Posts Tagged ‘Build Back Better Act’

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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Legislative Update: Congress Increases Nation’s Debt Limit

Friday, December 17th, 2021

This week Congress formally raised the nation’s borrowing authority while Congressional Democrats have continued to struggle to advance a forthcoming domestic spending package, known as the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), before the end of the year. Lawmakers are expected to recess soon for the remainder of the year and are expected to return in early January 2022.  

Congress Increases Nation’s Debt Limit

On Thursday, December 16, President Biden signed legislation to increase the nation’s borrowing authority, known as the “debt ceiling,” by $2.5 trillion. As a reminder, the debt ceiling is the total allowable amount that the federal government is legally permitted to borrow to pay for expenses already incurred. This increase is expected to provide sufficient borrowing authority until sometime in 2023. Congressional Republicans had been withholding their support for further action on this issue, arguing that Democrats should simply pass the measure without their support. However, this would not be possible given the Senate’s required 60 vote threshold to pass legislation capable of withstanding a filibuster.

Late last week, lawmakers reached an agreement to exempt the debt limit extension from the Senate’s filibuster rules, allowing for passage in the chamber without Republican support. Lawmakers crafted a narrow, bipartisan legislative package that temporarily suspended the Senate’s filibuster authority for a single bill that would increase the nation’s borrowing limit by this agreed upon amount. Using this procedural maneuver, Senators were able to clear the bill by a majority vote. On Tuesday, December 14, the Senate (50-49) and the House (221-209) passed a $2.5 trillion dollar debt limit increase and President Biden subsequently signed it into law later this week.

BBBA Negotiations Continue

Democratic lawmakers are continuing to negotiate the president’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act (BBBA). Congressional Democrats hope to pass this legislation via the Congressional budget reconciliation process which allows certain legislation to pass by simple majorities in both chambers of Congress, thus circumventing a likely Republican filibuster in the Senate. The legislation would provide significant new investments for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), including $600 million for the law’s basic state formula grant program, $100 million for its Innovation and Modernization competitive funding stream and a slew of other Career Technical Education (CTE) and workforce development investments of interest to the CTE community. 

Over the weekend, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee posted new text of the BBBA ahead of discussions with the chamber’s parliamentarian that have continued throughout the week. Discussions with the parliamentarian process are a formal process used to determine which provisions may, or may not, be included in the BBBA to align with Congress’ budget reconciliation process. However, opposition from Senator Joe Manchin (R-WV) has remained a key obstacle to the bill’s passage. As this delay continues, it is increasingly likely that the Senate will recess for the holidays for the remainder of the month of December and resume consideration of the BBBA when Senators return to Capitol Hill on January 3, 2022. President Biden has, more recently, conceded that Democrats are unlikely to pass the BBBA prior to the end of the year and has said he is still committed to passing the bill through the Senate “as early as possible.” 

ED Announces New Innovation and Research Grants

On Monday the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced $182 million in new grant awards for 30 school districts, institutions of higher education, and other entities to participate in the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program. Authorized as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the EIR program is intended to provide funding to create, develop, and otherwise implement evidence-based and innovative approaches to improving student achievement and attainment. The full list of grantees can be found here

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor 

By Brittany Cannady in Legislation
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Legislative Update: House Passes BBBA and New Guidance from ED

Tuesday, 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:

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 

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Brittany Cannady in COVID-19 and CTE, Uncategorized
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Legislative Update: Historic Investment in the Nation’s Infrastructure

Monday, 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

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

Friday, 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 

By Brittany Cannady in Legislation
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