2021 NPS Background Materials
Department of Education
- Department of Education Website
- Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education Website
- Secretary of Ed Nominee Bio
- Secretary of Education Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Nomination Hearing
- ACTE Blog Post: President-Elect Biden Announces Miguel Cardona as Nominee to Lead ED
- ACTE Blog Post: Hearings for Education Secretary and Labor Secretary Nominees
- Community College Daily Article: Cardona: More CTE Exploration at Middle, High Schools
- Education Week Article: Miguel Cardona Takes Key Step Forward in Drama-Free Senate Committee Vote
Department of Labor
- Department of Labor Website
- Employment and Training Administration Website
- Secretary of Labor Nominee Bio
- Secretary of Labor Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Nomination Hearing
- ACTE Blog Post: Hearings for Education Secretary and Labor Secretary Nominees
- Community College Daily Article: More Coordination Needed, Walsh Says
Congress operates under a fiscal year that runs from October 1 – September 30. The federal budget process usually begins each February when the president submits the Administration’s budget request to Congress. This request is not binding, but it serves to outline the Administration’s funding priorities for the coming fiscal year and Congress may use it as a blueprint in crafting its own budget.
The House and Senate Budget Committees are responsible for developing the congressional budget. These committees study the president’s proposals, along with requests from other committees and Members of Congress, and put together their own “budget resolution.” The budget resolution sets a “spending ceiling” for each broad budget category. There are 17 major categories for which the Budget Committees recommend spending ceilings. CTE and workforce development programs are part of the category known as “Function 500 – Education, Training, Employment, and Social Services.” The budget resolution has no binding authority over specific program funding levels, but the higher the total funding levels in the budget resolution, the higher the likelihood of increases for programs such as Perkins, HEA, WIOA and ESSA.
Once the budget resolution has been agreed upon and passed by both chambers of Congress, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees begin the work of setting specific funding levels for individual programs, including Perkins, through appropriations bills. The 12 annual appropriations bills are designated to subcommittees within the appropriations committees. Funding decisions concerning CTE, other education programs and workforce development are made in the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
If approved at the committee level, the funding bills are then considered by the full House and Senate, with any differences between the two versions reconciled by a conference committee. Often many of the larger and more controversial appropriations bills are not completed on time, and Congress must pass a “continuing resolution” (CR) to continue program funding at current levels until a new appropriations bill can be passed.
Typically, during the first year of a new Administration the President’s Budget Request, which serves as the unofficial start to the appropriations process, is delayed. This year is no different! Traditionally, the budget request is sent to Congress in early February, but there have been recent reports that the Biden Administration still has no public timeline for sending the president’s request to Congress. The delay can be attributed to a combination of the pandemic and emergency funding (through the reconciliation process) remaining the priority, lack of cooperation between the outgoing and incoming Administrations during the lame duck period, and the current confirmation process for the Office of Management and Budget’s director position. It is likely that the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 process won’t kickoff until March or April this year, but it is never too early to start talking to Members of Congress about funding for next year.
Check out these resources to learn more about the federal funding process:
- CTE Policy Watch Blog: Federal Funding Posts
- FY 2020 Perkins State Allocations (FY 21 allocations are not yet available)
- CRS Report: Introduction to the Federal Budget Process
- Federal Budget Timeline
- Upcoming Congressional Fiscal Policy Deadlines
- Reconciliation 101
- Policy Basics: Non-Defense Discretionary Programs
- Press Release: Appropriations Committee Organizes for 117th Congresss
- ACTE Blog Post: Perkins Basic State Grants Receives Increase in Funding for FY21; Additional COVID-19 Relief Finally Passes
- CBO: The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2021 to 2031
- FY 2021 Budget Resolution
The current version of the Higher Education Act (HEA) was signed into law in 2008. HEA was originally passed in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his “Great Society” agenda in the war on poverty. The purpose of the Act was to ensure higher education was accessible to all students through increased resources to postsecondary institutions and financial assistance for students. Additionally, the law supports teacher education programs to ensure our nation’s educators are fully prepared before entering the classroom.
The 2008 reauthorization increased reporting requirements for postsecondary institutions in an effort to be more transparent about the cost of higher education, and placed an emphasis on preparing more teachers for high-need subject areas. Additionally, the bill made several adjustments to financial aid availability, including implementing year-round Pell grants.
