House Education & Workforce Committee
Foxx Statement: Floor Debate on the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act
When many Americans think of higher education, they think of a traditional college or university on a sprawling green campus. They think of students leaving college and universities with their degree in-hand, ready for a career and set for life.
While many Americans choose this path, there is a misconception that this is the only pathway to success. For many hardworking Americans, the pathway to success does not require a baccalaureate degree.
In fact, skills-focused education has helped countless Americans gain the specialized knowledge and skills they need to enter the workforce and build fulfilling lives.
So many men and women have found success through workforce development programs, however, we have come to a critical juncture with the future of these programs.
And our educational institutions have not caught up. As a result, American businesses large and small are having a hard time finding enough workers with the skills and talent they need.
The bipartisan Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act — which unanimously passed the House Committee on Education and the Workforce — provides critical reforms to our nation’s education programs and prepares students to compete in our competitive, global economy.
Mister Speaker, all education is truly career education, and we must give our students every opportunity to attain the skills they need to succeed. When students, parents, employers—and yes, lawmakers—understand that, we’ll be on the right track to closing the skills gap that exists in our country.
I want to thank my colleagues, especially Representative Thompson for his leadership on this issue. As the Co-Chairman of the CTE Caucus, he has spent years championing this issue. I also want to thank Ranking Member Scott and Representative Krishnamoorthi, as well as all committee members for the bipartisan work that’s reflected in this bill.
Expanding opportunity through CTE is vital to closing the nation’s skills gap, ending the cycle of poverty, and creating a better tomorrow for hardworking Americans.
# # #
I’d like to thank our panel of witnesses and my colleagues for joining today’s very serious discussion on the safety and security of the Job Corps program. I also want to note my disappointment that the Office of Job Corps has decided not to testify today. Their attendance would have provided the committee with important information about the program and the measures taken by the Office of Job Corps to address these safety concerns.
The Job Corps program is intended to help some of our nation’s most disadvantaged youth receive high quality education, workforce development, and support services in order to become more employable, responsible, and productive citizens. The very purpose of the program is to serve those who are hard to serve and the safety of students and instructors within the Job Corps program should be priority one. Unfortunately that is not the case, and that is what brings us to today’s hearing.
The work of this committee, as well as other government bodies such as the Inspector General, have found a systemic and alarming lack of oversight in the safety and security of the Jobs Corps program, and we have reached a critical point where lives are in real danger if congress does not act.
In fact, over 30 different government reports and audits have raised concerns over the safety and security of the Jobs Corps program. A 2009 IG report even noted that “40 percent of 235 significant incidents occurring at [six] centers during our audit period were not reported.”
Even in 2015, an IG report specifically stated, “Job Corps needs to improve enforcement and oversight of student disciplinary policies to better protect students and staff.”
What is truly shocking and sad is that nine student deaths and a number other violent or health related incidents have occurred just since 2015 as a result of lapses in safety and security.
These reports are extremely troubling, and no program sponsored by the federal government should have such tragedies associated with it.
This committee has spent almost two years investigating and asking about these repeated lapses in safety and security within the Job Corps program, and we are still without answers.
What we do know is that the deficiencies in proper security measures are not isolated, or associated with one specific Job Corps center. This is a systemic problem throughout the Job Corps program.
The security failures within Job Corps are a failure in basic good governance, and jeopardize the safety of American citizens.
Today we will hear testimony from witnesses who have made findings highlighting the troubling lack of safety and oversight in Job Corps centers.
We will hear testimony of failures in reporting violent incidents, security lapses, and a lack of cooperation with law enforcement officials.
While these facts may be troubling, it is vital that we as a committee understand just where the lack of oversight has occurred in order for us to make proper recommendations to keep the Job Corps program safe for the future.
The Jobs Corps program was designed to help disadvantaged young people gain the skills they need to achieve a good education; find a good-paying job; and have a successful life.
Putting the students and instructors of the Job Corps program in harm’s way does a disservice to its participants and the American taxpayers.
# # #
ICYMI: Apprenticeships, Technical Education Offer a Path to a Successful Workforce – ‘College-only’ Is a Myth
Apprenticeships, Technical Education Offer a Path to a Successful Workforce – ‘College-only’ Is a Myth
By Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
In making his impassioned speech on how our county’s economy can grow through tax reform, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Tuesday, “We need to connect people with the skills they need to get good-paying, in-demand jobs.”
Speaker Ryan is absolutely right, and the House is immediately answering the Speaker’s call to action.
There is a myth about success as it relates to education in this country. Too many Americans have come to believe that the pathway to a successful career lies solely on a college campus, and in a baccalaureate degree.
For many Americans this is not the case, and not the best path they can take to find the skills needed to ultimately lead them to the overall goal of an education — a good paying job and a successful life.
An unfortunate truth is that America is still facing a recovering economy, and a widening skills gap that is putting our workforce at a disadvantage to succeed in a 21st century economy. While companies across the country have openings for high paying jobs, and are anxious to hire, many workers lack the skills and adequate education needed to qualify and compete for those jobs.
We must act soon. Already we face a great shortage of workers with the skills to fill the current 6 million vacant jobs, and our economy is currently on track to face a shortage of 11 million workers who have the necessary credentials to satisfy the needs of the country by 2022.
Such a shortage in our workforce does not allow Americans to be on track to compete in a global marketplace. We have arrived at this shortage, in large part, because of the way we think about education and skills-focused education in this country.
The fact is, all workers need skills that lead to a vocation. More than thirty years ago, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act took an important step in recognizing that baccalaureate programs did not necessarily equip people with the skills they needed to join the workforce. The Perkins Act and its resulting investment in skills-focused education has provided countless stories of success for students who have learned skills to find in-demand jobs, at a fraction of the cost of a baccalaureate degree.
These are students who find high-quality education and career development opportunities in their own communities, and are often recruited by companies in their own backyard who are in need of workers ready to play a role in a 21st century workforce.Last week, President Trump took an historic step towards recognizing the power of apprenticeships and skills-focused education in building tomorrow’s economy. The president’s action builds on the work Republicans in Congress have already begun to strengthen our workforce and close the skills gap.
In 2014, the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was enacted into law, and set in motion necessary reforms to improve the dialogue between local leaders and private businesses on how workforce education could better serve employers’ needs in communities across the country.
While WIOA opened the door to new opportunities, there’s still much work to be done. Educational institutions, private companies, and community leaders must play a role in the creation of workforce development programs, including apprenticeships that work best for the needs of their local communities.
Most importantly, all of these conversations can be had without the federal government dictating how these programs should be implemented.
Already, companies such as IBM, Boeing, AT&T, Walmart, and many others are working with their community career programs to educate our future workforce and provide students with the skills they will need to succeed in life.
A “Washington knows best” approach to creating successful skills-focused education programs is not the answer as communities plan and develop career and technical education programs tailored to their local economies.
The best thing the federal government can do is update our career and technical education laws to give community leaders and educators the tools and freedom they need to build programs that will open up more pathways for students and workers.
In doing so, we are also changing the way we think about education and vocations in this country.
This week, Congress will consider the bipartisan Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act to update our skills-focused and credentialing programs to meet the needs of a modern workforce.
Our state and local leaders in the public and private sectors are in the driver’s seat when it comes to workforce development, and Washington can watch and learn as their work closes the skills gap in our country.
All education truly is career education. When students, parents, employers, and government at every level understand that, we’ll be on the right track.
To view this op-ed online with video, click here.
# # #
Guthrie Statement: Hearing on "Helping Americans Get Back to Work: Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.”
Prior to the passage of WIOA, the federal government had over 47 separate but overlapping employment education programs across nine different federal agencies. To make matters worse, most of the programs targeted similar populations and provided similar services. Additionally, the report also found that only five of the programs had been evaluated for effectiveness and their success rate in helping unemployed and underemployed workers find employment.
These programs were textbook cases of how the federal government can create a web of well-intentioned programs that are not serving the needs of the very Americans for whom the services are designed. As a result, Congressional action was needed to fix these programs so American workers could succeed in a recovery economy.
The bipartisan passage of WIOA streamlined the confusing maze of workforce development programs; decreased administrative overhead; required better coordination for adult, unemployed, and youth programs; and increased accountability for the use of taxpayer funds.
I am proud to say that so many members of this committee, including Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, played an instrumental role in creating the final version of WIOA that was signed into law.
Congress answered the call for workforce education and development reforms, but has faced an uphill climb in getting these reforms implemented on the state and local level.
Despite the overwhelming support for the passage of WIOA, it faced significant implementation delays during the Obama Administration.
For example, the Department of Labor missed key deadlines when issuing guidance to state and local leaders. According to the Government Accountability Office, these delays made it difficult to carry out many of WIOA’s strategic priorities.
While we have a new administration, the need for congressional oversight is still essential to ensure a timely and proper implementation of WIOA.
Our conversation today could not be timelier as President Trump announces new measures to strengthen our nation’s workforce education and development programs.
While the president’s executive actions are encouraging, the implementation of WIOA and congressional action to reauthorize federal support for career and technical education can provide a lasting improvement to how our citizens find success through workforce development and education programs.
Our witnesses before us are some of the best stories of WIOA’s success, and I look forward to hearing their stories throughout today’s hearing.
Their testimony will only further emphasize the need for federal entities to implement the reforms put forth in WIOA as Congress intended.
Congress has provided the necessary statutory reforms to our workforce education and development programs, and now more than ever, it is important we deliver on implementation, ensuring that American workers are being given the skills they need to thrive in the Twenty-First Century economy.
# # #
Walberg Statement: Hearing on “Legislative Reforms to the National Labor Relations Act: H.R. 2776, Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act; H.R. 2775, Employee Privacy Protection Act; and, H.R. 2723, Employee Rights Act”
Our first subcommittee hearing of the 115th Congress was focused on the need to restore balance and fairness to federal labor policies. This has long been a priority for House Republicans, and today, we are taking the next step in our efforts.
The National Labor Relations Act was signed into law more than 80 years ago to protect the rights of workers in union elections. Congress understood workers deserve the opportunity to make fully informed decisions on union-related matters, and that employers deserve a level playing field with labor leaders.
The NLRA established important protections. It also created a neutral arbiter — the National Labor Relations Board — to serve as a fair and objective referee over labor disputes.
But that’s certainly not the NLRB we’ve come to know in recent years. Instead, over the last eight years, the board launched an activist agenda aimed at tilting the balance of power toward powerful special interests.
Unfortunately, it came at the expense of the hardworking men and women who keep our economy moving. Decision after decision by the NLRB restricted the rights of workers and employers.
Make no mistake; both Republicans and Democrats respect the right of workers to join a union. But workers also deserve the right to make a free and informed decision in the matter.
That means workers should have the chance to hear from both sides of the debate. And I hope we can all agree workers deserve to make a decision in an environment free of threats, coercion, or intimidation.
However, the NLRB’s actions over the years sent a different message. For example, in 2015, the board implemented a rule designed to rush employees into union elections.
The board dictated that workers should only be afforded as few as 11 days to make a decision on whether or not to join a union. That’s roughly a week and a half to consider all the facts and consequences before casting a vote on a personal issue that directly impacts an employee’s job and paycheck.
Meanwhile, employers were given just seven days to find legal counsel and prepare their entire case before an NLRB hearing officer. That’s nearly impossible for most employers, let alone a small business owner.
With such a short time frame, employers hardly have a chance to communicate with their employees. But limiting debate and stifling employer free speech for the sake of speeding up union elections was precisely what the board had in mind. It’s no surprise that union elections have been organized 38 percent faster since this new rule took effect.
To make matters worse, the rule jeopardized the privacy of workers and their families. The NLRB forced employers to hand over the private information of their employees to union organizers, including home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, work locations, and work schedules.
At the same time, workers and employers have been hit with a micro-union scheme that empowered union leaders to gerrymander the workplace. This new standard has created division in workplaces across the country, buried small businesses in red tape, and undermined job creation.
It’s long past time to put an end to these misguided policies. That’s why I was proud to introduce the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act to restore the rights of workers and employers in union elections.
My colleague Representative Joe Wilson has also introduced the Employee Privacy Protection Act. This important legislation will safeguard the privacy of America’s workers and give them greater control over their personal information.
In addition, Dr. Phil Roe introduced the Employee Rights Act to ensure workers aren’t stuck in unions they no longer support. The bill would modernize the union election process, require periodic union-recertification elections, and give workers more control over how their union dues are spent.
These are all commonsense proposals that will protect the rights of workers and restore balance and fairness to the rules governing union elections.
# # #
Guthrie Statement: Hearing on “Empowering Students and Families to Make Informed Decisions on Higher Education”
Many people in this country grow up dreaming about the college experience — leaving home and starting off on their own in the world — hoping to obtain the education and skills they need to be successful in life. With more than 7,000 postsecondary institutions in the U.S. to choose from, selecting the best school and finding the best way to pay for it can be a daunting task.
In fact, just this morning, some key details of a new report — set to be fully unveiled early next month — were publicly released, and they provide some fresh insights into how prospective students make important decisions that affect their long-term academic and professional futures.
According to the preliminary findings of a national survey conducted by Gallup in partnership with the Strada Education Network, most people rely on a family member or relative when deciding which major or field to choose. And as we all know, this decision, often impacts which college or university a person decides to attend.
Fortunately, there are those who are relying on trusted high school counselors or college advisors. Very few turn to online resources, including websites maintained by schools. But it is also troubling to learn that more than 20 percent of individuals with some college experience never sought the advice of anyone or used any other available resources as they made these important decisions.
Without objection, I would like submit for the record a letter from Strada highlighting some of the key findings of this national survey. Hearing no objections, the letter will be made a part of the record.
In 2008, Congress took steps to improve transparency in higher education. Because of those reforms, colleges and universities are making information about price, financial aid, demographics, and graduation rates more readily available to the public. Many of these initiatives provide helpful resources to students and their families, but clearly there is more work to be done.
First, much of the information currently available is about first-time, full-time students — despite the fact that only 21 percent of undergraduate students are attending postsecondary education full-time and for the first-time. Today’s college students come from a variety of backgrounds that no longer neatly fits into the traditional full-time student schedule, which is why they need information that properly reflects the unique circumstances they face.
Secondly, we want to be sure that institutions are not overburdened with red tape. Collecting this information can be time-consuming. The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, also known as IPEDS, currently requires institutions to complete 12 separate surveys capturing hundreds of pages of data taking nearly one million combined hours each year to complete. The time and money universities and colleges spend on data collection requirements can lead to higher costs that inevitably affect the students who attend.
Third, it’s important that we as policymakers can properly evaluate the success of the federal student aid system and ensure taxpayer dollars are being used responsibly. Unfortunately, in many ways, that’s just not the case today.
\Much of the information surrounding students defaulting on their loans is unknown. We don’t know how much they’ve paid back before defaulting on the loan. We also don’t know the type of repayment plans they are using when they default. We also don’t know how much the various income-driven repayment programs are really costing taxpayers or how many students who receive a Pell grant are actually graduating.
Quite frankly, we don’t really know what’s working and what’s not. As policymakers, we need to be better equipped to conduct proper oversight of how taxpayer dollars are being spent.
Lastly, but most importantly, we must balance the need for transparency and accountability with the need to protect student privacy and maintain a limited federal role. Striking that balance is never easy. However, the need to provide students and policymakers with more information — no matter how valuable that information may be — should never come at the expense of student privacy.
At the end of the day, the college experience should be a joyous occasion for students and their families. That’s why it’s important for the federal student aid system to be efficient and effective. And that’s why it is important to do everything we can to provide better transparency so students are able to make informed decisions.
As we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, empowering students and families and improving accountability will be leading priorities. I’m looking forward to hearing the testimonies of this panel of witness who will have great insight into how we can do just that. Thank you, again, for your attendance.
# # #
Byrne Statement: Hearing on “The Need for More Responsible Regulatory and Enforcement Policies at the EEOC”
Every American deserves an equal chance to earn success. No one should be denied an opportunity because of unlawful discrimination. The vast majority of employers treat their employees equally and foster an environment free of discrimination. But we live in a world where prejudice and bigotry still exist, and bad actors must be held accountable.
That is why there are important protections under federal law to prevent workplace discrimination, including the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Equal Pay Act, among others. Republicans and Democrats agree our nation’s non-discrimination laws must be properly enforced, and the EEOC should play a critical role in doing just that.
We wouldn’t be doing our job here in Congress if we didn’t hold the EEOC accountable when it has fallen short of its important responsibilities. That is why, under the Obama administration, we repeatedly raised concerns over the agency’s misplaced priorities. The EEOC consistently took its eye off the ball and pursued flawed enforcement policies at the expense of workers.
