Last night President Obama delivered his final State of the Union (SOTU) address to Congress. This particular speech was a bit different in tone and substance than previous addresses the President has annually delivered since 2009. Rather than outlining a policy agenda for the coming year, President Obama largely took a more introspective approach to his last speech to Congress, highlighting many of his policy achievements that have come to define his time in office while identifying some of the key challenges he argued the country must address once he departs from the White House.
This year’s SOTU address was organized around four big questions that related directly to these challenges. The first two of these related to the President’s economic opportunity agenda which he argued will provide “everyone a fair shot at success” primarily through education and training while the next question related to the nation’s ability to harness and leverage the potential of technology.
The President spoke to these questions directly last night highlighting the importance of supporting graduates in fields like engineering and computer science, while mentioning the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as important achievement of his administration. He also emphasized the importance of students being “job-ready on day one”, as he underlined the progress his administration has made in maximizing the national high school graduation rate.
Significantly, President Obama renewed his call to increase college affordability by making the first two years of a college education tuition-free for eligible students. However, the majority of last night’s SOTU was devoted to other issues that will likely take center stage in the coming presidential election later this year.
350 Businesses, Employer Associations, and Education Groups Call for Perkins Reauthorization
Last Friday a national coalition of stakeholders interested in the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) sent a letter to Congress calling on lawmakers to reauthorize this important law in final session of the 114th Congress.
The letter garnered 350 signatures of support from groups throughout the country ranging from Fortune 500 companies such as IBM and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., to other well-known organizations such as the NAACP and the American Federation of Teachers. NASDCTEc was proud to be counted among this large, highly diverse group of co-signers and supports the four broad recommendations outlined in the letter for the law’s renewal:
- Strengthening CTE program alignment to the needs of the local, regional, and state economy;
- Supporting effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary CTE and employers;
- Increasing student participation in experiential and work-based learning opportunities; and
- Promoting the use of industry-recognized credentials.
As we have previously shared, Congress is in the early stages of consideration of the Perkins Act. The House Education committee recently held a Perkins-related hearing in late 2015— right around the same time the Senate Education committee released a set of bipartisan reauthorization principles that have guided efforts to reauthorize the law in that chamber.
The Congressional education committees have continued to prioritize the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in 2016, but a number of extenuating factors related to that effort keep the chances of further Congressional consideration of Perkins this year relatively high.
Be sure to check back here for more updates and analysis as Perkins reauthorization continues to take shape in the months ahead.
Odds & Ends
- The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) is soliciting input from interested stakeholders for regulations or guidance on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)— recently passed legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Comments are due January 21, 2016 and more information is available here.
- USDE recently sent a Dear Colleague letter to states clarifying the Department’s expectations for states transitioning to ESSA in the coming years. The letter covers a host of issues, including clarification on states’ annual measurable objectives (AMOs) along with other important topics related to ESSA implementation. Read the letter here.
- Tomorrow Acting Secretary John King will begin his “Opportunity Across America” tour, which will start in Texas. The tour will be a launching pad for USDE’s policy agenda in the coming year. Read more about his trip here.
- The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently updated their “occupational outlook handbook” for the coming year. The bureau has also published an article this month examining labor market trends in a number of in-demand industries which can be viewed here.
Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager