Legislative Activity

House Approves Reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act

The House voted on September 13 in a 405-5 vote to approve H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. Introduced by Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA), the legislation reauthorizes and reforms the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act to prepare more Americans to enter the workforce with the skills they need to compete for high-skilled, in-demand jobs. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 37 to 0 in July.

The bipartisan bill received support from over 200 groups and effectively modernizes the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act, which has funded CTE programs since being passed in 1984. It requires the Department of Education to cede control over how states measure success in their programs. It also gives middle schools access to funds, provides opportunities for dual enrollment in secondary and post-secondary programs, increases use of technology, encourages collaboration between training programs and area employers, and emphasizes employment opportunities for disenfranchised students. The bill requires a gradual increase in funding to $1.23 billion in FY 2022, and will cost $7.1 billion between FY2017 and FY 2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate has not introduced a version of this bill, but there are bipartisan discussions about legislation according to staff from the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). Senators Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Bob Casey (D-PA) have been working on the legislation since the beginning of this year, and are encouraged by the quick action on the House bill. If a bill is introduced and approved by the HELP Committee, it is not expected to meet much opposition on the Senate floor. However, limited time remaining in this legislative session and the Senate eager to leave at the end of this week increases the likelihood the bill will have to be taken up again next Congress. A detailed summary of the legislation can be found here.

Representative Virginia Foxx Eyeing Committee Chair

Following Representative John Kline’s (R-MN) retirement, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has said she hopes to be the next chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. In an interview this week, she listed as a top priority updating the Higher Education Act and would hope to seek much greater transparency from colleges on metrics including graduation rates of Pell grant recipients. She has been a vocal critic of the Obama Administration’s crackdown on for-profit colleges and says that she does not believe the Department of Education should exist, but is a “realist” on the issue. She also criticized Hillary Clinton’s plan for free tuition at public colleges saying that there is “no such thing as free tuition- somebody’s paying for that.”

New Democrat Coalition Rolls Out Higher Education Agenda

A group of moderate House Democrats calling themselves New Democrat Coalition have released their priorities to be included in a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Among the priorities are increasing Pell Grants, promoting dual enrollment programs, and supporting competency-based education (CBE). The group also calls for refinancing federal student loans and programs to increase state spending on college, but does not endorse the Clinton platform of free tuition. Read the full agenda here.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, September 21 at 10:00 AM the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education will hold a hearing on “Supplanting the Law and Local Education Authority Through Regulatory Fiat.”

Regulatory Update

37 States Now Offer Free Community College

The College Promise Campaign announced September 9 that 150 free college programs exist in 37 states, triple the number of last year. The campaign was started last year as part of the Obama Administration’s effort to promote state and local efforts to eliminate tuition at community colleges, after the same proposals died in Congress.

Department of Education Releases Updated College Scorecard

The Department of Education released new data as part of its “data refresh” on the College Scorecard on September 14. The online tool was first released last year and contains more than 1,700 data points for 7,000 institutions of higher education. In a blog post this week, Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell says 1.5 million people have made use of the Scorecard.