New Perkins V Innovation and Modernization Grants, Congress & Administration Look at HEA

Congress was busy last week heading into the two-week recess with activity on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) and appropriations. Read below to learn more and find out about news from the Administration on the Innovation and Modernization grant program authorized under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) and higher education.

41 Senators Sign CTE Funding Letter  

Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) was joined by 40 additional Senators who signed on to a “Dear Colleague” letter that encouraged robust funding for Perkins. The letter was sent to the Chairman, Senator Blunt (R-MO) and Ranking Member, Senator Murray (D-WA) of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies as they begin the appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020). The widespread support for the letter is a testament to your advocacy efforts! You can see if your Senators signed on to the letter in this blog post from our partners at the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) – please be sure to send a thank you note to those who signed!

Looking to continue to support efforts to increase the federal investment in CTE? Check out, the website for the campaign to double the investment in CTE. In February, the CTE community launched this shared campaign and we invite everyone to join us in asking employers to sign onto a statement that supports doubling the investment in CTE. The signatures collected from employers will be a critical component to building visibility and support for CTE with members of Congress.

House Holds Hearing on U.S. Department of Education Priorities

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified before the House Committee on Education and Labor on “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education.” In particular, the hearing focused on the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget. A variety of topics were covered, such as secondary and postsecondary CTE programs, expanding Pell grant eligibility to short-term programs, federal student aid delivery and support for Minority Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. A video of the hearing and statements from Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Secretary DeVos can be found here. The statement from Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) can be found here.

Perkins V Innovation and Modernization Grant Now Accepting Applications

On April 15, applications became available for the Perkins Innovation and Modernization Grant Program to “identify, support, and rigorously evaluate Evidence-Based and innovative strategies and activities to improve and modernize CTE and ensure workforce skills taught in CTE programs…align with labor market needs.” Over $2 million in total are available for this grant, and up to six grants will be awarded to scale evidence-based innovative programs that lead to better student outcomes and program effectiveness. Grantees will receive between $400,000 and $500,000 for a 36 month project. Each grantee must match awarded funds with non-Federal funding sources.

The one absolute priority for all applicants is to “submit a plan to create, develop, implement, replicate or take to scale Evidence-Based, field-initiatives innovations to modernize and to improve effectiveness and alignment of CTE with labor market needs and to improve student outcomes in CTE.” In addition, there are three Competitive Preference Priorities: programs that will improve STEM and computer science student outcomes; programs that serve the majority of students from low-income households and programs that serve students in Qualified Opportunity Zones. A webinar will be held by the U.S. Department of Education on April 25 to provide additional information.

Higher Education Negotiated Rulemaking Committee Reached Consensus

The negotiated rulemaking committee reached consensus on all three regulation packages proposed by the Education Department after months of hearings and rounds of edits to the originally proposed regulatory language. The panel of negotiators agreed to changes on issues such as accreditation, federal distance education rules, competency-based education, federal aid programs for religious institutions and a change to the TEACH grant program that would provide teachers whose grants were changed to loans an opportunity to appeal.

In order to reach consensus, the Administration removed some proposals, such as changing the scope of regional accreditors and giving colleges receiving federal aid permission to outsource over 50 percent of a program to an unaccredited external entity. Now, the Education Department will publish the agreed upon regulatory language in the Federal Register and allow for public comments. The new rules must be finalized before November in order to be enacted in the summer of 2020. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos put out a statement in support of the committee’s consensus.

Senate Holds Hearing on Higher Education Act Reauthorization

The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee held a hearing last week on “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Strengthening Accountability to Protect Students and Taxpayers.” This hearing explored topics such as the role the federal and institutional roles in ensuring accountability and how data can better support all students. A video of the hearing and all witness testimonies can be found here. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) press release on the hearing can be found here, and the statement from Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) can be found here.

Kathryn Zekus, Senior Associate for Federal Policy & Meredith Hills, Policy Associate 

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