However, HEA is now long overdue for reauthorization. Congress continues to grapple with finding the best policy prescription for addressing the rising cost of college, while offering opportunities to more students to pursue postsecondary education.
During the last Congress there were numerous pieces of legislation that proposed important policy changes related to CTE programs, educators and students. In addition, the Democrat-led House Education and Labor Committee approved, on a party-line vote, the College Affordability Act—the House Democratic plan to reauthorize HEA. The bill never received a vote by the full House though, and there was limited HEA-related activity in the Senate. However, at the very end of the year, a few HEA-related changes, such as simplification of the FAFSA, the form students fill out to access federal aid, and the ban on Pell grants for incarcerated students was eliminated. Even with this activity though, a comprehensive reauthorization is still needed, and is a top priority of Congress.
With Democrats now having the majority in both chambers and control of the White House, we expect that there will be an attempt to pass a comprehensive reauthorization sometime in 2021. President Biden has made his higher education plans clear, while the House Democrats introduced a comprehensive proposal in 2019, the College Affordability Act, which is likely to serve as the starting point in that chamber. Obviously, it will likely be updated to include provisions to address issues that have arisen due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While there is bipartisan agreement in several policy areas (e.g., simplifying repayment of loans, strengthening the Pell Grant, and short-term Pell), the parties disagree on the best approaches to move each of these changes forward, including how to pay for them. Moreover, the pandemic has shed light on the equity gaps within the broader higher education system that will likely steer the conversation.
According to congressional aides, the White House and Congress will likely shift their focus to the “recovery” phase of the pandemic later this year, which will include higher education, workforce development, and CTE policy. Given the first lady’s strong background in, and the President’s ardent support of, community colleges, we expect them to be a strong pillar of any upcoming proposal.
Check out these resources to learn more about the Higher Education Act:
- CTE Policy Watch Blog: HEA Blog Posts
- CRS Report: Higher Education Act Primer
- JOBS Act Kaine Press Release & Text (116th Congress)
- College Transparency Act Cassidy Press Release & Text (116th Congress)
- Biden Administration Postsecondary Proposals
- AACC Report: Making High-Quality Short-Term Workforce Programs Pell Grant-Eligible: A Community College Perspective
The following are a selection of HEA-related bills that ACTE has endorsed. The listed bill numbers correspond with the Congress they were introduced in. Bolded names denote the bill’s main sponsors. We encourage you to voice your support for these pieces of legislation in your interactions with policymakers, and to thank your Members of Congress who have sponsored these bills. For bills listed that have not been introduced in the 117th Congress, you can have your Member of Congress contact ACTE to learn more.
117th Congress (Current Session)
Gateway to Careers Act
Bill Number: S. 52
Senate Sponsors: Collins, Hassan, Kaine, Young
Summary: Amends HEA to provide grants for partnerships between community or technical colleges and workforce development partners to support job training and related employment/educational obstacles.
Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act
Bill Numbers: S. 839/ H.R. 3497
Senate Sponsors: Baldwin, Blunt, Brown, Capito, Cardin, Collins, Coons, Cramer, Ernst, Gardner, Gillibrand, Hassan, Hoeven, Jones, Kaine, Klobuchar, Moran, Portman, Shaheen, Sinema, Smith, Stabenow, Wicker
House Sponsors: Allred, Armstrong, Axne, Bacon, Balderson, Bost, Brindisi, Brooks (IN), Budd, Calvert, Carbajal, Cicilline, Cole, Cook, Craig, Crenshaw, Crow, DeFazio, DelBene, Diaz-Balart, Dingell, Fitzpatrick, Gallagher, Gonzalez (OH)*, Gonzalez (TX), Gonzalez-Colon, Hagedorn, Harder, Hayes, Herrera Beutler, Horsford, Jackson Lee, Johnson (OH), Joyce, Katko, Kind, Kinzinger, Langevin, Latta, Levin, Luria, McAdams, McMorris, Mitchell, Murphy (NC), Pappas, Raskin, Reed, Richmond*, Riggleman, Ruiz, Scott (GA), Simpson, Slotkin, Smith (WA), Spanberger, Steil, Stevens, Stivers, Swalwell, Thompson (CA), Thompson (MS), Turner, Upton, Wenstrup, Wilson (FL), Wittman, Wright
Summary: Expands Pell Grant eligibility under HEA to students enrolled in short-term skills and job training programs that lead to industry-based credentials and employment in in-demand careers.
Other Notes: Both comprehensive HEA proposals last year (House Dems/Senate Reps) included a provision similar to the JOBS Act.
Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act
Bill Numbers: S. 718/ H.R. 3891
Senate Sponsors: Boozman, Cassidy, Peters
House Sponsors: Axne, Fitzpatrick, Harder, Reed, Vela
Summary: Authorizes new grants to institutions of higher education for dual or concurrent enrollment programs through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) program.
College Transparency Act
Bill Numbers: S. 800/ H.R. 1766
Senate Sponsors: Alexander, Baldwin, Bennet, Booker, Brown, Casey, Cassidy, Cornyn, Duckworth, Ernst, Gardner, Graham, Grassley, Harris, Hassan, Hyde-Smith, Jones, Kaine, Klobuchar, McSally, Murphy, Perdue, Roberts, Romney, Scott, Sinema, Smith, Sullivan, Tillis, Toomey, Warren, Whitehouse
House Sponsors: Allred, Amodei, Arrington, Bacon, Banks, Barr, Bera, Bergman, Blunt Rochester, Bonamici, Bost, Boyle, Brady, Brindisi, Brooks (AL), Brown, Brownley, Budd, Butterfield, Carbajal, Carson, Casten, Chabot, Cisneros, Cleaver, Collins, Conaway, Cook, Costa, Cox, Crist, Cuellar, Cunningham, Curtis, Davis (IL), Dean, DelBene, Demings, DeSaulnier, Diaz-Balart, Dingell, Dunn, Escobar, Espaillat, Evans, Ferguson, Fitzpatrick, Frankel, Gallagher, Garamendi, Garcia (IL), Gianforte, Gonzalez-Colon, Gottheimer, Graves (GA), Graves (LA), Hagedorn, Harder, Hastings, Hayes, Hern, Hollingsworth, Horn, Houlahan, Johnson (SD), Joyce, Kim, Kind, Krishnamoorthi, Kuster, LaHood, Lamb, Langevin, Lawrence, Lee (NV), Lesko, Lewis, Lipinski, Luria, Marchant, Marshall, McBath, Meeks, Mitchell, Moolenaar, Neguse, O’Halleran, Panetta, Peters, Porter, Reed, Reschenthaler, Rice, Riggleman, Rogers (AL), Rose, Rouda, Rutherford, Sablan, Scanlan, Schrader, Scott (GA), Sensenbrenner, Slotkin, Smucker, Soto, Spanberger, Stanton, Stauber, Stefanik, Steil, Stivers, Suozzi, Takano, Thompson (CA), Thornberry, Tlaib, Torres Small, Trahan, Trone, Turner, Upton, Vargas, Wagner, Walorski, Waltz, Watkins, Weber, Wenstrup, Wild, Wittman
Summary: Requires the National Center for Education Statistics to establish a secure data system containing information about postsecondary adults.
Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2019
Bill Numbers: S. 681/ H.R. 1565
Senate Sponsors: Rubio, Warner, Wyden
House Sponsors: Conaway, Duncan, Fitzpatrick, Hunter, Luria, Peters
Summary: Modifies reporting requirements for institutions of higher education that participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs.
Working Students Act
Bill Numbers: S. 2655/ H.R. 4787
Senate Sponsors: Baldwin, Brown, Duckworth, Kaine, Reed, Sanders
House Sponsors: Bera, Kilmer
Summary: Amends HEA to increase the income protection allowance for financial aid programs to support working students.
Go to High School, Go to College Act of 2019
Bill Numbers: S. 1888/ H.R. 4787
Senate Sponsors: Portman, Warner
House Sponsors: Beatty, Fudge, Jackson Lee, Johnson (TX), Lamb, Lee (CA), Stefanik, Takano
Summary: Amends HEA to allow for the awarding of Pell Grants to students to support their enrollment in, and completion of, postsecondary courses offered through early college high schools.
Cybersecurity Skills Integration Act
Bill Number: H.R. 1592
House Sponsors: Craig, Fitzpatrick, Harder, Houlahan, Langevin, McCaul, Ruppersberger, Thompson (PA)
Summary: Authorizes $10 million to create a competitive grant program to incorporate cybsersecurity education into new or existing CTE programs.
PREP Act of 2019
Bill Number: S. 752
Senate Sponsors: Collins, Kaine, Rosen, Smith
Summary: Targets the CTE teacher shortage in a number of ways, including by encouraging grow-your-own programs and expanding the definition of “high need” districts to include schools facing CTE teacher shortages, among other things.
Strengthen CTE in Higher Education Act
Bill Number: H.R. 4371
House Sponsors: Beatty, Dingell, Finkenauer, Hayes, Horn*, Jackson Lee, Kuster, Morelle, Pappas, Slotkin, Trahan, Welch, Wild
Summary: Authorizes $181 million annually for a five-year grant program to be distributed through the Perkins formula to foster greater investments in postsecondary CTE programs.
Counseling for Career Choice Act
Bill Number: H.R. 5092
House Sponsors: Aguilar, Bishop (GA), Brindisi, Cole, DeFazio, Fitzpatrick, Harder, Hastings, Langevin, McMorris Rodgers, Thompson (PA)
Summary: Authorizes grants for states to develop, implement and support statewide career counseling frameworks.
Roads and highways across the nation are in poor condition and badly congested; rail and transit systems are frequently unreliable and inefficient; bridges are structurally deficient; airports and harbors have not been able to maintain the growing passenger and commercial demands; aging drinking and wastewater infrastructure has left entire communities without safe drinking water and; entire communities have been left behind in our new digital economy without access to high-speed internet, all because Congress has failed to appropriately invest in our nation’s infrastructure.
For decades, America has relied on a 1950s-era transportation and infrastructure system that has simply failed to keep pace with our evolving community and economic needs. Infrastructure is the backbone of the U.S. economy and a necessary input to every economic output. The role of infrastructure in economic growth is critical to the nation’s prosperity and the public’s health and welfare. Infrastructure’s condition has a cascading impact on our nation’s economy, affecting business productivity, gross domestic product (GDP), employment, personal income, and international competitiveness.
In the most recent American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure report card (2017), America received a D+. This report looks at the current physical condition and performance of all forms of infrastructure, and the need for investments accordingly. The report claims a D grade means that the “infrastructure is in poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life. A large portion of the system exhibits significant deterioration. Condition and capacity are of serious concern with strong risk of failure.”
While there have been no major comprehensive proposals introduced yet this Congress, talks between the White House and Congressional leaders have begun. Earlier this month, President Biden met with four Senators: Tom Carper (D-DE) who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee; Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the senior Republican on the panel; James Inhofe (R-OK), a Republican who is a former chairman of the committee; and Ben Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Small Business Committee, to discuss the potential for an infrastructure package in the Senate.
With a fragile economy and prolonged suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic, we expect there to be motivation from both parties to work together on a proposal that will not only bring much needed infrastructure improvements, but help stimulate the economy. With that said, we don’t expect this to be a coming together moment in an otherwise politically turbulent time as there are still formidable roadblocks: how to pay for it and potential political sticking points. During his recent meeting with President Biden, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said it is important not to attach a controversial “agenda” item to infrastructure to hold it hostage, alluding to climate change and other Democratic priorities.
Within the White House, the comprehensive plan is in an advanced stage of development according to people familiar with the discussions. They say that the topic of infrastructure is usually spoken about in tandem with COVID relief, which makes sense given the President’s ambitious timeline of introducing an infrastructure proposal within the first 100 days of his Administration.
In addition to infrastructure, the 117th Congress will have to address surface transportation reauthorization. The one-year extension of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act – authorizing highway, transit, rail, and vehicle safety programs – expires in September 2021. We expect this to be rolled into a larger infrastructure package, as it was in House Democrats “Moving Forward Act” from last Congress.