Take for example the agency’s backlog of unsettled charges. At the end of 2016, the EEOC had more than 73,000 unresolved cases. Thousands of individuals were still waiting for answers on the discrimination charges they filed. This is completely unacceptable. These are men and women who turned to the federal government for help and got lost in an inefficient bureaucracy.
The EEOC’s backlog hasn’t always been this high. In fact, the average annual number of unresolved cases was roughly 90 percent higher under the Obama administration than the Bush administration. 90 percent. And that’s not all. The Obama EEOC pursued 50 percent fewer cases on behalf of individual workers.
With this type of track record, one may wonder what exactly the EEOC has been doing all these years. Part of the answer lies in the agency’s misguided focus on fishing expeditions. Instead of using its resources to address actual claims of alleged wrongdoing, the EEOC has been on a nationwide search for “systemic” cases of discrimination that may or may not exist.
The result? A long list of frivolous lawsuits and the needs of many individual workers unmet. One U.S. District Court judge described the agency’s backwards strategy as “sue first, ask questions later.” And unanimous rebukes by the Supreme Court led the Wall Street Journal editorial board to name the EEOC the “government’s most abusive agency.”
However, the EEOC has been busy in more ways than fishing expeditions. The agency has also spent its time and resources concocting overreaching and convoluted regulatory schemes. Most recently, we’ve seen expansive changes to the employer information report, the EEO-1.
Under federal law, employers have long been required to file employment data categorized by race, gender, ethnicity, and job category. This year, employers will fill out a form with 128 data points. But beginning next year, employers — including many small employers — will face a form with a whopping 3,360 data cells. That’s 26 times the amount of information employers currently provide to the federal government. Can you imagine making sense of this massive, confusing reporting regime as a small business owner?
This new mandate is estimated to cost American job creators $1.3 billion and more than 8 million hours of paperwork each year — resources that could go toward raising wages and hiring new workers. And for what? We don’t even know how the EEOC intends to use all of this new data and whether or not it can help combat pay discrimination in the first place. There are also serious privacy concerns since the agency has failed to demonstrate how it plans to safeguard this enormous amount of new information.
What the EEOC should be focused on is improving enforcement of existing worker protections. And that’s exactly why we are here today: to hold the agency accountable and demand better. With a new Congress and new administration, we have an opportunity to move the EEOC in a new direction, and that’s precisely what America’s workers need.
Today’s discussion is an important step in our efforts to encourage the EEOC to adopt more responsible regulatory and enforcement policies. It is my hope we can have a thoughtful dialogue on how we can ensure the strong worker protections that exist in the law are properly enforced.
Walberg Statement: Hearing on “Regulatory Barriers Facing Workers and Families Saving for Retirement”
Those policies should include strong protections for workers. I was proud to champion a resolution to close a regulatory loophole that would have resulted in countless individuals losing the retirement protections they have long been afforded under federal law. This loophole was put in place by the Obama administration to allow states to force workers into government-run IRAs.
The answer to our nation’s retirement challenges isn’t more government. Part of the answer is getting the economy to grow faster. The sluggish economic growth, weak job creation, and stagnant wages we’ve seen in recent years certainly haven’t made it easy for people to save for retirement. After all, the most important step toward a strong and secure retirement is a good-paying job.
Working families are also in desperate need of health care relief. With health insurance premiums increasing faster than wages, something has to give. For many individuals, that means saving less for the future. That’s why the committee has advanced free-market health care reforms that lower costs. We’ve also played an important role in delivering regulatory relief to help create jobs and grow the economy.
I say all this because truly tackling the issue of retirement security is going to require a holistic approach. We can start by removing regulatory barriers facing retirement savers.
For years, this committee has led the fight against the flawed fiduciary rule. According to one report, this rule was the most expensive regulatory action of 2016 and will impose more than $46 billion in costs on retirement savers. Let me repeat that. $46 billion. Now, we all agree that investment professionals should act in the best interests of their clients. In fact, this committee advanced bipartisan legislation increasing protections for retirement savers.
However, the last thing working families need is to lose access to their trusted financial advisors. Unfortunately, that may be the case for low- and middle-income families if the flawed fiduciary rule takes effect. Already, we are seeing the types of services those with fewer savings depend on begin to diminish. As this trend continues, many individuals will no longer be able to afford retirement advice. They’ll be left with robo-advisors or forced to fend for themselves.
