Posts Tagged ‘Legislative Update’

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: New Congress Starts Amidst Uncertainty

Friday, January 6th, 2023

Just before the holiday season, the 117th Congress passed an end-of- year spending package which provided an increase for the Career Technical Education (CTE) and other CTE-related funding priorities. The new 118th Congress was set to formally begin this week, but has run into a number of challenges in recent days as explored below.

Congress Passes FY23 Spending Package

Prior to the holiday season, the 117th Congress was struggling to agree on full-year funding legislation for the current 2023 federal fiscal year (FY23). This important piece of legislation was the last remaining agenda item lawmakers needed to pass before concluding the 117th Congress. Just a few days before temporary funding legislation was set to expire, lawmakers released a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package for the remainder of FY23 for all federal operations and programs like the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V). Lawmakers in both chambers quickly took up and passed this legislation on a bipartisan basis with the House voting for passage 225-201 and the Senate voting in favor of the package by a margin of 68-29. Shortly after these votes, President Biden signed the package into law (H.R. 2617). 

The new law provides a $3.2 billion increase to the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) budget—an approximately 4 percent increase over FY22 funding levels. Of significant note for the CTE community, the omnibus spending package provides $50 million in additional funding for Perkins V’s basic state grant program— a nearly 4 percent increase over current levels of investment in the program—bringing the total for the formula grant account to roughly $1.43 billion annually. Lawmakers also provided an additional $25 million for Perkins V’s Innovation and Modernization grant program authorized under Sec. 114 of the law which is intended to provide competitive grants to support innovative approaches to CTE. 

In addition, lawmakers increased funding for Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants– an important source of funding for secondary CTE—by $100 million (7.8 percent increase). Elsewhere, the legislation invests an additional $50 million in apprenticeship expansion grants— a 21 percent increase over current levels of investment. Advance CTE applauds this result and is looking forward to working with Congress this year to secure additional investments in CTE as part of the upcoming FY24 federal budget and appropriations process.

118th Congress Begins Amidst Uncertainty

The newly elected members of the House and the Senate convened this week to formally begin the 118th Congress. As a reminder, Democrats retained control of the Senate, increasing their slim majority to 51-49 this Congress, while Republicans took control of the House with a narrow majority of 222-213. In the Senate, the start of the new Congress was a short affair. Senators gathered throughout the day on Tuesday, January 3, to swear in new members, formally name Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) the president pro tempore of the Senate (as the second longest serving Democrat in the chamber), and attend to other logistical housekeeping items necessary for the chamber to begin the new 118th Congress. Following these activities, the Senate recessed until January 23. 

In the House, however, efforts to formally begin the new Congress have been upended by the new Republican majority’s inability to elect a new Speaker of the House. Presumptive front runner for this position, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), has been unable to garner the 218 votes required to become speaker. At the time of this writing the House has attempted 12 votes which have each failed to elect a new speaker. A small contingent of House Republicans are opposing McCarthy. It remains unclear how or when these disagreements within the House Republican Caucus will be resolved. In the meantime, the House has not been able to formally convene for the 118th Congress—including the swearing in of new members—because a speaker has not been elected. Advance CTE will continue to monitor these developments closely.  

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Jodi Langellotti in Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Senate Releases FY23 Funding Proposals While Congress Passes CHIPS Bill and Democrats Unveil New Reconciliation Deal

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

This week the Senate Appropriations Committee released draft federal fiscal year 2023 (FY23) spending proposals, including legislation that would provide funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V). In addition, Congress passed economic competitiveness legislation while Senate Democrats announced a new reconciliation deal focused on healthcare and energy policies. Elsewhere the U.S. Department of Education (ED) unveiled newly proposed postsecondary regulations. 

Senate Appropriations Committee Releases FY23 Spending Proposals

The Senate Appropriations Committee released draft proposals for each of the 12 annual federal fiscal year 2023 spending bills that compose the federal budget late last week. This release comes ahead of the upcoming start of FY23, set to begin on October 1. The Senate proposal envisions a total investment of $1.44 billion for the Perkins V basic state grant program– an increase of $60 million over current FY22 enacted appropriations. The Senate’s recommended increase in funding for state grants authorized by Perkins V exceeds an earlier FY23 proposal from the House, which contained an increase of $45 million for the program. While these proposed investments in CTE are encouraging and far exceed what the Biden Administration has proposed for the program to date, Advance CTE and its partners are continuing to advocate for a $200 million increase in Perkins V state grant funding to fully meet the needs of learners throughout the nation in the coming federal fiscal year.

The Senate’s FY23 proposal for Perkins V also recommends $60 million in additional funding for the law’s national activities account– an amount intended to support the Biden Administration’s “Career Connected High Schools” proposal. Advance CTE has previously shared concerns about this proposed competitive grant program and has urged lawmakers to use this funding for Perkins V state grants which would more equitably distribute funding and support a far larger number of the nation’s CTE learners. In addition to these suggested changes in funding for Perkins, the Senate’s FY23 funding proposal also recommends a five percent increase for Student Support and Academic Enrichment state grants authorized by Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act. For core Workforce Innovation and Opportunity (WIOA) formula programs administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Senate is proposing a nearly six percent increase for these programs above FY22 enacted levels. 

While the release of these spending proposals is an important step in the wider federal budget and appropriations process for FY23, Advance CTE does not expect the Senate to formally consider these proposals further. Instead, these proposals have been released to serve as a negotiating tool between the House and Senate to resolve differences between both chambers’ visions for the coming fiscal year and complete the FY23 budget. As these efforts continue, Advance CTE will continue to advocate for a robust investment in CTE as part of the annual federal appropriations process. All spending proposals released by the Senate last week can be accessed here

Senate Leaders Announce Reconciliation Deal 

After over a year of off-again-on-again negotiations among Democratic leaders, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that they had reached agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. If enacted, the legislation would make investments to expand the nation’s energy production capacity and expand healthcare access. These proposals would be funded through the establishment of a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent, allowing for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and other revenue generating provisions. As a result, the legislation is also intended to reduce the federal deficit by approximately $300 billion. First conceived as President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, this legislation initially proposed to invest significant new funding in CTE and workforce development. However, continued disagreement within the Democratic Congressional caucus forced this earlier proposal to be pared back considerably over the last year. Using the reconciliation process allows Senators to advance this legislation by a simple majority in the upper chamber, thus circumventing a likely Republican filibuster of the legislation. The Senate is expected to begin this process this week ahead of the start of its annual August recess scheduled to begin this upcoming weekend. 

Congress Approves CHIPS+ Proposal

As shared last week, Senate leaders announced a significantly pared back legislative proposal aimed at investing in the nation’s advanced manufacturing capacity in critical sectors of the economy related to the production of semiconductor chips. Since that time, the Senate advanced this legislation out of the chamber by a wide bipartisan vote margin which was quickly followed by a comparable vote in the House. With the package now having cleared both Congressional chambers, the bill now heads to President Biden’s desk for signature and enactment. Advance CTE and its partners had been working to include provisions that would have expanded federal Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality, shorter-term CTE programs as well as to make critical improvements to the nation’s collection of postsecondary education outcomes data. However, lawmakers were only able to find consensus on this narrower package. 

ED Releases Proposed Postsecondary Regulations 

Following two negotiated rulemaking convenings this past fall and spring, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published proposed regulations on several topics, including federal Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals and the way for-profit postsecondary institutions must calculate the amount of their revenue from non-federal sources (known informally as the 90/10 rule). The newly proposed rules would strengthen requirements that postsecondary institutions obtain at least 10 percent of their revenue from non federal resources by expanding what would be “counted” as part of this share of their revenue. In addition, the proposed regulations would codify the processes for which individuals who are in correctional facilities may access and use federal Pell grants for qualifying programs. A factsheet on these changes can be found here. ED is soliciting feedback from the wider public for the next month as it works to finalize these proposals. 

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Stacy Whitehouse in Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Congress Set to Return Next Week

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

This week lawmakers in the House have continued to circulate a Dear Colleague letter in support of funding for the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins V) and the high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) programs it supports. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) signed an agreement with the Austrian government related to apprenticeships while the Congressional CTE Caucuses continue to grow. 

Congress Set to Return Next Week

Over the last two weeks, lawmakers in Congress have been in respective states and districts for their annual springtime recess. Both the House and Senate are scheduled to return next week to resume work on a host of issues. Chief among these agenda items is continued work on the federal fiscal year 2023 (FY23) budget and appropriations process. These efforts formally began with the release of President Biden’s FY23 budget request a few weeks ago. Lawmakers are in the process of analyzing and considering aspects of this request, which will include opportunities for the heads of federal agencies—including U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona—to testify before relevant Congressional committees regarding the contours of the budget request.

Next week, Secretary Cardona is scheduled to testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies about the Biden Administration’s FY23 funding requests for programs overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, like Perkins V). As a reminder, CTE Caucus Co-chairs Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) are circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter in the House calling for robust funding for Perkins V as part of this process. Advance CTE encourages its members to contact your members of Congress soon and ask them to sign-on to this important letter to ensure a strong funding result as part of the wider federal budget and appropriations process this year. To do so, click here

Federal Agencies & Austria Sign Apprenticeship MOU 

Late last week, the heads of the U.S. Departments of Labor (USDOL), Education (ED), and Commerce, along with the Austrian Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs Dr. Margarete Schramböck announced that their respective agencies had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to expand Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) in the United States among Austrian companies. In 2020, Austria invested $17.8 billion in the U.S., primarily in the IT, software, and industrial equipment sectors. Federal agencies have signed similar MOUs in recent years with Germany and Switzerland, each aiming to increase awareness about RAPs and related career pathway opportunities. Read the signed MOU here

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.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Stacy Whitehouse in Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Equity Plans Unveiled by Federal Agencies as FY23 Efforts Get Underway

Friday, April 15th, 2022

This week House Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus co-chairs began circulating a Dear Colleague letter aimed at securing robust funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins V). In addition, federal agencies unveiled equity action plans outlining planned efforts to advance equity throughout the federal government. 

FY23 Perkins V Funding Letter Being Circulated for Sign-on 

It has been quiet on Capitol Hill this week, with lawmakers in both chambers currently in states and districts for the annual springtime Congressional recess. Both the House and the Senate are expected to return later this month during the week of April 25. With the release of President Biden’s federal fiscal year 2023 (FY23) budget request to Congress earlier this month, it is widely anticipated that lawmakers will focus attention on the FY23 budget and appropriations cycle when they return. 

Ahead of these efforts, House CTE Caucus co-chairs Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) are leading a “Dear Colleague” letter to be sent to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittees. The letter requests robust funding for Perkins V in the House’s forthcoming FY23 appropriations bill. This letter is an important way for members to gauge support for programs like the Perkins basic state grant program as they make critical funding decisions for how to allocate finite federal resources as part of this process. 

While the President’s FY23 request was disappointing, Advance CTE and its partners are working with Congress to ensure Perkins V is provided the funding necessary to ensure access to all learners have access to high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. We are therefore encouraging you to get in touch with your members of Congress and ask them to sign-on to this important Dear Colleague letter. To do so, click here

Biden Administration Unveils Equity Agendas

On Thursday, April 14, federal departments and agencies collectively released “Equity Action Plans”. These plans are part of President Biden’s January 20, 2021 executive order aimed at advancing equity and support for underserved communities throughout the federal government. As part of these efforts, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) also unveiled its specific equity action plan which broadly aims to undertake work in five main areas:

The full plan can be found here

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.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Stacy Whitehouse in Public Policy
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Legislative Update: Advance CTE and ACTE Host Congressional CTE Month Briefing 

Friday, February 18th, 2022

This week the Advance CTE and ACTE co-hosted a Congressional briefing with Career Technical Student Organizations, while over two-thirds of the Senate supported a resolution designating February as Career Technical Education (CTE) month. The Senate HELP Committee also held a briefing exploring issues impacting workforce development while lawmakers worked to extend current funding levels through mid-March. In addition, the FCC announced the disbursement of additional connectivity funding while the U.S. Department of Education (ED) made important updates to its College Scorecard.

Advance CTE and ACTE Host Congressional CTE Month Briefing 

On Tuesday, February 15, Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) hosted a bicameral Congressional briefing featuring learners from several Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs): 

Moderated by Advance CTE’s Executive Director Kimberly Green, the briefing highlighted the value of CTE and elevated CTSO learner experiences from both K-12 and postsecondary perspectives. The event also featured remarks from CTE Caucus Co-chairs Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN). During Rep. Langevin’s opening comments, the long-time House CTE Caucus co-chair noted, in part, that “A dependable, skilled, and prepared workforce is more critical to our economy than ever, and CTE lays the foundation for students to succeed both now and in the future.” Sen. Young emphasized his ambitions to grow CTE opportunities throughout the nation by co-chairing the Senate CTE Caucus noting that, “3 of 5 jobs in Indiana require more than a high-school diploma but less than a four year degree. More than half of workers in the state do not yet have this level of education.”

