Posts Tagged ‘US Department of Education’

Legislative Update: COMPETES Act, ECF Funding and a New Vision for Education

Friday, January 28th, 2022

This week Democratic lawmakers in the House introduced legislation broadly aimed at increasing the competitiveness of the American economy, while the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) distributed additional connectivity aid, and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivered a major speech regarding his vision for educational recovery. 

House Leadership Unveil COMPETES Act

Late Tuesday, January 25, Democratic leaders in the House introduced the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act (H.R. 4521)—legislation that is broadly aimed at increasing the global competitiveness of the American economy by making targeted investments in the nation’s technology, research and manufacturing capacity, among other elements. Of note, the legislation includes the House’s proposal to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act (NAA) which, if enacted, would provide significant new resources and direction for the expansion of apprenticeship programs nationwide. Additionally, the legislation proposes to infuse $9 billion into the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program. Finally, the proposal would also create several new competitive grant programs aimed at expanded student access to STEM and computer science courses at the K-12 level. 

A narrower version of this legislation was introduced and passed by the Senate last summer, but the proposal did not advance any further since that time. Should the House pass this bill in its current form, both chambers will need to reconcile significant differences between these proposals. The House Rules Committee is expected to meet next week to craft a rule for the full House to consider, amend and vote on the legislation in the coming weeks. A factsheet for the House bill can be found here and a section-by-section summary can be accessed here

FCC Announces Eighth Wave of ECF Funding

On Tuesday, January 25, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced over $240 million in new funding commitments as part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund’s (ECF) eighth round of awards. The funding will support over 600,000 students and provide 683,000 connected devices and 182,000 broadband connections to eligible schools, libraries, states and consortia. Securing initial funding for the ECF as part of the American Rescue Plan was one of Advance CTE’s legislative priorities in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the organization is continuing to work with other national groups to obtain additional resources to continue the program to help close the “homework gap.” To date, the ECF program has helped over 12 million students nationwide. More information can be found here

Secretary Cardona Lays Out New Vision for Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivered a speech at the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters on Thursday, January 27, laying out his vision for education as the nation continues to recover from the current pandemic. In his remarks, Secretary Cardona laid out four key priority areas and related actions including: supporting students throughout the pandemic, addressing persistent opportunity and achievement gaps, making postsecondary education more accessible and affordable, and ensuring educational pathways lead to successful careers. Of note for the Career Technical Education (CTE) community, Secretary Cardona called for the creation of stronger career pathways and for, “Each high school in the country [to] have at least one career counselor oso that every high schooler has great options when they graduate.” More information on the speech can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

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

Friday, January 21st, 2022

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

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

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

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

Senate HELP Committee Advances CTE Nominee

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

Treasury Department Finalizes ARP Rule 

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

ED Includes CTE in Discretionary Grant Priorities 

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

FCC Launches Seventh Wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund Commitments

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

ED Announces New Details for Negotiated Rulemaking

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

ED Issues New HEERF Guidance and Makes New Funding Available 

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

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

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

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

Friday, December 10th, 2021

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

Congress Nears Agreement on Nation’s Debt Limit

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

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

ED Approves Wisconsin ARP Plan

Following the ARP passage earlier this spring, ED distributed two-thirds of this funding to states via a prescribed formula. ED held back the remainder of these funds until states and territories submitted plans detailing how they would make use of these resources to support students as they recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, December 6, ED approved one more of these plans, releasing these additional funds to the state of Wisconsin. Only a handful of additional states have their ARP plans awaiting approval. The most current status of all state ARP plans, including highlights of plans already approved, can be found here.

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

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

ED Announces Priorities for Discretionary Funding

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

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

 

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

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

Friday, December 3rd, 2021

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

House Passes Short-term Funding Measure

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

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

ED Approves Four More State ARP Plans

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

FCC Unveils Fifth Round of ECF Dollars

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

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor 

By Brittany Cannady in COVID-19 and CTE
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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 

By Brittany Cannady in Legislation
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Betsy DeVos on CTE: Students Need to Have a Full Menu of Options

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

On Friday, Donald Trump is scheduled to be sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States. While the Senate has yet to hold a floor vote to confirm any of the President-elect’s cabinet nominees, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) held a hearing Tuesday evening for Mrs. Betsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Department of Education.

While much remains unknown about President-Elect Trump’s education agenda and his priorities for the coming year, during her opening statement DeVos stated that we need to “embrace new pathways of learning,” by “support[ing] all postsecondary avenues, including trade and vocational schools and community colleges.”

Later in the hearing, Sen. Tim Scott (R-NC) pressed her again on increasing flexibility for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. A lifelong advocate for student choice, DeVos responded that “students really need to have a full menu of options,” including “technical schools, community colleges [and] apprenticeships.”

DeVos is not new to CTE. She and her husband Richard “Dick” DeVos Jr., billionaire entrepreneur and heir to the Amway enterprise, co-founded an aviation-themed charter school in Grand Rapids, MI. West Michigan Aviation Academy opened in 2010 and includes a rigorous curriculum that integrates both academic and technical education. According to the school’s website, Aviation Academy also hosts regular job shadowing events, during which industry professionals come to campus to speak with and mentor students.

The hearing was not without disagreements, however. While Republicans on the HELP Committee largely praised DeVos’s philanthropic background and advocacy for school choice, Senate Democrats pressed her on outstanding conflicts of interest (DeVos has yet to disclose all of her financial engagements to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics) and her position on issues such as accountability, campus sexual assault and guns in schools.  

A confirmation vote is tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday, though Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) assured concerned Democrats on the Committee that they will have an opportunity to submit additional questions to DeVos prior to that date. He also said he would delay the vote if DeVos’s ethics review letter is not available from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics by that time.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By admin in News, Public Policy
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