declines in enrollment will be given priority for this latest tranche of funding. Institutions applying for these resources are encouraged to address students’ basic needs, particularly in ways aligned to the new guidance noted above, to reduce barriers to success for more learners.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Brittany Cannady in Uncategorized
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Coronavirus Relief Funds: Challenges and Missed Opportunities in Leveraging Federal Funds for CTE

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

This blog series examines trends in state uses of federal stimulus funding for Career Technical Education (CTE). Stimulus funds were appropriated for emergency relief related to the coronavirus pandemic through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act; the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA); and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. The five major stimulus funding streams for states and educational institutions include the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), and Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.

Federal coronavirus relief funds provide a critical avenue for states to invest in equitable, high-quality CTE programs to help learners and workers recover from the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Although many states have successfully leveraged these funds to introduce or expand initiatives related to CTE, there have also been various challenges and missed opportunities in relief spending. 

Missed Opportunities

Based on Advance CTE’s analysis of spending trends, states generally placed a disproportionate emphasis on short-term postsecondary education and workforce development initiatives over long-term pipeline programs and opportunities at the secondary level. Many states did not mention CTE in their ESSER plans, which address elementary and secondary funding, and several others made only passing references to CTE and did not include specific funding commitments. 

Additionally, there has been a general lack of investment in addressing the significant educator shortages that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. While many states mentioned these shortages in their funding plans, few explicitly committed to allocate federal relief funds toward systemically addressing these shortages. Indiana is one state that took a longer-term approach to strengthening educator pipelines by using ESSER funds to create grow-your-own “teacher cadet” programs targeted at attracting underrepresented candidates into the teaching profession while still in high school. By creating pathways for future educators at the secondary level, Indiana is taking a systemic approach to addressing its identified educator shortage.

Challenges

From what Advance CTE has learned in interviews with State CTE Directors, it seems that many of the problems that have arisen in directing federal funding toward CTE results from the short deadlines for submitting relief spending plans to the federal government and spending the funds states receive. Many states do not feel that they have enough time to coordinate with all relevant state agencies and solicit input from stakeholders. If the necessary infrastructure for rapid cross-system collaboration was not already in place, states found it much more difficult to share information and ideas with partners in time to meet early deadlines. While the latest round of ESSER and Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds must be obligated by September 2024, GEER funds must be obligated by 2023.

Further, federal relief funds are limited and consist of a one-time infusion of dollars into education and workforce systems. Many states feel that they do not have the money in their own budgets to sustain continuous investments that may be necessary to maintain new programs and initiatives. These challenges ultimately obstruct innovative, long-term strategizing.

Looking Ahead

State Directors have highlighted various priorities in federal relief spending moving forward. First, many have identified a continual need for more intentional programming and wraparound support for learners in rural areas. These learners often lack access to high-quality CTE program options and broadband internet, both of which are more important now than ever as the pandemic re-shapes labor market demand and program delivery models.

Additionally, State Directors have identified work-based learning and career advising as two key priorities in mitigating the long-term impacts of the pandemic on learner preparation and engagement. These will be especially important from an equity perspective to address opportunity gaps and ensure that each learner has the experience and supports they need to succeed. 

Looking ahead, coronavirus relief funds continue to provide states a vital opportunity to invest in CTE and career pathways. These funds can act as a springboard for addressing systemic barriers to learner and worker success by providing initial investments for longer-term pipeline initiatives. Most importantly, states can leverage funds to not only mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, but to adapt to new labor market realities, innovate, and build stronger education and workforce systems that meet the needs of every individual they serve.

To learn more about how states have spent federal relief funds on CTE, check out the Coronavirus Relief Funds blog series and visit Advance CTE’s coronavirus resource page for additional resources.

Allie Pearce, Graduate Fellow

By Brittany Cannady in COVID-19 and CTE, Legislation
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Legislative Update: Congress Returns With Funding Deadline Looming

Friday, January 7th, 2022

The Senate returned to a snow-covered Capitol Hill this week, while the House is due to return next week. By mid next month, lawmakers must once again act on FY22 appropriations along with a slew of other agenda items for 2022. In addition, federal agencies have unveiled new broadband connectivity efforts, updated equity requirements for educational aid provided last year, and sought to address bus driver shortages plaguing school districts across the nation.

