Trump administration backs Senate career education bill


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With help from Kimberly Hefling, Mel Leonor and Benjamin Wermund

WHITE HOUSE BACKS SENATE CAREER EDUCATION BILL: The Trump administration is throwing its support behind bipartisan legislation to overhaul career and technical education that’s up for a vote before a Senate committee today. The measure, which was unveiled Sunday, would update the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act for the first time in more than a decade.

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— “This is a significant improvement to current law and reflects the President’s priorities,” a White House official said in an email to Morning Education. “Passing this legislation has been a priority for the White House, and we look forward to the Senate voting this legislation out of Committee today.”

— Flashback: White House adviser Ivanka Trump has met with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill in recent months to urge Congress to act on a career education bill, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has also prodded lawmakers to take up the issue.

— The House last year passed its own bill, H.R. 2353 (115), on a voice vote, to overhaul the law. But it’s lingered in the Senate, where Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has long pushed to further curtail the Education secretary’s authority under the law. Alexander had asked Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to negotiate an agreement, and this legislation is the product. Here’s a rundown of what’s in it:

No more negotiations: The Senate bill, like the version that passed the House, would eliminate a negotiation process between states, which are crafting goals for their career and technical education programs, and the Education secretary, who approves those plans. Instead, states set their goals and the secretary would approve them, assuming they meet requirements spelled out in the bill.

States would have to build their plans around specific “core indicators,” such as high school graduation rates and the percentage of CTE students who enroll in post-secondary programs. However, they would also be required to make “meaningful progress toward improving the performance of all career and technical education students,” which could give the Education secretary some room for interpretation.

States would also have to track performance of students by subgroups, such as race, gender, economic background, students with disabilities, and English language learners — a new requirement under the Senate proposal.

States, meanwhile, would have to meet their goals on a tighter timeline. The bill would give states two years to meet their goals or face a possible loss of federal funding. Under current law, they have three years. The House version scrapped that requirement all together.

In a letter to Alexander and Murray, Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director for AASA, The School Superintendents Association, asked that the HELP Committee delay the vote, citing “deep concerns” with the Senate version.

When comparing the Senate bill to the House bill, “we find the Senate bill contains prescriptive accountability that walks back the flexibility granted in ESSA. Specifically, the threat of losing district resources for failure to meet achievement targets and the requirement that districts demonstrate meaningful progress in meeting performance measures are policies we are surprised to see maintained in this reauthorization. The inclusion of these policies is made even more surprising given that districts have less time — two years instead of three years — to demonstrate they are reaching state performance targets before a state can sanction them,” the letter said.

But the bill drew praise from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which said it would “align career and technical education programs to the needs of regional, state, and local labor markets; support effective collaboration between employers and secondary and postsecondary institutions; increase student participation in work-based learning; and foster industry-recognized and postsecondary credentials.” The chamber also cheered the bill because it would “improve accountability and data transparency to ensure that CTE programs are adequately preparing students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

GOOD TUESDAY MORNING AND WELCOME TO MORNING EDUCATION. Drop me a line with your tips and feedback: mstratford@politico.com or @mstratford. Share event listings: educalendar@politicopro.com. And follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.

SENATE OPENING ACT ON EDUCATION FUNDING — AS HOUSE COMMITTEE AGAIN DELAYS ACTION: Senate appropriators today will kick off their consideration of an education funding bill for fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1. The subcommittee markup of the Labor-HHS-Education measure starts at 11 a.m. in 138 Dirksen. Listen live here.

— Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee has again delayed a markup of its education spending bill. The markup, which had been rescheduled for today, is now slated to be held sometime after the upcoming July Fourth recess, a committee aide told POLITICO’s Sarah Ferris. Read more from Sarah and Kaitlyn Burton.

— The House bill, which was approved by a subcommittee earlier this month, would provide a $43 million boost for the Education Department, funding it at $71 billion. House appropriators proposed increases to a slew of programs the Trump administration’s budget called for cutting or eliminating. And the bill mostly does not include the expansions of school choice that DeVos has advocated.

— The House Appropriations Committee on Monday also released its report accompanying the bill. The report language contains a slew of education-related items worth watching:

— Financial aid: House appropriators write that they want the Education Department to “take further steps to promote year-round Pell,” which Congress restored in a 2017 spending bill that President Donald Trump signed into law. They also want the department to translate the Free Application for Federal Student Aid into “additional foreign languages.”

