Posts Tagged ‘CTE Policy’

State CTE Policy Spotlight: 2023 Policies Expanding Accessible CTE for Special Populations

Tuesday, January 30th, 2024

While policies grouped under “Funding” and “Industry Partnerships/Work-based Learning” categories have consistently remained in the top five key policy trends for the past ten years, the “Access and Equity” grouping has steadily moved up the ladder, ranking from 10th place in 2017 to 3rd place in 2022. In this blog, we will review four policies enacted in 2023 that are founded in improving access to high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) programs.

As explained in Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career and Technical Education (CTE Without Limits), CTE plays a vital role in creating an inclusive and equitable future, providing learners with the education and training necessary for success in financially secure and self-sufficient careers while meeting industry talent demands. Advance CTE is committed to supporting states as they tackle the various barriers–program costs, transportation, and eligibility among others–that continue to exacerbate the access and equity challenges special populations face when accessing CTE programs.

In 2023, CTE leaders adopted innovative strategies to expand access to CTE in their state. Examples of such strategies can be found in the following policies enacted by California, New Hampshire, and Virginia

California

In October 2023, California enacted A.B. 368 which expands eligibility for learners who are “underrepresented in higher education” in the state’s College and Career Access Pathways (CCAP) dual enrollment partnership grant opportunity. The CCAP Grant awards $100,000 to local education agencies who are interested in establishing or expanding a partnership with a community college to enable learners at participating high schools to access dual enrollment opportunities. A.B 368 expands access to now include first-time college learners, learners experiencing low-income, learners who are current or former foster youth, learners experiencing homelessness or learners at risk of being homeless, learners with disabilities, learners with dependent children, and undocumented learners. By expanding which populations are considered underrepresented, this policy better aligns with learners identified as special populations in the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V).

In the same month, California also enacted A.B. 91 which exempts qualifying learners from paying the nonresident tuition rate. Learners who qualify for this exemption are nonresident learners who: experience low income, reside in Mexico, are registered in lower division courses at a qualifying California college, and reside within 45 miles of the California-Mexico border. This policy aims to decrease the financial burden that may hinder nonresident learners from participating in California’s CTE programs by reducing the cost of participation in CTE.

New Hampshire

In October 2023, New Hampshire passed H.B. 364 which authorized the Department of Education to reimburse the full cost of transportation to learners classified as “at-risk learners” who attend alternative education programs at a regional career and technical education center. This policy aims to mitigate the transportation barrier that may prevent learners from participating in New Hampshire’s CTE programs by covering the cost of transportation to CTE centers.

Virginia

In March 2023, Virginia enacted S.B. 1430 which required the Department of Education to convene a “stakeholder workgroup” to offer recommendations on improving access to paid work-based learning experiences for English Learners. The workgroup was directed to submit their recommendations to the Governor and the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Education and Health by November 1, 2023. No information is available yet on the outcome of the working group, but their recommendations are expected to be published in early 2024. This policy aims to analyze barriers that hinder English Learners from participating in CTE by creating a workgroup tasked with providing strategies to mitigate these barriers.

For more strategies to expand access to CTE for special populations, check out the “Maximizing Access & Success for Special Population” briefs prepared by Advance CTE and ACTE for:

Coming in February 2024: Advance CTE and ACTE’s eleventh annual State Policies Impacting CTE: 2023 Year in Review and Advance CTE’s 2023 State Policy Tracker, which will examine CTE and career readiness policies across the nation. While the report focuses on policy trends, the tracker comprises every CTE-related policy enacted within each state.

View the 2022 state policy tracker here.

Velie Sando, Policy Associate

By Layla Alagic in Achieving Equitable and Inclusive CTE, Public Policy
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State CTE Policy Update: A Glimpse at the Year to Come

Tuesday, March 28th, 2023

While Advance CTE and The Association for Career Technical Education (ACTE)   Year in Review is a powerful tool to reference policies passed across the nation in 2022, new legislative agendas are constantly being designed and implemented. The 74, a non-profit education news organization, released Teacher Pay, School Choice, Literacy: Top Priorities for 44 Governors in 2023, highlighting the educational priorities of 2023 for the head executives of each state. 

Notably, the teaching process and workforce development were identified as priorities for many governors across the country. This blog elevates some of the policies mentioned that specifically speak to Advance CTE’s shared vision of ensuring that each learner is able to engage in a flexible and responsive career preparation ecosystem.  

While this is only a taste of the legislative agenda for 2023, it does show that several governors are committed to providing strong CTE opportunities to their constituents. In addition to CTE-specific policies, governors have established a commitment to improving teacher pay and building teacher pipelines, removing barriers to practice within the healthcare profession and improving access to mental healthcare for learners.

With the first quarter of the year ending, Advance CTE will be monitoring see how these agendas fare among state legislatures. Advance CTE will be providing updates via the member newsletter and a comprehensive list of all passed legislation in the Year In Review for 2023.

With many governors focused on policies related to credentialing and dual enrollment, The State of CTE: Early Postsecondary Opportunities is a great resource for more information on these topics.

Brice Thomas, Policy Associate

By Jodi Langellotti in Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Bipartisan Spotlight on CTE This Week

Friday, February 10th, 2023

This week the President delivered the annual State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress, while the House held its first hearing of the new 118th Congress. Elsewhere Career Technical Education (CTE) champions in the House introduced a resolution designating February as CTE Month while lawmakers reintroduced legislation that would greatly expand postsecondary CTE opportunities for learners across the country. 

President Biden Delivers State of the Union 

On Tuesday, February 7, President Joe Biden delivered the annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. The speech focused on the President and Congress’ accomplishments over the last two years, including significant investments in advanced manufacturing, the nation’s infrastructure, and other domestic priorities, while also reiterating a need to “finish the job” in the 118th Congress—a recurrent theme that the President returned to throughout the evening. Ahead of the address to the joint session of Congress, First Lady Jill Biden’s guests included Kate Foley– a 10th grade computer-integrated manufacturing student who the First Lady had met last year during a visit she and other Administration officials made to CTE programs in Rolling Meadows High School. In addition, Rep. Glusenkamp Perez (D-WA) brought Cory Toppa, a construction, engineering design, and manufacturing teacher at Kalama High School and the director of CTE for the Kalama school district as her guest during the speech. 

During the speech, the President touched on a wide range of issues, including universal preschool for three- and four-year olds, raising teacher salaries, and calling on Congress to provide greater resources for digital connectivity. However, the President consistently highlighted the centrality of education and workforce development as part of America’s ability to compete within the wider global economy. Notably, the President touched on Career Technical Education (CTE) saying, in part, “Let’s finish the job, and connect students to career opportunities starting in high school, provide access to two years of community college, the best career training in America, in addition to being a pathway to a four-year degree. Let’s offer every American a path to a good career, whether they go to college or not.” 

Reinforcing the Biden Administration’s sincere and growing interest in CTE, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited high school career academies in Omaha, Nebraska the following day to discuss students’ experiences in these programs. Advance CTE was proud to honor this program as an Excellence in Action awardee in 2015, highlighting the program’s exemplary performance which was on full display as part of the Secretary’s visit this week. As shared by the U.S. Department of Education (USED), the visit was also intended to reinforce Secretary Cardona’s recent speech outlining his Department’s priorities for the coming year, which include a focus on strengthening CTE pathways for students. A full transcript of the President’s State of the Union Address can be accessed here

House Education Committee Hosts First Hearing

The newly renamed House Education and the Workforce Committee, Chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) held its first hearing this week titled, “American Education in Crisis.” Witnesses included Virginia Gentles, Director of the Education Freedom Center at the Independent Women’s Forum, Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Scott Pulsipher, the President of Western Governors University, and Monty Sullivan, the President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. The wide-ranging hearing was intended to highlight aspects of the committee’s likely agenda over the next year ranging from K-12 and postsecondary education to workforce development. During the hearing several CTE topics were discussed at length, including the need to greatly expand postsecondary CTE opportunities by enacting legislation that would expand federal Pell grant eligibility for high-quality, shorter-term CTE programs. 

Hearing witnesses, along with an array of committee members on both sides of the aisle, also voiced support for these much needed reforms to the nation’s postsecondary education system. “The single most important step Congress can take in helping address our nation’s skill shortage is to immediately authorize the use of Pell Grants for workforce programs. . . [I] strongly urge Congress to come to consensus on legislation that, when passed, will enable a significant increase in the number of students across the country who will have a new opportunity in how they improve their skills”  Monty Sullivan shared as part of his testimony. 

Beyond short-term Pell reform, the hearing also touched on the need to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA), most notably by more tightly aligning these federal investments in future legislative updates. In particular, witnesses spoke about the importance of wrap-around services and developing integrated systems of education and workforce development that more effectively ensured learner and worker success. Witnesses also voiced strong support for expanding work-based learning opportunities, particularly  apprenticeship programs and called for a broadening of federal support for multiple postsecondary pathways that lead to opportunity. An archived webcast of the more than three hour hearing can be found here.  

House Lawmakers Reintroduce the JOBS Act

Late last week, a group of bipartisan lawmakers including Reps. Bill Johnson (R-OH), Lisa Blunt-Rochester (D-DE), Michael Turner (R-OH), and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), reintroduced the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (H.R. 793)– legislation that would expand federal Pell grant funding eligibility to high-quality, shorter-term CTE programs that meet certain criteria. The bill is the House companion to legislation also reintroduced in the Senate last week, which is currently supported by just under half of the upper chamber. Advance CTE is proud to support this legislation and encourages members to reach out to their Representatives to encourage them to co-sponsor the legislation this Congress. More on the reintroduction can be found here

House CTE Caucus Introduces CTE Month Resolution 

On Wednesday, February 8th, House CTE Caucus Co-chairs Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) introduced a resolution recognizing and designating February as National CTE Month (H. Res. 110). The resolution was co-sponsored by a broad bipartisan coalition of 71 Representatives– a new high watermark of support for the annual resolution. Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) were joined by more than 50 other organizations who also supported the introduction of the resolution this week. 

“We are proud to support the 2023 Career Technical Education (CTE) Month resolution as a celebration and recognition of the impact CTE has for learners as they explore and find their career passions, secure meaningful credentials of value aligned to in-demand careers and provide employers with a highly skilled workforce that is responsive to rapidly evolving industry needs,” said Advance CTE Executive Director Kimberly Green. More on the introduction can be found here

Senate HELP Organizes

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee– the entity with responsibility over CTE policymaking in the Senate– met for the first time this week to formally organize and adopt rules for the Congress. New HELP Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) emphasized his desire to focus on a wide range of healthcare issues, including a focus on the workforce shortages within the sector. Chair Sanders noted that “We desperately need plumbers and carpenters and electricians and yet we don’t have the training capabilities of doing that.” He highlighted apprenticeships as a potential strategy to address these needs and emphasized that he hoped to work together with Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and his colleagues on these issues in the coming Congress. 

During remarks,  Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) emphasized his desire to reauthorize WIOA and HEA, while also identifying reducing the costs of postsecondary education as being another potential area of bipartisan consensus he hoped to pursue over the next two years. The brief organizational meeting also featured high-level remarks from other committee members who highlighted their priorities for the coming Congress. As part of the meeting HELP members adopted rules for the committee unanimously, as well as a budget, before adjourning. An archived webcast of the meeting can be found here

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor 

By Jodi Langellotti in Public Policy
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State CTE Policy Update: Building Diverse Educator Pipelines in CTE

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

Teacher preparation programs are an important aspect of building an educator pipeline. While recruiting and certifying CTE teachers may vary slightly depending on the state, one fact is true among all school districts and education platforms: learners, regardless of their own backgrounds, benefit from diversity among their teachers. With CTE’s pivotal role in providing real-world connections to career pathways, a diverse staff of educators elevates learners’ exposure to different approaches and links to future careers. As state directors dedicated to creating CTE Without Limits, ensuring the recruitment, retention and support of a diverse and culturally competent workforce is critical to ensuring each learner feels welcome and secure in their CTE ecosystem. The following are some ways to build a strategy that will help to diversify your CTE workforce.

Make Teaching Affordable

Teaching is not a high-wage job. In fact, there are some states who are losing the ability to use Perkins funding to subsidize their teacher training programs due to the historic low wage of teachers. CTE instructors, most of whom are often career changers coming from industries with higher pay are often hesitant for this very reason. While potential ways to improve teacher compensation have been addressed in this blog, there are other ways to mitigate some of the financial burdens teachers face. Student loan forgiveness and scholarship programs are attractive solutions that can be made through policy. Additionally, stipends and scholarships for teacher preparation programs can reduce some of the financial burdens on potential teachers and attract talent that may otherwise be hesitant to join.

Diversify the Applicant Pool

One of the best ways to attract diverse talent is to create “grow your own” teacher programs. This allows states to ensure they are hiring talent that reflects their learner population and makes targeted recruiting a more manageable task. Including people of color in the hiring and recruiting (and marketing) process can also help draw a more diverse pool of CTE instructor talent. Additionally, it is necessary to ensure that districts and those with hiring power are trained in racial bias mitigation and are intentional in their recruitment. Teacher preparation programs should also look to be intentionally inclusive of students from diverse backgrounds.

Build Inclusive School Environments

Creating state standards for leadership focused on creating inclusive school environments is a significant step state CTE directors can take to improve the cultures of their CTE programs. Principals and teachers can have mandatory in-service training that provides them with the strategies needed to create and sustain inclusive work environments and diverse recruitment, hiring and retainment strategies. Instructor and administrative preparation programs can also build those strategies into their curriculums.

If you would like to learn more about this subject:

Advance CTE is currently recruiting educators of color for a focus group on diversifying the CTE field. If you are interested, please sign up here.

Brice Thomas, Policy Associate

By Jodi Langellotti in Public Policy
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Legislative Update: 118th Congress Begins to Take Shape

Friday, January 13th, 2023

Last weekend, the House formally elected Rep. Kevin McCarthy to be the next Speaker of the House. Earlier this week lawmakers reconvened to adopt a new rules package which determines how the Chamber will operate over the course of the 118th Congress. Elsewhere new leadership for committees overseeing education and workforce development policy have been announced. 

McCarthy Elected Speaker of the House

Early Saturday morning Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was formally elected Speaker of the House after a tumultuous week which saw 14 failed vote attempts to elect a new leader for the chamber. Throughout last week, a small group of House Republicans withheld their support for McCarthy’s speakership bid leading to the week-long impasse. After providing a series of concessions to this group of lawmakers, some of which still have not yet been made public, McCarthy was able to garner most of this group’s support while others voted present, reducing the threshold he needed to win the Speaker’s gavel. Some of these concessions could impact Career and Technical Education (CTE) funding for the coming year, including a promise McCarthy gave to these members to only advance appropriations legislation later this year at or below federal fiscal year 2022 (FY22) funding levels. With a narrow four-seat majority in the House, and with all Democratic lawmakers voting for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), this combination of handshake agreements and concessions provided the support McCarthy needed to secure the Speakership—a critically important leadership position that he has sought since 2015. 

House Adopts New Rules Package

With Speaker McCarthy formally elected, the House recessed until this past Monday where they reconvened and passed a new rules package. These rules outline how the House will operate throughout the 118th Congress, including how legislation will be developed and amended. The package also includes a number of concessions the newly elected Speaker made that are intended to empower rank and file lawmakers at the expense of the Speaker’s office. These concessions include a so-called “motion to vacate” rule, which would allow a single lawmaker to call a vote of no confidence in Speaker McCarthy during this Congress among a slew of other similar rules changes. Additionally, there are new rules that could impact how funding is or is not provided to programs that have authorization periods that have expired. Other new rules in the package would narrow the scope that bills may have to a single subject, making it more difficult to move larger pieces of legislation in the coming year. Advance CTE is continuing to analyze these new rules and their potential impact on CTE funding and policymaking in the new Congress.  

Foxx Selected to Lead Education and Workforce Committee

Following Speaker McCarthy’s election and the adoption of the rules package for the House, the Republican Steering Committee met this week to determine leadership posts for committees. Earlier in the week, the Steering Committee announced that it had selected Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) to become Chair of the newly rebranded Education and Workforce Committee—the entity responsible for education and workforce development policymaking in the House. Chair Foxx won this position over Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) who also sought this role. In order to regain the Chair position, Foxx required a waiver from the Steering Committee due to existing Republican Caucus rules that bar committee leaders from serving in leadership posts for three consecutive terms. 

“Conducting vigorous and sustained oversight of the federal government, especially the Departments of Education and Labor, will be among my top priorities,” she said after the announcement of her selection to lead the committee. In addition to oversight of the Biden Administration, Chair Foxx has shared elsewhere that she plans to push for an overhaul of federal student aid programs, similar to what she and other Republicans on the committee proposed last summer, among a number of other priorities. On the Democratic side of the aisle Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), the former chair of the committee, is expected to take on the Ranking Member role to lead Democrats on the committee in minority in the new Congress. 

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

 

By Jodi Langellotti in Public Policy
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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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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 admin in COVID-19 and CTE
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Legislative Update: Continued Debates in Congress, New USED Nominees and Approved ARP State Plans

Friday, 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 

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