Congress Returns With Funding Deadline Looming

Earlier this week, the Senate formally reconvened to begin the second session of the 117th Congress. The House is scheduled to follow suit next Monday, January 10. As lawmakers return to Capitol Hill this week and next, they will be confronted with a number of important agenda items, including determining a path forward for Democrats’ domestic spending package, known as the Build Back Better Act (BBBA). However, first among these is the fast-approaching date of February 18, which is when funding for the current 2022 federal fiscal year (FY22) is set to expire. Last year, Congress enacted a short-term extension of FY21 funding levels to keep the federal government open and related federal programs funded. This extension was intended to provide lawmakers additional time to find agreement on a full-year FY22 funding bill, which would last through September 30 of this year. As these efforts get underway, Advance CTE will continue to advocate for the significant funding needs of the Career Technical Education (CTE) community. 

FCC Launches New Connectivity Program and Grants New Waiver Flexibilities

On December 31, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially launched the Affordable Connectivity Program—an initiative authorized by the recently enacted bipartisan infrastructure legislation (known also as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act). The program allots $14.2 billion in supplementary funding for eligible individuals to acquire subsidies for internet service bills and one-time discounts for certain internet capable devices. More on the announcement can be found here.

In addition to these efforts, the FCC also issued an order on Tuesday, responding to seven requests to waive the Emergency Connectivity Fund’s (ECF) $400 cap for the purchasing of connected devices. The $7.2 billion ECF program was authorized as part of the American Rescue Plan and was a key Advance CTE legislative priority to help respond to the “homework gap.” The ECF 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 ongoing pandemic. This week’s order granted five out of the seven requested waivers capping the allowable cost of these devices. 

ED Unveils New Proposed MOEq Requirements

On Monday,  the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published updates to requirements for states and local school districts regarding the implementation of “Maintenance of Equity” (MOEq) provisions contained in the American Rescue Plan (ARP). This announcement follows earlier guidance from USED on this topic. Published in the Federal Register, the proposal details a series of new reporting requirements that states and school districts would need to complete by December 31, 2022. The Department is seeking feedback from the public on this proposal and comments are due to the Department by February 2, 2022. Additional information on the announcement can be found here.

School Bus Driver Certification Waivers Announced

Also on Tuesday, ED and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a series of actions to address the nation’s ongoing shortage of school bus drivers. Among these planned responses, ED and USDOT jointly committed to waiving certain requirements from commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) to reduce the entry requirements to train new bus drivers. The waiver took effect Monday, January 3, and is set to expire March 31 of this year. Bus operators receiving a CDL under this temporary waiver will only be permitted to work within a single state. More information regarding this announcement can be found here.

ED Approves Last Round of State ARP Plans

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed last spring, authorized $122 billion in additional pandemic aid funding to be disbursed to K-12 schools over the last year. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a formula detailed in the legislation during 2021. However, ED held back the remaining third of these funds 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 COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last few weeks in December, the Department approved the remaining state ARP plans that were awaiting review by ED, including those for Florida, Mississippi, and Vermont. All state ARP plans, including highlights and related press releases, can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor 

By Stacy Whitehouse in COVID-19 and CTE, Public Policy
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Coronavirus Relief Funds: States Leverage Federal Funds to Provide Re-Skilling, Up-Skilling, and Job Training for Displaced Workers

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

This blog series examines trends in state uses of federal stimulus funding for Career Technical Education (CTE). Stimulus funds were appropriated for emergency relief related to the coronavirus pandemic through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act; the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA); and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. The five major stimulus funding streams for states and educational institutions include the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), and Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.

During a time of mass economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, preparing displaced workers and learners for high-quality, long-term job opportunities is essential to close the skills gap and address shifting labor market demands. Job and income losses resulting from the pandemic have disproportionately impacted women, Black and Latinx workers, and low-wage and non-college educated workers. These populations will be key to target with federal coronavirus relief funds. 