It should come as no surprise that the robo-advice industry has come out in full force in defense of the fiduciary rule. An executive of one of the industry’s largest firms recently told the press, “An expansion of the fiduciary rule would be nice for our business.” Another robo-adviser said they “are sad that it looks like … the rule might go away.” There was even a national ad campaign urging the Trump administration to keep this flawed rule in place.
We have nothing against robo-advisers. People should have choices and access to retirement advice in all forms. However, many individuals prefer to choose personal financial advice. But as we’ve warned all along, that choice may soon be out of reach for those who can no longer afford it.
We’ve also warned of the impact on small businesses. Many rely on financial advisors as they set up retirement plans for their employees. But as one Indiana small business owner testified before the committee, this rule “puts all of that in jeopardy.”
What we should be doing is making it easier for small businesses to offer retirement plans to their employees. According to a recent survey, 37 percent of small businesses cite “set up expenses” as the key reason for not offering retirement benefits. One way small businesses could provide retirement plans to workers at a more affordable cost is through multiple employer plans, or MEPs.
Unfortunately, these plans are currently restricted by the federal government. With roughly 58 million American small business employees, it’s time to change that. We should empower small businesses to band together through MEPs — an idea that has received bipartisan support over the years.
Additionally, we need to reduce red tape. We can file taxes online and students can receive information about their federal student loans online. Yet the federal government limits the ability of workers and retirees to receive information about their retirement accounts in anything but a hardcopy. Simply allowing employers to provide information about retirement benefits electronically would reduce the cost of administering retirement plans by an estimated 36 percent.
All of the solutions I outlined have one thing in common. They would all empower workers and families to save more for retirement. Many in this room likely have other ideas as well, and that’s exactly why we’re here — to have a thoughtful dialogue on how we can strengthen retirement security for all Americans.
# # #
Thompson Statement: Markup of H.R. 2353, "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act"
As a father, I can say there’s nothing parents want more for their kids than a life that is better than their own. However, only half of all Americans today expect their children to have a brighter future than they did. As co-chair of the Career and Technical Education Caucus, I’m happy to say the bill before us today will help move us in a more positive direction.
The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act aims to help more Americans — particularly younger Americans — obtain the knowledge and skills they need to break the cycle of poverty and achieve a lifetime of success. A big part of that goal is ensuring federal policies accurately reflect the challenges and realities facing today’s students, workers, and employers.
It’s been more than a decade since the federal investment in our nation’s CTE programs has been modernized, and so much about our society has changed since then. A study conducted by the Brookings Institute found that in the next decade, 3 million workers will be needed in the infrastructure industry alone — this includes careers in transportation, housing, and telecommunications. By considering this legislation today and increasing access to high-quality CTE, we come closer to ensuring that these jobs can be filled by a skilled and well-trained American workforce.
Additionally, we want state and local leaders to be able to focus their time and resources on preparing students for successful careers. H.R. 2353 helps with this goal by simplifying the application process for receiving federal funds and providing states and local leaders with the flexibility needed to design CTE programs that best meet the needs of their local communities.
The bill also increases transparency and accountability. We want states and local leaders to be held directly accountable to those in their communities. By empowering parents, students, and key stakeholders to set performance goals and evaluate the effectiveness of the program, we ensure CTE programs deliver results.
By reining in the secretary of education’s authority, limiting federal intervention, and preventing political favoritism, H.R. 2353 also ensures a proper federal role. Perhaps most importantly, this bill makes improvements on alignment with in-demand jobs by supporting innovative learning opportunities and encouraging stronger engagement with employers. The bill promotes work-based learning — a technique that allows potential employers to give students hands-on experience. This is a win-win for both employers and students. Successful CTE programs depend heavily on the input and involvement of local businesses, and those are the kinds of partnerships we want to support.
The substitute amendment I am offering makes a number of changes including delaying the implementation of this act by six months to ensure the enactment doesn’t interfere with the school year. Other changes include clarifying that, in addition to secondary teachers, postsecondary faculty are included as stakeholders when it comes to improving local CTE programs. This amendment also requires an analysis of the extent to which efforts supported by the bill are based on evidence-based research.
In closing, I’d like to thank Representative Krishnamoorthi and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their support and for working together to move this bill forward. I urge all my colleagues to support this important bipartisan legislation and yield back the balance of my time.
# # #
Foxx Statement: Markup of H.R. 2353, "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act"
I’d like to begin by acknowledging that today is the 63rd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision. This historic decision forever changed our nation for the better. It declared that the opportunity of an education is “a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”
Our committee plays an important role in upholding the letter and spirit of that decision and ensuring opportunity is within reach for every American. Today, we will consider positive reforms aimed at extending the promise of a high-quality education to more men and women. Introduced by Representatives Glenn Thompson and Raja Krishnamoorthi, this bipartisan legislation will empower more individuals to find their path to success through career and technical education.
There is a common misconception that the path to success begins on the campus of our nation’s baccalaureate colleges and universities. This simply isn’t true. For many Americans, studying for a bachelor’s degree isn’t the right fit. Career and technical education, or CTE, has helped countless men and women gain the knowledge, skills, and real-world experience they need to succeed in the workforce. These valuable programs — conceived and operated at the state and local level — can pave the way to fulfilling careers in a wide range of fields, including health care, manufacturing, computer science, engineering, and more.
However, it’s been more than a decade since the federal law that supports state and local CTE programs was last updated. As we all know, our nation’s economy has changed quite a bit since then. Workers and employers have endured the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression.
At the same time, educational institutions haven’t caught up with advancements in technology. One result is a skills gap. Many employers can’t find the talent and high-tech skills they’re looking for while many workers struggle to land good-paying jobs. In fact, several members of the committee traveled to California last week to meet with leaders in the technology industry. We heard firsthand about the difficulties employers face in their search for skilled and educated workers.
As our economy continues to recover, one way we can help more Americans get ahead is by strengthening career and technical education. The bill before us today is largely the same as the legislation that passed the House last year with overwhelming bipartisan support. It reflects the same principles for reform that have guided our efforts for more than a year.
First, this legislation will empower state and local leaders to tailor programs to meet the unique needs of students in their communities. By providing more flexibility and simplifying the application process for receiving taxpayer dollars, local leaders will be better equipped to respond to changing education and economic needs.
Second, this bill increases transparency and accountability. By streamlining performance measures and encouraging input from parents, students, and community and business leaders, we can ensure programs are delivering results and taxpayer dollars are well spent.
Third, these reforms support a limited federal role. State and local leaders know better than bureaucrats in Washington how to develop CTE programs for their communities. That’s why this legislation restricts the secretary of education’s authority and limits the federal government’s ability to intervene in state and local decisions.
Finally, H.R. 2353 supports innovative learning opportunities and strong community partnerships. We want CTE students to gain real-world experience that will be valuable once they enter the workforce. By encouraging local employers and education leaders to work together in this effort, we can help more Americans obtain good-paying jobs and succeed in their careers.
I want to thank my colleagues, especially Representative Thompson for his leadership on this issue. As the Co-Chairman of the CTE Caucus, our distinguished colleague has spent years championing this issue. I also want to thank Representative Krishnamoorthi, as well as all committee members for the bipartisan work that’s reflected in this bill.
We don’t always agree on everything. But we can all be proud of our efforts to help address the nation’s skills gap, break the cycle of poverty, and expand opportunity by reforming career and technical education.
# # #
Choice, fairness in workplace flexibility
By Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)
While there are many hot topics currently in the forefront of American politics, one priority from last year’s campaign continues to warrant Congress’ attention: improving flexibility in the workplace. It may not get the same fanfare as other issues that dominate the news cycle, but work-life balance is a real issue affecting millions of hardworking moms and dads.
Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever, especially as it concerns working parents. More than 70 percent of mothers today work outside the home. Fifty years ago, that number was less than 30 percent. As a working mom myself, I understand all too well how challenging it can be to balance career and family. Ask any working parent and they’ll tell you how valuable time flexibility in the workplace can be.
The workforce has changed tremendously, but our laws and policies that govern the workplace haven’t. Congress cannot legislate another hour into the day, but we can update our laws to allow more choice and fairness in how employees use their time.
That’s why I’ve introduced H.R. 1180, the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would provide greater choice and flexibility in the workplace by removing an outdated and unnecessary federal restriction on the use of compensatory time, or “comp time,” in the private sector. Here’s how it works: an hourly-wage employee would be able to voluntarily enter into an agreement with their employer to put all or some of their accrued overtime toward paid time off instead of cash wages. A working dad could use the “time and a half” overtime he has earned to take a paid hour and a half off work.
