Government Relations Report: June-July 2016

Attention in Washington is increasingly focused on the Presidential campaigns and the November elections. Next week Congress adjourns for almost two months (July 18-September 5), for the conventions and to campaign. While the House and Senate are still rhetorically committed to passing individual appropriations bills, time is running out, and few individual bills will have been considered. This year’s appropriations process is effectively over.

The result will likely be a Continuing Resolution of indeterminate length followed by an Omnibus bill developed in a lame duck session, convened after the election. The results of the elections will go a long way to determining the length and content of these bills.

FY 2017 Appropriations

The House Labor HHS Appropriations subcommittee marked up today. It froze Adult Education at the FY 2016 level (as did the Senate). The House bill funds Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Adult and Youth programming at current FY2016 levels and would slightly increase Dislocated Worker formula grants. It freezes Career and Technical Education grants at Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 levels. The House bill would not continue increased investments in apprenticeship authorized in FY 2016 and proposed in the Senate for FY 2017.

Like the Senate, the House bill used funds from the Pell Grant surplus to mitigate the impact of spending caps. The bill took spending about $1.3 billion from the $7.8 billion surplus, though the maximum Pell Grant award would still rise to $5,935 next year. The House version of the bill does not does not restore year-round Pell Grants, a priority for many colleges and universities.

Some Democrats and Higher Education advocates are opposed to using these funds. In a letter to Labor HHS Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole, Rep. Bobby Scott (senior Democrat on the Education and Workforce Committee) and others wrote “we strongly oppose any harmful cuts to Pell funding in this year’s appropriations vehicle that will make college more expensive for students in future years” and that “The LHHS appropriations bill should not balance other funding needs on the backs of low-income college students.”

The House bill increases funding for the National Institutes of Health by $1.25 billion (versus $2 billion in the Senate) It also would provide a $500 million increase for IDEA special education grants and would fund the Student Support and Academic Achievement Grants under the Every Student Succeeds Act at $1 billion.

The bill also contains several policy riders to prevent implementation of several of the Obama administration’s higher education regulations, including: the “gainful employment” rule aimed at mostly for-profit colleges, forthcoming teacher preparation rules, state authorization regulations as well as the federal definition of a credit hour.

As we reported, the Senate acted on its version of the bill last month and froze Adult Education state grants ($582 million) and funds for National Leadership Activities ($13.7 million) at the FY 2016 level. In addition, it restored “Year Round Pell,” which allows students to receive a second grant to take a third semester of classes in an academic year, in order to graduate sooner. The program would affect approximately a million students, and the average recipient would be expected to receive $1,650 more in aid. The bill supports an increase in the maximum Pell grant to an estimated $5,935 for the 2017-18 school year.

Other Legislation: Perkins Act Reauthorization

On Thursday, the House Education and Workforce Committee unanimously approved its version of a CTE Reauthorization bill called “The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21 Century Act (HR 5587). ” The Committee made several changes to the draft bill introduced earlier this week. The amended version of the bill should become available next week. From the perspective of Adult Education, the bill adopts concepts, such as career pathways and sector partnerships, and terminology from WIOA and is designed to simplify the state CTE plan by allowing states to submit a combined plan for CTE and WIOA. The draft bill also:

  • Requires state and local programs to offer all students the opportunity to participate in work-based learning as part of a high-quality CTE program of study that gives students real world skills and fosters in-depth, first-hand engagement with the tasks required in a given career field.
  • Supports the integration of employability skills into CTE programs and programs of study to ensure all students learn the general skills that are necessary for success in the labor market for all employment levels and in all sectors, including the integration of academic knowledge and technical skills applied to the workplace, interpersonal, analytical and organizational skills, and personal qualities that enable individuals to interact effectively with others.
  • Re-engages disconnected youth with the education system through CTE by updating the definition for “special populations” to include homeless individuals and youth with a parent who is a member of the Armed Forces on active duty.
  • Increases focus on serving CTE students in juvenile justice and correctional institutions by increasing the amount of funds that States can reserve to serve these populations.
  • Requires funds to be used to meet the needs of special populations and students pursuing careers in nontraditional fields to prioritize equity of opportunity for all students, especially those in historically underserved and vulnerable student populations.
  • Increases the amount of funding available for state leadership activities to be used to support innovative strategies and activities, or the replication and expansion of evidence-based activities to improve CTE.
  • Authorizes increased appropriations for each year of the bill for a total increase of almost 9 percent over the life of the authorization.

According to the CTE community, the Committee does not have a commitment from the House leadership for Floor time to allow the full House consider the bill.

We still await action in the Senate where, as you know, we worked with Senator Reed’s office on a package of amendments to the CTE bill that would make more explicit the relationship between Adult Education and CTE.

WIOA Rules and Regulations

On June 30, the Departments of Labor and Education issued the long-anticipated WIOA Regulations:

All of the links below are available from the DOL/ETA Web site (https://www.doleta.gov/wioa/Final_Rules_Resources.cfm.

Final Rules

Final Rules Resources

Press Release

Performance Accountability Resources

Quick Reference Guides

Frequently Asked Questions

Final Rules and Performance FAQs

Fact Sheets

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