Some states are already investing federal funds in establishing and expanding credential and training programs to address critical skills shortages and build a highly-skilled, resilient workforce for the future. South Dakota invested $2.2 million in GEER funding to launch UpSkill, a program to support workers displaced by the pandemic through 24 fully- or partially-funded certificate programs within the state’s four technical colleges. There is a clear pathway for participants to earn an Associate of Applied Science or bachelor’s degree, and the programs are offered in virtual, in-person or hybrid modalities and aligned with labor market demand.

Similarly, Delaware leveraged $10 million of the state’s CRF allocation to create the Rapid Workforce Training and Redeployment Initiative, which creates a process for establishing fully-funded training and certification programs for individuals who are unemployed or underemployed. These programs, developed by the Delaware Workforce Development Board in consultation with the state Department of Labor, will provide necessary skills for in-demand occupations and connect learners to employers and open opportunities in the state labor market.

Finally, Texas created new and innovative credential programs. The state used GEER to fund $25 million in Texas Reskilling and Upskilling for Education (TRUE) Institutional Capacity Grants for community, state and technical colleges to support efforts to create, expand or redesign high-value postsecondary workforce credential programs. Proposed programs must be under six months long, aligned to industry needs, and developed alongside key stakeholders to qualify for these competitively-awarded grants. Texas also focused on re-engaging learners through a $46.5 million GEER allocation toward financial aid for individuals enrolled in programs centered on up-skilling or re-skilling displaced workers for in-demand fields. The initiative targets learners who have earned some college credit to ensure that they remain on track to attain a postsecondary credential.

These state efforts will ensure that displaced workers and learners who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic can connect with meaningful CTE opportunities and career pathways. What is notable about these initiatives is that they not only connect displaced workers with job opportunities, addressing immediate unemployment concerns, but help workers access better opportunities that are in demand and offer high wages. By strategically investing federal relief funds to build and scale short-term training programs that are driven by labor market demand, states can leverage the current crisis to build a stronger workforce and more economic opportunity for the future. Coronavirus relief funds continue to provide a valuable means of investment in establishing and expanding high-quality CTE programs for long-term learner success in a continually shifting labor market.

To learn more about how states have spent federal relief funds on CTE, please stay tuned for future Coronavirus Relief Funds blog posts and visit Advance CTE’s coronavirus resource page for additional resources.

Allie Pearce, Graduate Fellow

By Brittany Cannady in Uncategorized
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Coronavirus Relief Funds: States Leverage Federal Funds to Enhance CTE Program Quality

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

This blog series examines trends in state uses of federal stimulus funding for Career Technical Education (CTE). Stimulus funds were appropriated for emergency relief related to the coronavirus pandemic through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act; the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA); and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. The five major stimulus funding streams for states and educational institutions include the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), and Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.

CTE program quality is key for ensuring that learners have access to necessary skills and competencies, meaningful experiential learning opportunities and strong career pathways. Alignment across workforce development systems and both secondary and postsecondary education institutions is essential for connecting learners and employers, as well as promoting experiential and work-based learning opportunities. As states continue to adapt to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, many are focusing on program quality and investing federal relief funds to strengthen industry alignment and work-based learning initiatives. 

Some states have already directed federal relief funding to align CTE programs to industry needs and high-skill, high-wage, in-demand jobs. Florida made a $35 million GEER allocation for the state Department of Education to partner with state and technical colleges to expand and improve short-term programs leading to in-demand technical certificates, career certificates and industry-recognized certifications. Through providing additional resources to these critical CTE programs, the state hopes to “reimagine its postsecondary CTE offerings as a mechanism for economic and social mobility.” Florida made an additional $2.5 million GEER investment to develop the Pathway to Job Market Dashboard, an online platform to compile and centralize data on CTE programs across the state. The dashboard will provide an accessible, comprehensive view of CTE program performance and alignment to labor market needs.

Massachusetts directed $10.4 million in CRF funding to expand workforce partnerships with employers in the state’s target sectors. The investment will create aligned training-employment pathways statewide. The state also made an additional $300,000 CRF allocation to expand a project to transform career/vocational technical high schools into Career Technical Institutes that also serve adult learners. These Institutes will run three shifts a day and train 20,000 new workers over four years in technical fields and skilled trades. The CRF funds were used to supplement the $8.4 million state investment to expand skills training and align programs to industry needs. 

Other states are prioritizing expanding high-quality work-based learning opportunities that connect learners with employers and industry. Delaware invested $8.3 million in ARP state fiscal recovery funds as part of a public-private partnership to expand the Delaware Pathways program, which provides rigorous, industry-aligned career pathway opportunities for high school students. The funding will allow the program to reach over 80 percent of high school learners in the state, as well as over 6,000 new middle school learners. Support will be targeted for workforce development and “earn and learn” apprenticeship programs in high-growth, high-wage target industries such as health care, engineering, finance and information technology.

Iowa made a $10 million CRF allocation to create two Registered Apprenticeship grant opportunities. Apprenticeships follow an employer-driven, “earn and learn” model that connects classroom learning with on-the-job experience and culminates in an industry-recognized credential. One grant opportunity is available for high schools, nonprofit organizations and small businesses, while the other is open to postsecondary institutions and healthcare employers. Grants can be used to purchase equipment or instructional materials to create or expand apprenticeship programs that also provide for online learning. 

As states look to education and workforce development as avenues for mitigating the effects of the pandemic, coronavirus relief funds provide a key opportunity to enhance CTE program quality. Industry-aligned programs that provide work-based learning and pathways to high-quality credentials will be essential to ensure that learners are prepared for a continually shifting labor market.

To learn more about how states have spent federal relief funds on CTE, please stay tuned for future Coronavirus Relief Funds blog posts and visit Advance CTE’s coronavirus resource page for additional resources.

Allie Pearce, Graduate Fellow

By Brittany Cannady in COVID-19 and CTE
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Legislative Update: Movement on the Nation’s Borrowing Authority, State ARP Plan Approval and New Senate Confirmations

Friday, December 10th, 2021

This week Congress moved closer to a pathway forward to increase the nation’s borrowing authority– a key next step in the lawmaker’s winter agenda. In addition, the next Inspector General (IG) for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and chair for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was confirmed by the Senate while the Department approved another state American Rescue Plan (ARP) application and unveiled new priorities for discretionary grant programs. 

Congress Nears Agreement on Nation’s Debt Limit

For much of the past calendar year lawmakers in Congress have been mired in disagreement over whether and how to raise the nation’s borrowing authority. Often referred to as the “debt ceiling,” this is the allowable amount that the federal government is legally permitted to borrow to pay for expenses already incurred. While a short-term increase of the debt ceiling was narrowly passed earlier this fall, Congressional Republicans have been withholding their support for further action on this issue, arguing that Democrats should simply pass the measure without their support—a move made difficult by the Senate’s required 60 vote threshold to withstand a potential filibuster. Should Congress fail to increase or suspend this borrowing authority, the federal government would be forced to default on its existing debt obligations which would have a catastrophic impact on the economy.

On Thursday, December 9, lawmakers announced that they had reached agreement on a path forward on this issue. Lawmakers have crafted a narrow legislative package that would, among other items, temporarily suspend the Senate’s filibuster on a forthcoming bill that would increase the nation’s borrowing limit. By temporarily removing the ability to filibuster this forthcoming legislation, Senators will be able to advance the bill by a simple majority vote. While legislation to formally increase the debt limit has not yet been passed by Congress, this proposal is widely expected to be enacted into law ahead of the current December 15 deadline when current borrowing authority is expected to expire. 

ED Approves Wisconsin ARP Plan

Following the ARP passage earlier this spring, ED distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a prescribed formula. ED held back the remainder of these funds 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 coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, December 6, ED approved one more of these plans, releasing these additional funds to the state of Wisconsin. Only a handful of additional states have their ARP plans awaiting approval. The most current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans already approved, can be found here.

Congress Confirms Bruce as ED’s IG and Rosenworcel at FCC

Late last Friday, December 3, the Senate formally confirmed Sandra Bruce to be the next IG for the Department. Bruce was previously Deputy IG for a number of years prior to her formal nomination this past June. ED’s IG office is the primary entity responsible for investigating and identifying fraud, waste and abuse within ED funds, programs and operations. More on the announcement from the Department can be found here. In addition, the Senate voted 68 to 31 to confirm Jessica Rosenworcel’s re-appointment to the FCC, putting her in place to be the first permanent chair of the agency under President Biden. Rosenworcel will also be the first female chair in the 86-year history of the FCC.

ED Announces Priorities for Discretionary Funding

Earlier today, December 10, ED published the agency’s final supplemental priorities and definitions for discretionary grant programs in the Federal Register. These priorities will be used by ED to guide decisions in the future regarding specific policy areas and related needs as part of grant competitions. The Department adopted the following six final priorities for this purpose:

  1.  Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Students, Educators, and Faculty;
  2.  Promoting Equity in Student Access to Educational Resources and Opportunities;
  3.  Supporting a Diverse Educator Workforce and Professional Growth to Strengthen Student Learning;
  4. Meeting Student Social, Emotional, and Academic Needs;
  5. Increasing Postsecondary Education Access, Affordability, Completion, and Post-Enrollment Success; and
  6. Strengthening Cross-Agency Coordination and Community Engagement to Advance Systemic Change.

 

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Brittany Cannady in COVID-19 and CTE
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Legislative Update: Government Shutdown Avoided, New ARP State Plan Approvals and Connectivity Funding

Friday, December 3rd, 2021

This week Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown after passing an additional short-term legislative measure extending current funding levels for federal programs and operations through February 18, 2022. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) approved more American Rescue Plan (ARP) state plans while the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced new connectivity funding. 

House Passes Short-term Funding Measure

Earlier this fall, lawmakers in Congress were unable to come to agreement on full-year funding for the current 2022 federal fiscal year (FY22). As a result, Congress passed a short-term funding measure to continue government operations past the formal start of FY22 on October 1, 2021. This measure was set to expire today, December 3. Lawmakers hoped to come to an agreement on full-year FY22 funding during this period, but up until late last night had been unsuccessful. To avert a government shutdown and lapse in appropriations for laws like the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), lawmakers have been working furiously this week to pass another short-term extension of current federal funding. This measure, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), extends current funding levels for a predetermined amount of time to provide Congress more time to work out a longer-term agreement for FY22. 

Yesterday, December 2, the House passed a CR to extend current funding levels for federal operations and programs through February 18 with these aims in mind. This measure passed the chamber narrowly, mostly along party lines, by a margin of 221-212. Shortly following House passage, the Senate began consideration of the legislation. The Senate quickly took up the measure after the House, working late into Thursday evening to consider and formally approve it by a much wider and bipartisan margin of 69-28. As these efforts on FY22 unfold further, Advance CTE is continuing to champion robust levels of funding for the Perkins V formula state grant program and is urging Congress to provide longer-term certainty regarding federal funding for the remainder of the current fiscal year. 

ED Approves Four More State ARP Plans

Following the ARP passage earlier this spring, ED distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a prescribed formula. ED held back the remainder of these funds until states, territories, and outlying areas submitted plans detailing how they would make use of these resources to support learners as they recover from the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Over the past two weeks, the Department approved four more of these plans, releasing these additional funds to those states and territories. Those receiving approval this week include American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Washington. Only a handful of states have outstanding ARP plans awaiting departmental approval. The most current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans already approved, can be found here. Additional coverage of how states are making use of these federal aid dollars can be found here.  

FCC Unveils Fifth Round of ECF Dollars

Last week, the FCC announced that it has committed nearly $170 million in new funding as part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). The ECF program was first established by ARP 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 connectivity needs of learners, school staff, and library patrons at home during the coronavirus. —a key Advance CTE advocacy priority. This most recent funding round is expected to support 492 schools, 70 libraries and 10 consortia to receive 380,000 connected devices and over 135,000 broadband connections. More on the announcement can be found here

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor 

By Brittany Cannady in COVID-19 and CTE
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