No employee could ever be forced to take paid time off, just like no business would be forced to offer this benefit. The same worker protections that have been part of labor law for decades would remain, but for some workers and some businesses this can be a valuable option to include in a benefits package.
Think about the parents of young children, those caring for elderly parents, or military families with one of the parents deployed. They need more time to be able to take care of personal responsibilities, and a comp time agreement could provide it.
If you work in the public sector, you’re probably familiar with this comp time system because it is a legal and widely used benefit for government employees.
Some background: Since 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has dictated how the workplace operates, including how wages are paid. That law mandates that all overtime be paid in cash wages.
In 1985, Congress enacted a revision to the FLSA that allows public sector employers to offer comp time for overtime, meaning if you work for the government you are free to enter into a comp time arrangement and use your overtime how you want. Offering this flexible benefit still remains illegal in the private sector.
Why should the rules be different? Why shouldn’t private sector employees have access to the same comp time benefits that government employees enjoy? The Working Families Flexibility Act fixes this disparity by allowing for greater choice and fairness over how workers use their time.
Earlier this year, the committee met to examine some of the challenges facing America’s higher education system. Costs are rising at private and public institutions. Far too many individuals are failing to complete their education in a timely manner. Misguided rules are stifling innovation on campuses and creating new burdens on institutions across the country.
At that same hearing we discussed opportunities to help address these challenges — opportunities like empowering students to make informed decisions; simplifying student aid; and promoting innovation, access, and completion.
Today, we continue our work to strengthen higher education by taking a closer look at another one of the key principles guiding our efforts — providing strong accountability for students and taxpayers.
In higher education, one way we ensure accountability is the accreditation process. Accrediting agencies are voluntary private organizations made up of members from accredited colleges and universities. These agencies work with their member institutions to develop standards and criteria to determine what constitutes a high-quality higher education institution. Then, through a non-governmental system of peer review, the agencies decide if an institution meets those standards.
By giving their stamp of approval, accreditation agencies provide students and parents with an assurance that an institution meets certain standards when it comes to delivering a high-quality education. Families rely on accreditors to hold schools accountable for the education they provide and to ensure those schools are producing results for their students.
Congress also relies on accreditors. Accreditation helps determine which schools are permitted to participate in federal student aid programs. These important programs allow students at eligible schools to receive federal funds, and we need to know those hard-earned taxpayer dollars are only going to institutions that are serving students well.
The accreditation process is critical to providing accountability in the higher education system. However, like many aspects of higher education, accreditation is in need of improvement.
It has never been and should never be the federal government’s role to judge the quality of a school’s education programs. Entrusting independent accrediting agencies with that responsibility protects academic freedom and student choice. However, in recent years, accreditors have been forced to focus on compliance rather than promoting academic integrity, undermining the process and its purpose. It’s time for a better approach.
We need to refocus federal accreditation requirements on academic quality and student learning. We need to ensure federal rules are clear and easy to follow. We need to improve — or do away with — regulations that discourage or prevent innovation in higher education. And we need to make sure the administration — whether Democrat or Republican — does not have the power to recklessly second-guess the tough decisions accreditation agencies make.
These are all things Congress can do to improve the accreditation process, but if we are going to see real change, accreditors have a job to do as well.
It’s not enough to refocus federal rules. Accreditors must also embrace a commitment to high-quality and improved outcomes. Students need an honest and accurate assessment when it comes to the quality of education a school provides. An accreditation agency’s stamp of approval means something to those students, or at least it should mean something.
Accreditors also need to be open to innovation and the opportunities it can create in higher education. If we are going to roll back rigid federal requirements, it’s up to accrediting agencies to take the flexibility we are working to provide and do something meaningful with it.
By working together — Congress and accreditors — we can improve the accreditation system, ensuring a balance between flexibility for institutions and accountability for students and taxpayers.
We are here today to gain a better understanding of the challenges facing the accreditation system, as well as how we can tackle those challenges. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and advancing solutions that will provide greater accountability in higher education and ensure the accreditation process serves the best interests of students, families, and taxpayers.
# # #