Check out these resources to learn more about the infrastructure policy discussion:
- Fact Sheet: The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021
- Press Release: Kaine, Portman Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Support Training For Skilled Infrastructure Jobs
- Press Release: Langevin Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Bolster Nation’s Infrastructure Workforce
- Press Release: Langevin, Thompson Introduce Legislation to Boost Transportation Workforce Training
- Letter from Rep. Langevin and Rep. Thompson on the Role of Workforce Development in Infrastructure Policy
- Press Release: Gillibrand Announces Her Legislation To Make Bold Reforms To Investments In American Infrastructure
- CRS Report: Infrastructure Investment and the Federal Government
- CRS Report: Transportation Infrastructure Investment as Economic Stimulus: Lessons from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
- CRS Report: School Construction and Renovation: A Review of Federal Programs and Legislation
- Georgetown University Report: Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Proposals Could Create Millions of Jobs
- Burning Glass Report: Ready to Build? The State of Skills in the Infrastructure Workforce
With both parties in Congress discussing making significant investments into America’s infrastructure, there will be a heightened need for more skilled workers to be able to plan, build, maintain and operate the various aspects of new infrastructure, which includes not just roads and bridges, but also water, energy, sewer, cyber and more. Addressing the deficiencies in our nation’s vital infrastructure will require more than just new investments in roads, bridges, airports and waterways. It must also include a commitment to developing the skilled workforce that can design, build, upgrade and maintain that infrastructure. Jobs in infrastructure require individuals with a range of different skills, competencies, and levels of education. Local CTE programs are well positioned to equip students and incumbent workers with the educational opportunities and work-based learning they will need for career success in infrastructure fields, and ensuring educational institutions have the capacity to provide these critical programs should be a priority.
The broad scope of modern CTE reflects the wide range of industry sectors and occupations that contribute to the development of vital infrastructure. However, many employers in these fields are facing shortages of skilled workers who are able to fill available positions and meet long-term workforce needs. More than half of the energy labor force, which includes workers who maintain our electrical grid and gas pipeline network, will need to be replaced in the next six years. Moreover, careers in information technology are projected to continue to grow as technology entrenches itself within the most critical functions of our economy, including cloud computing, cybersecurity, mobile networking and other occupation areas that support the growing cyber infrastructure. Put simply, rebuilding our infrastructure and securing its sustainability for the future will require a strong focus on developing a robust workforce pipeline.
Further, we must recognize and support the vital role CTE programs play in addressing climate change and renewable energy: The energy sector is going through a historic shift from more traditional energy sources—coal, oil, natural gas—to more environmentally sustainable and renewable sources, which is causing critical workforce shortfalls in the renewable energy fields. Many of these newly created energy jobs are middle-skill occupations, ones that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree, that provide a family sustaining wage. CTE is primed to prepare high school, postsecondary and adult students for careers in renewable and clean energy and environmental sustainability, and to incorporate these sustainable practices across career areas. Investments are needed to build these new programs and to revise and update curriculum in order to prepare students in these critical workforce areas.
Lastly, any comprehensive infrastructure proposal should include our nation’s public schools, whose average age is nearly 50 years old. The American Society of Civil Engineers rated school facility infrastructure as a D+, estimating 53 percent of schools need improvement to reach good condition. The condition of school buildings, including CTE labs, provides a crucial foundation for classroom learning that affects students and the American economy, which is why their prioritization is critical.
117th Congress (Current Session)
Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021
Bill Number: H.R. 604
House Sponsors: Scott (VA) and 144 House Democrats
Summary: Would provide more than $100 billion in grants and bonds to local educational agencies to tackle physical and digital school infrastructure. The bill includes CTE under its list of allowable uses of funds. It specifies, “A local educational agency that receives covered funds may use such funds to… provide instructional program space improvements for programs relating to… career and technical education.”
Bill Number: S. 1517/H.R. 2831
Senate Sponsors: Kaine, Portman
House Sponsors: Mitchell, Bonamici, Thompson, Langevin, Bishop (GA), Brindisi, Harder, Craig, Dean, Morelle
Summary: Would support workforce development and apprenticeship programs in transportation, energy, construction, and other targeted industries in a major infrastructure investment. The bill would provide grants to industry partnerships, which bring together local businesses and industry organizations, workforce boards, labor, education institutions, community-based organizations and training providers to support workforce training programs in infrastructure-industry jobs.
Build Local, Hire Local Act
Bill Number: S. 2404/H.R. 4101
Senate Sponsors: Booker, Duckworth, Durbin, Feinstein, Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, Merkley
House Sponsors: Bass, 44 House Democrats
Summary: Would create high-quality local construction jobs for people who need them most through targeted hiring practices that use registered apprenticeships and coordinate with state and local workforce development boards.
Dedicate investment to struggling areas and connect communities to greater opportunity through new performance measures and data on accessibility to transportation and a new $25 billion Connect Communities Grant Program to redevelop marginalized communities.
Provide pathways to careers in construction, specialty trades, and other infrastructure jobs through a new $5 billion Building American Infrastructure and Careers Program to support training partnerships led by unions, community organizations, and education and training providers.
Protect and expand domestic manufacturing by establishing a new Buy America Bureau that would help build American supply chains and bring transparency and coordination to the Buy America waiver process, and by encouraging the use of U.S. Employment Plans that prioritize existing and new American manufacturing and service jobs when building the nation’s infrastructure.
Transportation Workforce Investment Act of 2020
Bill Number: H.R. 6156
House Sponsors: Balderson, Craig, Langevin, McKinley
Summary: This bill directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish a program to provide competitive grants to institutions of higher education, states, and other partnerships to support transportation sector education and workforce development projects.
The bill expands authority for DOT to provide grants for surface transportation workforce development, training, and education to include (1) on-the-job training or work-based learning opportunities, including pre-apprenticeships and registered apprenticeships; (2) activities to support the establishment of industry or sector partnerships; (3) activities to increase the number of underrepresented individuals in such workforce; and (4) activities to update facilities and equipment used in career and technical education programs of study.
DOT must also establish a task force to (1) conduct an assessment of the current and projected state of the transportation workforce, including any existing barriers to attracting, developing, training, or retaining a skilled transportation workforce; and (2) develop recommendations and strategies for DOT and states to improve the transportation workforce based on such assessment.
Transportation Workforce Centers of Excellence Act
Bill Number: H.R. 6032
House Sponsors: Bacon, Langevin, Thompson
Summary: This bill directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to designate certain two-year institutions of higher education as Community and Technical College Centers of Excellence in Transportation Workforce Training.
Additionally, DOT must establish a program to award competitive grants to the centers to address education and training related to careers in transportation sectors.
Grants under the program may not exceed $2 million, and the federal share of project costs may not exceed 50%.
In early spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began to bring about monumental change to our lives that we continue to see today. Shortly after the pandemic began, Congress passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act within weeks of each other. Both of these proposals heavily focused on small business relief and health-related provisions, such as research, testing, and prevention measures. Although there were some child nutrition provisions in the latter, neither included direct funding for education. To round out action in early spring, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), which included almost $40 billion for education.
Although Congress did not pass any additional relief packages that included education funding between late spring and the fall, the education committees stayed busy by holding numerous hearings and member briefings on various COVID-19 related topics, ranging from going back to college safely and safely reopening k-12 schools, to assessing the impact of COVID-19 on public education and relaunching America’s workforce in the aftermath of the pandemic, among other topics. Throughout the year, Congress continued to remain in negotiations on additional pandemic-related relief but was not able to come to agreement.
Aside from the handful of comprehensive COVID-19 relief bills that passed, there were many others that were introduced by both parties and generally used in negotiations throughout various parts of the process. These proposals included the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act, which would have provided Perkins with $1 billion in dedicated funding; and the HEALS Act, which was Senate Republicans‘ counter bill to House Democrats‘ HEROES Act. Another proposal worth noting was the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act, which included $430 billion for various education and childcare programs and initiatives.
With only days remaining in 2020, Congress finally passed an additional relief proposal by coupling it with the FY 2021 omnibus appropriations bill discussed above. In this $900 billion bill, the Department of Education received $82 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund. Out of that funding, $54.3 billion was for K-12 (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund), which can be used for a variety of activities, including school facilities repairs and improvements and addressing learning loss among students. CTE activities eligible to be funded under Perkins are also included. Higher education received $22.7 billion, while the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund received an additional $4.1 billion.
Throughout the year, ACTE worked closely with Congress and the Administration to advocate on behalf of CTE programs to ensure they receive the resources and flexibilities needed to navigate the pandemic. Over the course of the year, we wrote letters to both Congressional leadership and the Administration on topics including our concerns for CTE programs, COVID-19 Policy Priorities, concerns regarding student aid exclusions, and response to the HEROES Act; among many cross-organizational letters laying out other funding and policy priorities. Further, we actively worked with congressional appropriators to provide adequate funding for state and local aid, and more specifically, dedicated funding for CTE and other workforce programs.
