Legislative Update: Bills Reintroduced in Congress and Funding Levels to Reopen Schools


Legislative Update: Bills Reintroduced in Congress and Funding Levels to Reopen Schools

This week, a bill that supports Pell Grant eligibility for high-quality short-term programs was reintroduced in the House and Senate. Read below to learn about this legislation, and why it is more important now than ever, as well as information on state allocations for K-12 school funding, the reintroduction of a bill that would advance postsecondary data and a new apprenticeship grant program.  
Congress Reintroduces the JOBS Act 
On Thursday Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Co-Chairs of the Senate Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, as well as Representatives Andy Levin (D-MI) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) reintroduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act in the Senate and House. This bill would expand Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality short-term programs that lead to high skill, high wage or in-demand jobs. Advance CTE joined ten other national organizations in sending a letter to Congressional leadership in support of the JOBS Act. This is also one of Advance CTE’s priorities for HEA reauthorization. 
This legislation would amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to: 

  • Expand Pell Grant eligibility to include high-quality short-term programs that result in industry-based credentials and a job in high-wage, high-skill careers; 
  • Ensure quality of these postsecondary credentials through a number of measures, including alignment with the program of study definition in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V); 
  • Define an eligible job training program as one offered at an institution of higher education and provides at least 150 clock hours of instruction over a period of eight weeks, training that meets the needs of local or regional workforce partners and institutional credit articulation that can be built upon to further education and careers; and
  • Create an inter-agency data sharing agreement between the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor to share Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) performance outcomes data. 

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has put millions of individuals out of work, and disproportionately impacted workers of color, women and those without a college degree. Many of these workers want or need to train for a different career. Making Pell Grants available for short-term programs would allow these individuals to receive the financial support needed to achieve the upskilling or reskilling necessary for their career aspirations. The pandemic has meant structural changes to our economy happened almost overnight. We need a nimble, responsive education system that can respond to structural shifts in the labor market so that people, businesses and economies are more responsive and resilient.  
You can find a summary of the JOBS Act here and the full bill text here
ED Announces State Funding Allocations to Reopen Schools
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the amount of funding that each state, DC and Puerto Rico would receive through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding authorized in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act that was signed into law last week. ED will begin to make this funding available to state eligible agencies (SEAs) as soon as this month. The ESSER funds, totaling approximately $122 billion, can be used to safely reopen K-12 schools and address the learning loss and disruptions to learning and teaching due to  the pandemic. ED Secretary Miguel Cardona has emphasized the need to ensure that those students who have been most impacted by pandemic disruptions are able to receive the resources and supports needed to recover. 
Additional information on the ARP ESSER Fund can be found here
Congress Reintroduces College Transparency Act
This week Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Mikie Sherill (D-NJ), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Bryan Steil (R-WI), along with Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) reintroduced the College Transparency Act in the House and Senate. This legislation would create a student-level data network within the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and promote transparency and accuracy in postsecondary student data. The privacy-protected postsecondary data system would be disaggregated and report out student incomes such as completion and post-college success. NCES would also develop post-college outcomes reports in a user-friendly website format so that learners and their families can make informed decisions.  
Advance CTE supports this legislation, and its goals are aligned with Advance CTE’s priorities for HEA reauthorization. 
DOL Announces Grant for States to Expand and Diversify Registered Apprenticeship Programs
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced approximately $87.5 million for grants to expand Registered Apprenticeships. These State Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity and Innovation (SAEEI) Grants will be awarded to states in amounts running from $2 million to $10 million, based on the needs of that state. Of the total grant funding, up to $40 million will be awarded to states that have diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and plan to expand this work.  
The SAEEI grant program aims to achieve the following goals: 

  • Provide states with the flexibility to meet industry needs and demands; 
  • Support the development, modernization and diversification of Registered Apprenticeships; 
  • Improve workforce system integration; 
  • Increase the number of apprentices, including underrepresented populations; and
  • Promote innovation in development and recruitment strategies. 

This grant program builds on President Joe Biden’s previous Executive Order on strengthening registered apprenticeships. You can learn about how to apply for this grant here
Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy