Tag: Congress

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

Government Relations Report: May-June 2016

FY 2017 Appropriations

This week the Senate Labor-HHS-Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee marked up its bill for the coming year. The bill was premised on the Budget agreement reached last year to add funds to both the defense and non-defense sides of the budget. The subcommittee’s FY 2017 allocation was $270 million less than last year’s, meaning that it had less money to work with. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the Senior Democrat on the Committee, called the allocation “snug but fair.” Other more technical issues meant that the subcommittee was perhaps as much as $ 1 billion below last year’s level, making cuts inevitable. To mitigate the impact of these cuts, the Subcommittee chose to reduce the Pell Grant surplus by $1.2 billion (out of a total of $7.8 billion) as well as resort to other accounting mechanisms.

The Subcommittee mark up on Tuesday was uneventful. It rapidly became clear that Republicans and Democrats had developed a bi-partisan bill that met the three most pressing demands facing the Subcommittee: the desire to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion, provide funds to combat the opioid epidemic, and fund the provisions of the recently reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Appropriations Committee report on the bill here.

The Full Appropriations Committee considered the bill on Thursday, June 9 and reported it to the Senate by a vote of 29-1 (only Senator Lankford of Oklahoma voted no). There were no changes to the Subcommittee’s work. Members of the Committee noted that it was the first Senate Labor-HHS bill in seven years to be reported out.

As we reported, the Committee froze both Adult Education state grants ($582 million) and funds for National Leadership Activities ($13.7 million) at the FY 2016 level. In addition, the bill includes a provision to reinstate the Year-Round Pell Grant, 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 reportedly affect approximately one 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 from $5,815 for the 2016-17 school year, to an estimated $5,935 for the 2017-18 school year.

It is worth noting that in her opening remarks, Senator Mikulski, the Committee’s senior Democrat talked about hard choices that needed to be made and said that should additional funds become available, the Committee would revisit some of its decisions. Senator Murray said that she was disappointed in the lack of additional funding for education and referred to the funding levels in the bill as “a floor to build on.”

Implicitly, both were referring to efforts by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to add $18 billion to the Defense budget, increase the military pay raise and stop cuts to the Army and Marine Corps. The proposal would have broken the budget agreement reached last year to maintain parity between defense and non-defense spending. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island offered an amendment to restore that parity by adding $18 billion in non-defense spending, including full funding for WIOA. Both amendments were defeated, but they do suggest that some kind of budget deal can be reached later in the year to add additional funds to both sides of the budget.

It is not known when or whether the Senate LHHS-ED bill will be considered on the Senate floor as a free standing bill. The House Labor-HHS Appropriations has not yet scheduled a mark up, but staff says they hope to move before the July 4 recess. As of this writing, staff say on record that the Subcommittee will not tap the Pell Grant surplus, meaning that there will inevitably be more cuts in the House bill than in the Senate bill.

Other Legislation

House and Senate progress toward a CTE reauthorization seems to have slowed. Rumors have it that the bill is getting caught up in election year politics, with each side fearful of giving the other a legislative victory. We are continuing to work with Senator Reed’s office on a package of amendments to the CTE bill that would make explicit the relationship between Adult Education and CTE. As we noted, on May 17, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing, “Helping Students Succeed by Strengthening the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.” Of particular interest, given our work with Senator Reed, was the testimony of Dr. Monty Sullivan, President, Louisiana Community and Technical College System. He recommended focusing the Perkins Act special populations provisions on adults with no high school diploma. From his testimony:

“Under the special populations provisions of the Perkins Act, consider focusing on key populations. Community colleges serve a broad cross section of people. Those most in need of training are often adults with no high school diploma and returning military veterans. Consider making specific allowances for these populations.”

ESRA remains stuck over privacy issues.

With the effective conclusion of Presidential primary season we have more or less entered what Washingtonians know as “silly season” when Presidential politics affects virtually all decisions the Congress makes and less and less gets done.

The Congress will recess in July for the Presidential conventions and will then take its traditional August recess, returning to Washington after Labor Day for about a month. Everyone knows that there will be a lame duck session in which final spending decisions will be made.

Government Relations Report: April 2016

Appropriations

The Congress, when it is in session, is continuing to consider FY 2017 Appropriations bills. It appears that the House and Senate may consider the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill in late June.

As you may recall, aggregate domestic discretionary spending current fiscal and year and the next was the subject of a two-year agreement between the Congress and the Administration. We’ve noted that Republicans on the House Budget Committee have decided not to abide by that agreement, while the Senate is adhering to it.

Each of the 12 Appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate ultimately receives an allocation for the fiscal year, the so-called 302(b) allocation named after the relevant section of the Budget Act. That allocation is a cap on what the subcommittee can spend. The House Appropriations Subcommittee has not released its allocations but seems to be telling each subcommittee what its cap is once the bills are actually being considered. The Senate Subcommittee did release its allocation to Labor-HHS: $161.8 billion, about $300 million below the FY 16 level. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the Senior Democrat on the Committee, called the allocation “snug but fair” perhaps suggesting that, if other things fall into place, the Senate Democrats could work with the Republican majority to produce a bi-partisan bill.

In March, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual projections for the Pell Grant program. The revised cost estimates revealed a large projected surplus for the program over the next several fiscal years. In FY 2017 alone, the surplus is now estimated at $8.7 billion. This had led to calls to use the surplus to reinstate year-round Pell Grants. However, Congress could use the surplus to fund other programs, including non-education programs. At least as of now, House Republicans are not planning on using the Pell Grant surplus in their bill. But rumors persist that Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Subcommittee have agreed to a deal to use the surplus to fund some version of year-round Pell, add $1 billon to NIH, and use $500 million to fund programs authorized in the new ESSA legislation.

Meanwhile, the House is waiting until May 16 to consider Appropriations bills and the Senate process may be falling apart because the Senate is bogged down over an issue concerning purchases of Iranian heavy water. For those of us of a certain age this calls to mind Roseanne Rosannadanna’s immortal insight “It’s always something.”

It is now abundantly clear that the Congress will not complete work on all 12 Appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year and that there will need to be a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will run from September until well after the elections. Issues will be resolved in December and will presumably be included in an Omnibus Appropriations bill.

Other Legislation

In a recent briefing, Senate Republican staff reiterated the Senate HELP Committee’s commitment to producing a draft of a CTE reauthorization bill this year. They indicated that hoped to have a discussion draft available for comment in the near future.

House Republican staff said that they are in the early stages of negotiating with Democrats and that “everyone wants to get it done.” They said they wanted to circulate a discussion draft in advance of a House vote in July. They said they were mindful of the need to align CTE with WIOA and ESSA. They foresaw the federal role in CTE as one issue that could divide Republicans and Democrats, and said this issue, and other difficult issues, had not yet been addressed in their meetings with Democrats. They also expressed concern that the Administration was “not in sync” with the Hill with regard to CTE reauthorization.

We are continuing to work with Senate staff on a package of amendments that will strengthen the connections between Adult Education and CTE.