This is an article from the January 2018 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.
Federal Funding -- The Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget and appropriations process began with the release of President Trump’s initial budget framework (known as a “skinny budget”) in March, with the full budget request following in May. The Trump budget proposed drastic cuts in federal support for CTE, including a $168 million cut in the Perkins Basic State Grant. While it also recommended an additional $20 million for the Perkins National Programs to establish a new competitive grant, that program would have only supported a small number of CTE programs in STEM fields. Additionally, the budget request for the Department of Labor included a 40 percent reduction to adult, youth and dislocated worker state formula grants under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Both Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta appeared before congressional committees to defend the Administration's budget plan where they received criticism from members of both parties over the proposed cuts.
This spring, lawmakers had an opportunity to sign letters in support of Perkins funding. The effort was again led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), as well as Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Jim Langevin (D-RI). These letters received record support on Capitol Hill—140 members of the House of Representatives and 34 Senators championed federal funding for CTE in FY 2018. Later in the year, the Appropriations Committees in both chambers approved funding bills that maintained the Perkins Basic State Grant at $1.118 billion. However, Congress was unable to complete its appropriations work by the end of the fiscal year in September, which necessitated a stopgap continuing resolution (CR) to provide temporary funding for the federal government through December. This CR included an across-the-board cut to keep overall spending within the required budget caps for the year. Because of the way Perkins funds are budgeted and dispersed, the cut impacted Perkins state grant advance funding that was disbursed on October 1. The cut could be restored (and has routinely been in years past) if Congress approves a full-year funding bill. However, congressional leaders and the Trump Administration opted to continue to punt on important funding decisions until at least January 19, leaving the cuts in place for the foreseeable future.
Perkins Reauthorization -- The 115th Congress brought with it a continued focus on Perkins reauthorization, as the House Education and the Workforce Committee picked up where it left off in 2016 with a hearing on Perkins in February. ACTE Administration Division V.P. Janet Goble was invited to testify before the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee. Later in the spring, members of the committee reintroduced an updated version of the House Perkins reauthorization bill, this year identified as H.R. 2353. The bill is very similar to the measure that passed the House in 2016, but made some tweaks to language around the state and secretarial roles, and made slight improvements to the application of the “CTE Concentrator” definition, the largest outstanding concern in the bill. H.R. 2353 was marked up by the committee on May 17, and then passed unanimously by the full House in June.
The bill now awaits Senate action, which has been stalled for the last year due to disagreements over the issue of “secretarial authority” – how much authority the U.S. Department of Education should have over state CTE plans, performance and programs.
Looking Ahead to 2018 -- The second year of the Trump Administration is shaping up to be just as contentious as the first. Though the president and congressional Republicans celebrated the end of 2017 with the passage of a tax bill, the year was largely defined by legislative inaction. With a deeply partisan Congress and a volatile White House buffeted by a steady stream of controversies, any effort to make progress on major policy issues, including infrastructure spending, immigration and health care reform, will likely be an uphill struggle in 2018. Additionally, the mid-term elections in November will ensure that the latter part of the year is dominated by campaign politics. Despite the strong potential for dysfunction in Washington, there are a number of outstanding education and workforce issues on the 2018 policy agenda.
Since Congress failed to pass a full-year appropriations bill last year, action will be needed on an FY 2018 funding bill in the coming days. This effort will be further complicated by the start of the FY 2019 budget cycle, which will begin in earnest with the release of the Administration’s budget request in February. Expect that President Trump will again seek deep cuts to domestic program, including education and workforce training. However, it seems increasingly likely that a multi-year budget deal that includes an increase in the funding caps for both defense and non-defense funding can gain bipartisan support in Congress. It’s a critical time to advocate for a strong federal investment in CTE. Help us make 2018 matter by joining us in Washington on March 5-7, for ACTE’s National Policy Seminar!