President Biden has proposed additional funding for COVID-19 relief, and Congressional Democrats, now with the majority in both chambers, signaled that they will pursue an almost $2 trillion package through what is known as the “Budget Reconciliation” process. As a counter to this proposal, Republicans offered a $618 billion proposal, which was quickly rejected as insufficient by their colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
As the budget reconciliation process began earlier this month, the House Education Committee advanced its piece of the bill, which directly appropriates a total of $170.1 billion for education programs within the Department of Education. Of the $170.1 billion, $169.8 billion is for the education emergency relief fund. Unlike the two previously enacted bills, there is no separate fund for governors to administer.
According to high-ranking Democratic officials, they are looking to have the bill passed before March 14, which is when the unemployment provision expires.
Check out these resources to learn more about the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
- ACTE Action Alert: Ask Congress to Support Perkins Funding in Next COVID-19 Relief Package
- ACTE Blog Post: Education Committee Chairs Reintroduce Relaunching America’s Workforce Act
- ACTE Blog Post: House Education Committee Advances its Piece of COVID-19 Relief Bill
- ACTE Blog Post: Perkins Basic State Grants Receives Increase in Funding for FY21; Additional COVID-19 Relief Finally Passes
- ACTE Blog Post: A Deep Dive into Postsecondary Education COVID-19 Relief Funds
- Library of Congress: Responses to COVID-19 in the United States
- CBPP Roundup: Congressional Action on COVID Relief
- Department of Education COVID-19 Page
- ACTE: High Quality CTE Planning Guide
The COVID-19 pandemic has been taxing and testing our nation’s educational, digital and technology infrastructure. The CTE community, which is the talent pipeline for many of our nation’s skilled workers, has not been immune to these challenges. To support CTE programs and students during this unprecedented time, we urge Congress to:
- Support robust funding to stabilize state and local education budgets: CTE programs largely exist within the framework of the public education system, which has been taxed in unprecedented ways by the pandemic. K-12 school districts and postsecondary institutions have faced significantly increased costs for both remote and socially-distant, in person instruction at the same time that state and local budgets have faced significant cuts. The combination could prove disastrous for CTE programs in particular, which are often considered “electives” or are more expensive to operate effectively and safely. We urge you to fight for significant resources for education in future COVID-19 response legislation. Importantly, this funding should not be conditioned on schools being open for in-person instruction, as those decisions should be left to local education and health officials and made in the best interests of students and communities —not as a requirement for federal funding.
- Work to close the homework gap and narrow the digital divide: Nationwide, as many as 16 million students—nearly one in three—and 400,000 educators do not have adequate Internet connectivity to learn/teach from home. These students and educators hail from every state, and a disproportionate number of those students are minorities, come from low-income households, or live in rural areas. If reintroduced, support the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 (H.R. 6563, 116th Congress), which would create a $2 billion “Emergency Connectivity Fund” for schools and libraries to secure wi-fi hotspots, modems, routers and connected devices. It would support distance and remote learning for “millions of students without home internet access” for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. Additionally, we request that the Biden Administration increase appropriations for the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program in the FY 2022 budget request.
- Provide dedicated resources to CTE programs to aid in economic recovery: The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act provided $1 billion in dedicated funding for CTE programs, as well as $2 billion in funding for community and technical college partnerships to help provide the skills training necessary to drive economic recovery. We urge you to support these proposals, and to also consider agency actions that can spur innovation within the CTE space.
- Seek out flexibilities that can be provided to education and workforce development programs to meet the current needs of all learners: While maintaining quality should be of utmost importance, there are likely to be regulatory and administrative flexibilities that may be needed as the pandemic continues, such as continuing flexibilities for postsecondary accreditors to recognize distance learning, waivers for funds carryover from one year to the next, and flexibility in reporting and adjusting previously determined state performance levels given disruptions in assessments and data collection.
117th Congress (Current Session)
Relaunching America’s Workforce Act
Bill Number: S. 200/H.R. 602
Senate Sponsors: Baldwin, Coons, Gillibrand, Hassan, Kaine, Murray, Reed, Rosen, Smith
House Sponsors: Scott (VA), and 24 House Democrats
Summary: Provides over $10 billion to the state and local public workforce system by supporting dislocated workers, employers, youth and adults seeking jobs. These funds will support workforce training activities, including career navigation services, access to online skills training and employment services, while prioritizing short-term training to health care and essential frontline workers. Further, it invests $2 billion to restart the community college career training grant program initiated during the last recession to help build partnerships between educators and employers and provide individuals pathways to high-skill, high-wage and in-demand employment opportunities.
National Apprenticeship Act
The National Apprenticeship Act is a federal law in the which regulates apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs.
Apprentice programs in the U.S. were largely unregulated until 1934. After passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), industry, trade unions and the National Recovery Administration cooperated to fashion various “industry codes” to govern competition, wages, working conditions and quality of products and services.
In 1937, the Congress passed the National Apprenticeship Act also known as “the Fitzgerald Act.” The Act established a national advisory committee whose task was to research and draft regulations to establish minimum standards for apprenticeship programs. The Act was later amended to permit the United States Department of Labor to issue regulations protecting the health, safety and general welfare of apprentices, and to encourage the use of contracts in the hiring and employment of them. The National Apprenticeship Act is administered by the Employment and Training Administration in the Department of Labor.
A reauthorization of the bill is currently making its way through Congress. House Democrats, led by Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), introduced H.R. 447, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021. This bill would increase funding for registered apprenticeship programs, while expanding opportunities to registered apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeships. It was passed out of the House in February and the proposal has yet to be taken up in the Senate, where its fate is still uncertain. Although it passed the House in a bipartisan fashion, the majority of Republicans remain displeased with its lack of apprenticeship options outside of the more traditional registered program. ACTE endorsed the House bill and supports its passage.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is the primary federal legislation governing federal workforce development programs. It is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. The latest reauthorization emphasized an increased coordination and cohesion among federal workforce development, including Perkins, instead of them working independent of one another. They accomplished this by aligning the language of definitions, requiring that postsecondary CTE institutions be a local infrastructure partner, giving states the option to do a combined state plan that meets the planning requirements for WIOA’s core programs and at least one other federal program, among others. WIOA supersedes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and amends the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Wagner-Peyser Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Programs under WIOA are authorized through FY2020, which means they expired starting October 1, 2020, although they remain funded through the appropriations process. Both parties in Congress have acknowledged the importance of WIOA programs and expressed desire in reauthorizing the legislation on time, but neither have taken concrete steps towards introducing a proposal. There have been rumblings that the House plans to hold hearings starting in late spring, early summer, but that has not been confirmed publicly. To add historical context, it took Congress 14 years after the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) expired to pass WIOA.
ACTE is currently in the process of publishing detailed, formal policy recommendations for Congress, but below are some preliminary areas we are looking into when creating our recommendations:
- Strengthening Connections Between Education and Workforce Development Systems
- Increasing Access to High-quality Training
- Strengthening Youth Activities
- Using Labor Market Information More Effectively
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant was created under a 1996 welfare reform bill, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (P.L. 104-193). It was designed to replace the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.
TANF’s overall purpose is to “increase the flexibility of states” to meet four statutory goals: (1) provide assistance to needy families so that children may remain in their homes; (2) reduce dependency of needy parents on government benefits through work, job preparation, and marriage; (3) reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies; and (4) promote the formation and maintenance of two-parent families. The 1996 welfare reform law and the creation of TANF altered the federal rules that applied to states for their cash assistance programs. It also established a broad-purpose block grant that provides funds to states to address both the effects and root causes of childhood economic disadvantage.
Most TANF policies still in effect in 2021 date back to the 1996 welfare reform law. As for its funding, it was originally authorized through the end of FY 2002, with most of the legislative activity since then being short-term funding extensions. Since TANF’s inception, there has been only one long-term extension —The Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005—which extended it from FY 2006 through the end of FY 2010. The DRA also made changes to TANF work rules and established a program of competitive grants mostly to community-based organizations for healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood initiatives. Since the end of FY2010, TANF has again been funded by a series of short-term extensions and is awaiting congressional reauthorization.