Following these remarks from congressional CTE champions, Green posed a series of questions to the CTSO student panel. For Deddens, the FCCLA First Vice President noted that “. . . being a national officer has allowed me to advocate for change in community and state and meet people of diverse backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. Being in CTSOs opens these lines of communication.” National TSA President Rangu noted the impact her first national TSA convention had on her, noting “It was empowering for me to see someone that looked like me [be a national leader] so I felt confident to step into that position and serve as a role model for others.” Tyagi, HOSA’s International President Elect, emphasized the importance of his mentors noting “…[they]  instilled the importance of giving back to communities to secure a future of health that has no boundaries and will take care of every individual.” DECA Collegiate President Spohn emphasized how CTE was “. . . the first time I was in a classroom where what I was being taught was applicable to what I wanted to do with my life and career.”

Senate Passes CTE Month Resolution With Overwhelming Bipartisan Support

In the evening following the CTSO panel, the Senate considered a bipartisan resolution designating February as CTE Month. The Senate unanimously passed this resolution without objection which garnered the support of over two-thirds of the Senate with 68 total co-sponsors. In a speech just before the resolution’s passage Senator Kaine (D-VA), the lead sponsor of the resolution remarked , “By formally recognizing CTE Month through this resolution, we hope to bring greater awareness to improving access to high-quality career and technical education for millions of America’s students and our Nation’s ongoing economic competitiveness.” The House recently introduced a similar resolution and is in the process of recruiting additional co-sponsors. Be sure to encourage your Member of Congress to support this resolution by the end of the month by clicking here

Senate HELP Committee Holds Workforce Development Hearing 

On Tuesday, February 15, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing to examine workforce development policies and related strategies collectively aimed at helping workers find and obtain family sustaining employment. The hearing focused particularly on individuals with barriers to employment and the value and impact wraparound support services–like childcare, transportation, and career navigation supports–have in helping workers overcome these existing challenges. 

During the question and answer portion of the hearing, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) highlighted his and Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) ongoing sponsorship of the JOBS Act– legislation that, if enacted, would provide Pell Grants for high-quality, shorter-term training programs at postsecondary institutions to more effectively support workers and learners. Advance CTE has long supported this legislation and continues to call for its enactment by Congress this year. A video archive of the hearing, including related written testimony, can be found here.  

Congress Passes FY22 Funding Extension Through Mid-March 

The formal start of the current federal fiscal year 2022 (FY22) began on October 1, 2021. Since that time, lawmakers in Congress have been unable to come to agreement on full-year funding for the current 2022 federal fiscal year (FY22). Congress has passed a series of short-term funding measures—known as a continuing resolution (CR)—to extend current FY21 funding levels through FY22. To date, these actions have averted a federal government shutdown and lapse in appropriations for laws like Perkins V. However, the most recent of these CRs is set to expire February 18, 2022. 

Last week, lawmakers in the House passed another CR to extend current funding levels, yet again, for federal operations and programs through March 11. This measure passed the chamber by a margin of 272-162 and is intended to provide lawmakers additional time to work out a full-year funding agreement for FY22. Late last night, the Senate followed suit passing the legislation by a margin of 65-27. Focus now turns back to Congressional appropriators who are reportedly working to finalize full-year funding for programs like Perkins V’s basic state grant program. As these efforts unfold, Advance CTE will continue to advocate for a comprehensive FY22 funding bill and a robust investment for the CTE. 

ED Makes Updates to College Scorecard

Last week the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced several enhancements to the College Scorecard broadly aimed at making it more useful for prospective learners and their families. Among the changes made is a new earnings threshold metric, which shows the percentage of former students whose earnings exceed those of the average high school graduate. This measure is intended to demonstrate a return on investment for entering postsecondary education. A similar measure is currently being considered as part of forthcoming changes to “gainful employment” rules which ED is currently negotiating with stakeholders. A recent examination of these updated College Scorecard data by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that more than half of students at roughly 30 percent of postsecondary institutions earn less than a high school graduate after 10 years. 

FCC Announces Ninth Wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund Commitments

Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a ninth wave of funding commitments totaling over $125 million as part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). The $7.2 billion ECF program was authorized as part of the American Rescue Plan and allows eligible schools and libraries to apply for financial support to purchase connected devices like laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve unmet needs of students, school staff, and library patrons at home during the ongoing pandemic. Securing initial funding for the ECF was one of Advance CTE’s legislative priorities since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This round of commitments will support 270,00 students by providing funding to over 340 schools, 20 libraries, and 6 consortia who are set to receive 330,000 connected devices and over 39,000 broadband connections. More on the announcement can be found here

 

By Stacy Whitehouse in Legislation
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Legislative Update: House Passed America COMPETES Act

Saturday, February 5th, 2022

This week, the House passed the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act, which now includes critically important changes to postsecondary data systems and would provide an expanded eligibility for shorter-term Career  Technical Education (CTE) programs. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released new guidance for using pandemic aid funds to address teacher and staff shortages, while CTE stakeholders convened for an equity summit and the school counselor of the year was honored. 

House Considers America COMPETES Act  

As we shared last week, House Democratic leadership introduced the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521)– legislation intended to increase the nation’s global competitiveness by making targeted investments in the nation’s technology, research, and manufacturing capacity among other efforts. Of interest to the CTE community, the America COMPETES Act includes the House-passed reauthorization proposal for the National Apprenticeship Act, proposed new funding for the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program, and new competitive grant programs intended to expand student access to STEM and computer science coursework. 

As lawmakers debated changes to the America COMPETES Act on the House floor this week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers including Reps. Levin (D-MI), Gonzalez (R-OH), Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), and Steil (R-WI) put forward an amendment to include the College Transparency Act (CTA) and the JOBS ACT– two pieces of legislation that Advance CTE has been strongly supportive of and endorsed over several Congresses. These legislative proposals would make significant improvements to the nation’s postsecondary data systems while also expanding Pell grant eligibility to shorter-term job training programs, respectively. Earlier this morning, February 4, the full House chamber voted on this amendment, passing it 238-193. 

Shortly after this vote, lawmakers passed the America COMPETES Act, as amended during this week’s debate. Advance CTE applauds the passage of this legislation and looks forward to conference negotiations with the Senate where lawmakers will need to reconcile differences between the House’s legislation and a more narrow proposal passed by the Senate last year. 

ED Releases New ARP Tool and Guidance to Address Teacher and Staff Shortages

On Monday, January 31, ED released new guidance resources to state and local stakeholders aimed at helping school districts leverage federal pandemic aid to address critical teacher and staff shortages. Nearly every community in the country is facing shortages of qualified teachers and staff and these are felt even more acutely within harder-to-fill positions such as CTE. The Department’s new guidance outlines ways schools, districts, and states can make use of federal pandemic aid funding—made available via the American Rescue Plan (ARP)— to address these shortages. These new resources can be accessed here and here. In addition, this week the Department also launched a new peer-to-peer learning network, encouraging recipients of the ARP’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund to share innovative use cases and best practices for using these resources. The new tool can be found here.

OCTAE Hosts Equity in Career-Connected Education Summit

On Wednesday, February 1, ED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) hosted a summit focused on efforts to advance equity within Career and Technical Education (CTE). Advance CTE’s Executive Director, Kimberly Green, along with a number of Advance CTE members, served as panelists for the event, focusing on issues ranging from CTE data usage to supports for community college learners. The convening was part of the Department and OCTAE’s ongoing efforts to implement President Biden’s Executive Order 13985, which seeks to advance racial equity and provide support to underserved communities through federal efforts and initiatives. The event also coincided with the beginning of CTE Month which lasts throughout February. Secretary Cardona provided opening remarks as part of the summit saying, in part, that access to “high-quality CTE is life-changing” for students. More on the event can be found here

Education Leaders Gather to Honor School Counselor of the Year

Yesterday, February 3, the American School Counselors Association hosted an event at the National Press club exploring critical issues facing school counselors. The event featured the announcement of the 2022 School Counselor of the Year– Alma Lopez, Livingston Middle School–who provided remarks at the forum saying, in part, “Today’s young people are our future and we want to set them up for success.” Advance CTE was honored to be part of the related selection committee for this award. In addition, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona participated in a panel discussion where he re-emphasized his calls to invest in school counselors and noted his recent call to action to ensure every high school in the nation has at least one career counselor. 

USDOT Announces New Grant Funding 

Recently the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the availability of $1.5 billion in new funding through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program. The RAISE program was established by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress last summer. Of particular note, the program’s formal notice of funding opportunity embeds workforce development and related strategies as a key piece of criteria used to evaluate grant applications. This is an important acknowledgement that the success of the infrastructure investments authorized by Congress last year will hinge on a highly-skilled workforce. 

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

By Brittany Cannady in 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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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: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Highlights

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

By Brittany Cannady in Legislation
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