— Foreign funding at colleges and universities: Appropriators are “concerned by the potential lack of transparency of certain foreign source organizations on institutions of higher education,” particularly funding from countries that don’t respect “free expression and openness.” The report “encourages” DeVos to require colleges that receive federal funding to disclose to the department “any contractual agreements with foreign source organizations that do not respect the principles of free expression and openness.” The department should make that information public, they said.

— Expulsions and suspensions: The committee is “concerned about reports of expulsions and suspensions occurring in preschool settings and K–12 classrooms.” The report directs the department’s civil rights office to include in next year’s budget justification “information on expulsions and suspensions in preschool and elementary and secondary school settings, disaggregated to the extent possible by race/ethnicity, sex, disability status, and English Learner status” as well as “specific recommendations on evidence-based interventions” to reduce the rates of expulsions and suspensions. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) earlier this month praised the inclusion of that language in the report.

— Education Department inspector general: House appropriators also suggested they’re concerned with requests that the Education Department is making of the inspector general. They urged the Office of Inspector General “to ensure its focus remains on the primary missions of the Office.” And the committee report “cautions the [inspector general], when receiving requests from the Department for investigations, to consider the most effective and best use of its resources.”

TRUMP SCHOOL SAFETY COMMISSION HOLDS LISTENING SESSION TODAY: The Trump administration’s school safety commission will hold its second public listening session today in Lexington, Ky. Representatives of the commission will hear from state and local government agencies as well as the public. The meeting begins at 1 p.m. Watch live here.

SENATE CONFIRMS FRANK BROGAN TO LEAD K-12 EDUCATION: The Senate on Monday evening confirmed via voice vote Frank Brogan as assistant secretary of education for elementary and secondary education. Brogan is the former chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and previously led Florida’s state higher education system. He also served as lieutenant governor of Florida under former Gov. Jeb Bush, who praised his confirmation on Twitter.

DeVos said in a statement that she was "delighted" Brogan was confirmed. “Frank has spent much of his career tirelessly working on behalf of America’s students,” she said. “As a former public school teacher and administrator, I know he will be vital to our work here at the Department."

— Brogan has already been working at the department, where he started last fall as a principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. He has also been serving as the acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education since earlier this year.

— Next up: The Senate on Monday also reached an agreement to debate and vote on the nomination of James Blew to be assistant secretary of education for planning, evaluation and policy development. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won unanimous consent to set five hours of debate on Blew’s nomination at a time that will be “determined by the majority leader in consultation with the Democratic leader.”

— Happening today: The Senate HELP Committee will vote on the nomination of Scott Stump to be assistant secretary of education for career, technical and adult education.

TEACHERS UNION PLANS PROTEST IN TEXAS OVER SEPARATED CHILDREN: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is planning to join teachers and activists at a rally in El Paso, Texas, today to protest the separation of families who cross the border illegally. The event will be at the U.S. District Courthouse, where immigration proceedings have taken place. Weingarten and others will then head to a tent shelter in Tornillo, Texas, to deliver supplies for children held there. The shelter is housing at least 23 children who were separated from their parents, as of a count released Monday. More from the AP.

REPORT ROLL CALL

— The CBO on Monday released a new report on the “Distribution of Federal Support for Students Pursuing Higher Education in 2016.”

— A new study out of New York University found that teachers believe the parents of immigrant or minority students are less involved in their children’s education — regardless of how involved they actually are.

— Third Way’s May Amoyaw and David Brown are out with a report, “Apprenticeship America: An Idea to Reinvent Postsecondary Skills for the Digital Age.”

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Matthew Soldner has been appointed as commissioner of the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences Director Mark Schneider announced on Monday. Soldner most recently was a principal researcher at the American Institutes for Research and previously served as a senior technical advisor at the National Center for Education Statistics.

SYLLABUS

— Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s schools are still inadequately funded but gave state lawmakers another year to satisfy the court’s demands: POLITICO Pro.

— Pennsylvania OKs new college saving grants for newborns: The Associated Press.

— Educators turn to programs for top students to narrow the “excellence gap”: The New York Times.

— First space, then auto — now Elon Musk quietly tinkers with education: Ars Technica

Follow the Pro Education team: @caitlinzemma (cemma@politico.com), @khefling (khefling@politico.com), @mstratford (mstratford@politico.com), @BenjaminEW (bwermund@politico.com), @MelLeonor_ (mleonor@politico.com) and @JaneNorman (jnorman@politico.com).

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this newsletter included a statement from AASA, The School Superintendents Association, that the group retracted.

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