Public Policy Update: Status of Career & Technical Education and Appropriation Bills

Funding for various STEM Education programs, NSF, and NASA likely to remain flat or see slight increases from action within the House and Senate, despite efforts by the Administration to eliminate funding forkey line items within these areas. Bi-partisan support resulted in the passage of an updated Career and Technical Education bill, which as signed into law last month.
Capital Hill SWE’s Advocacy Contributes to Increase in STEM Education Funding

After the release of the proposed FY19 Federal budget by the current Administration, SWE has been tracking various issues relevant to women in engineering. Specifically, we have watched the ultimately successful bi-partisan effort to pass an updated Career and Technical Education bill (which was signed into law on 7/31/2018) and the various mark-ups that the House and Senate have made on Appropriations funding for FY19 (a process that defines how federal funding is spent during the next federal fiscal year). Please see the two sections below for an update!

Update: Career and Technical Education (CTE) Bill

The Perkins CTE bill has been signed into law! Last month, the Senate committee that handles education (the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions or HELP Committee) held a hearing to review and advance their version of a reauthorization for the Carl. D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The bill, S. 3217– Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21stCentury Act—was introduced by committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and passed out of his committee by unanimous and bipartisan voice on June 26, 2018. The Perkins law, last reauthorized in 2006, had high profile support from several Fortune 500 business leaders and White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, the latter of who attended the hearing.

The bill was pulled together by staffers from the offices of Senator Alexander, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)—the ranking democrat on the committee, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). It was also supported by the Senate CTE Caucus, chaired by Rob Portman (R-OH). The bill provides $1.2 billion annually for state and local career and technical education programs for secondary and postsecondary students. Funds can be used to support programs and activities that “increase access, student engagement, and success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields (including computer science and architecture) for students who are members of groups underrepresented in such subject fields.”

The bill did have its challenges in getting to this point, as its counterpart from the House was passed by near unanimous fashion last summer. However, advocates had issues with the House version centered upon concerns regarding alignment with civil rights protections in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and workforce definitions in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Many of these concerns have been alleviated with the Senate bill. For example, to receive CTE funding, states must submit plans to ED that summarize goals and targets for student outcomes that adhere to minimum requirements and make meaningful progress for subgroups of students and special populations such as English learners and youth in foster care. If goals and targets are not included, the plan may be rejected by ED or funds may be withheld until state-determined and department approved targets are met. However, civil rights groups conceded that ED cannot negotiate with states on those targets; rather they must be approved or disapproved.

With the strong bipartisan support of this bill, passage of the bill in both the House and Senate occurred on July 25, 2018. The legislation was signed into law by President Trump on July 31, 2018.

Update on Appropriations – Funding for the FY19 Federal Budget

Recently, both the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee have approved a spending plan for FY 2019 for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. The House LHHS bill was advanced after a 13-hour markup that featured heated and passionate discussion of the status and treatment of migrant children and families and women’s reproductive issues, among others. The bill largely ignores President Donald Trump’s spending cuts for the agency, increasing spending at the Department of Education by $43 million for a total of $71 billion. The Senate Appropriations Committee also included investments for teacher professional development and afterschool, which would be funded at the same levels as FY 2018. However, while the House bill had less money to spend, the Senate had a higher spending level to deal with and therefore some programs—like investments in STEM education—that were slated for cuts by the Administration instead saw increased funds at the markup. For example, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Title IV-A funding for well-rounded education programs that includes STEM) program received increases in both the House and Senate bills, although the Senate increase was greater.

Earlier in the year, both the House and Senate approved the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill which saw increases for programs like the NASA Office of Education, which received a 10% increase in funding from FY18 in the Senate bill. The House CJS proposal was more of a mixed bag, as it saw an increase of $408 million from the prior year for National Science Foundation (NSF) funding up to $8.2 billion. Of that amount, $902 million would be invested in the programs of the Education and Human Resources Directorate. The plan also proposes NASA funding at $21.5 billion, which is $810 million above the FY 2018 level.

Now that both the House and Senate spending committees have approved their respective Labor, Health and Human Services and Education spending proposals and their respective Commerce, Justice and Science spending proposals for FY 2019, but it is unclear whether they will receive time to be debated on the floor of either chamber by itself or whether they will be included as part of larger spending packages. Leadership is still considering combining the LHHS measure with the defense spending package, and the Senate has to manage a calendar that will include the consideration of a Supreme Court nominee. As August draws nearer, the fate of these bills and the other spending plans will become clearer, but most acknowledge that at some point a continuing resolution will likely become necessary to fund the government beyond September 30thand through the November elections.