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

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

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