Education Committees Plan Hearings Aligned with Workforce Initiatives
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) has announced a hearing on July 26 titled “Modernizing Apprenticeships to Expand Opportunities.” The hearing will be roadcast at 10:00 am Eastern. Both this hearing and one scheduled by the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions for July 24, regarding the proposed “Workflex in the 21st Century Act,” are aligned with the goals of an Executive Order President Trump signed this week to establish the National Council for the American Worker. The Senate hearing is applicable to ongoing efforts in Congress to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act.
According to the White House, the Council is charged with developing a national strategy for training and retraining the workers needed across high-demand industries. The Council “will convene voices from the public, private, education, labor, and not-for-profit sectors to enhance employment opportunities for Americans of all ages.” Increasing access to data and resources for students and workers regarding STEM education, efforts to address the workforce skills gap, and regional employment opportunities is a priority for this Council; thereby, “allowing students and workers alike to make informed decisions about education, job selection, and career paths.”
The Senate HELP Committee hearing is applicable to an earlier Presidential Executive Order to expand apprenticeships, directing the Secretaries of Defense, Labor, and Education, and the Attorney General, to promote apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships for America’s high school students and other populations. This Executive Order also directs the Secretaries of Commerce and Labor to promote apprenticeships to business leaders across critical industry sectors, including manufacturing, infrastructure, cybersecurity, and healthcare.
According to an analysis from NSBA’s Center for Public Education, the U.S. Department of Labor’s registry now lists 21,000 programs with about 500,000 apprentices. However, the number of apprentices represents only 1.5 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. and is far short of the workforce’s demand. Using data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), the Center cited that individuals with apprenticeships are more likely to affirm the usefulness of their formal education and their abilities as life-long learners than their peers without, as well as more likely to learn from coworkers, develop communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills at work. The conclusion is that apprenticeship programs can promote a linkage between the skills provided by the education system and the needs of the labor market.
Perkins Career and Technical Education Act Reauthorization
As NSBA has reported, the Senate HELP Committee approved its bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act last month. The text of this bill, the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act,” (S. 3217) was published earlier this week and is posted here.
Consistent with the President’s Executive Orders cited above, Section 219 of the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act” would authorize the U.S. Comptroller General to conduct a study regarding strategies, policies and practices used to help all students in pursuing and completing programs of study aligned to high-skill, high-wage occupations, including special populations, or specific subgroups, of students as defined in the Every Student Succeeds Act. The bill would direct the Comptroller General to consult with a geographically diverse (including urban, suburban, and rural) representation of students and parents; eligible agencies and recipients; teachers, faculty, specialized instructional support personnel, and paraprofessionals, including those with expertise in preparing career and technical education students for non-traditional fields; Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations; special populations; and, representatives of business and industry.
S. 3217 also proposes changes to CTE programs that would impact accountability requirements (Section 122). As noted by NSBA, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and other advocates, the bill’s provisions that require continuous improvement at the state and local levels do not incorporate alternatives for changes that could impact performance. For example, changes in program offerings, student populations served, state and local economic conditions, or changes to address data quality issues could impact performance. In other areas, Section 134 of the legislation denotes the local application process and requirements that would conform with a respective four year state plan. Similar to ESSA, these provisions would require performance goals regarding targeted assistance to special populations, such as at-risk students. The bill would also remove a current restriction barring funding for programs to students below seventh grade. With the focus on acclimating students to CTE and career paths in earlier “middle grades,” Section 315 of the bill would address this priority.
Working with the ACTE, NSBA is influencing the reauthorization and will provide further updates as the process continues.
Net Neutrality Legislation Garnering Bipartisan Support in the House
In May, the Senate approved a resolution (S.J. Res. 52) designed to restore the Federal Communications Commission’s Net Neutrality regulations. Efforts are underway in the House to approve a similar resolution (H.J. Res. 129) through a discharge petition process. Recently, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) signed the discharge petition, and also introduced a separate bill to restore the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules, as well as the agency’s authority over broadband services (the 21st Century Internet Act). NSBA is continuing to support the passage of H.J. Res. 129, including working to recruit members to sign the discharge petition. Please contact your representatives and urge them to sign H.J. Res. 129, as it is beneficial to our students and school districts.
In communications to the Senate that helped influence the passage of S.J. Res. 52, NSBA conveyed concerns regarding broadband connectivity for school districts, including those in rural communities and economically distressed areas. For example, the FCC ruling could affect access and affordability, thereby impacting classroom instruction and curriculum content; and, could exacerbate the “homework gap” affecting millions of students without Internet access at home. More information about how the FCC’s ruling to end net neutrality could affect school districts is posted ere by American School Board Journal.
Senate Confirms Department of Education Nominees
This week the Senate confirmed two of the President’s nominees for high-level posts at the U.S. Department of Education. The body approved (50-49) Jim Blew to serve as Assistant Secretary of Education for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. Blew served as the director of Student Success California. He was also the national president of Students First and worked at the Walton Family Foundation. The Senate also confirmed (85-0) Scott Stump to serve as Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education. Stump has served as the assistant provost for career and technical education with the Colorado Community College System and also served as president of the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education consortium. With the Blew and Stump nominations now approved, Secretary DeVos has a nearly complete senior leadership team. Only two positions remain unfilled: Assistant Secretary for Communications and Under Secretary. The Department signaled that these positions may go unfilled as part of the Secretary’s planned reorganization of the Department.
White House Announces Workforce Initiatives
As noted above, the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) hosted a workforce policy briefing this week to highlight an Executive Order issued by President Trump to establish the National Council for the American Worker. DPC staff said the Council is designed to respond to the country’s need for more affordable education and job training and strategies for addressing workforce issues such as reskilling. The Council will be supported by an American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. The DPC event about the Council also featured the launch of the White House Pledge for American Workers, which is to be signed by major companies making a commitment to provide education and new skills for current and future workers. The pledge is also designed as a long-term effort to encourage state and local partners for workforce investments.
U.S. Department of Education Announces Two Special Education Grant Opportunities
This week the U.S. Department of Education invited applications for two special education grants. The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) published the application for the “Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities – Associate Degree Preservice Program Improvement Grants to Support Personnel Working with Young Children with Disabilities” program. The grants will fund eight Associate Degree Preservice Improvement Grants and seek to improve the quality of existing associate degree programs so that associate degree-level personnel are well prepared to work with young children with disabilities and their families. Applications must be submitted by August 13, 2018.
OSERS is also seeking applicants for the “Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities – Model Demonstration Projects to Improve Academic Outcomes of Students with Intellectual Disabilities in Elementary and Middle School” program. Authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the program will fund three cooperative agreements to establish and operate model demonstration projects focused on (1) Improving outcomes in English language arts, and other academic subjects, for students with intellectual disabilities in elementary and middle schools; (2) Align instruction to grade-level, state adopted content standards and provide access to the general education curriculum; (3) Provide students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to meet challenging objectives and receive an Individualized Education Program that is meaningful and appropriately ambitious; and (4) Be implemented and sustained by educators in both general and special education settings. Applications for this program are due August 13, 2018.
Courtesy NSBA Federal Update - Week of July 20, 2018