Government Relations: Strengthening NCDA’s Position in DC
By E. Niel Carey and Matt Kent
LobbyIt.com and NCDA
NCDA’s diverse membership provides services across the life span to students, young adults, military veterans, and pre-retirees. Five major areas of federal legislation and policy provide the legal basis and budget support for these services: career/technical, elementary/secondary and higher education; veterans’ support, and workforce development. The NCDA Board has given the Government Relations (GR) Committee the responsibility for monitoring and informing the Board and NCDA members of the status of these areas while encouraging grassroots action and advocacy for them. Fortunately the GR Committee has been able to enlist LobbyIt.com to provide professional advice and support for this work.
LobbyIt.com is a unique DC-based lobbying firm, with its office just blocks from Capitol Hill, that offers small organizations a voice on Capitol Hill at a reasonable cost. The LobbyIt.com team helps associations and businesses achieve legislative or regulatory goals while growing a positive reputation in the minds of Congressional policymakers. LobbyIt.com enables its clients to tell their unique stories to key decision makers. Fortunately the GR Committee is composed of professionally active and competent members, including an enthusiastic liaison with the NCDA Board (Pat Schwallie-Giddis), and actively involved Past-President Rich Feller, and, of course, President Lisa Severy and President-Elect Mark Danaher. The working relationship between NCDA and LobbyIt.com will expand NCDA’s contacts at the federal level in DC. The LobbyIt.com staff supplies advice, tools and connections to help NCDA utilize its current strengts to support positive change for career professionals, their clients and the public-at-large.
A “hands-on” grassroots advocacy strategy is essential if NCDA is to successfully get the attention of lawmakers, inform them of the services NCDA members provide, and seek their support for legislation and finances to continue that service. Since October of last year the LobbyIt.com team has leveraged its expertise and Capitol Hill location as it enhances that strategy to promote NCDA to federal legislators and agencies.
Progress and Initiatives
The GR Committee and LobbyIt.com team has made considerable progress in establishing contacts with staff and members of Congress and key Congressional committees as well as leaders of federal departments, including the Departments of Education and of Labor. Currently, the GR Committee’s focus has been to strengthen language and policies for education and career planning and counseling in the elementary and secondary legislation and to encourage access to NCDA resources and services to increase support for military veterans. The pending reauthorization of career/technical and higher education and workforce development legislation will increasingly need attention and action, while support for funding necessary for the legislation’s implementation will be critical. Also, long-term unemployment is an over-riding issue of national concern and is directly related to NCDA’s mission of social justice.
Steps to strengthen the provisions for education and career planning and counseling in the elementary and secondary education area have focused on communicating and meeting with staff and members of key Congressional committees, in addition to Department of Education leaders. The GR committee developed a rationale with specific recommendations for strengthening the House bill, H.R. 5 Student Success Act and the Senate bill, S. 1094, Strengthening America’s School’s Act of 2013. GR Committee members and NCDA leaders wrote to House and Senate members including Congressman Langevin and Senators Alexander (TN), Bennet (CO) Harkin (IA), Mikulski (MD), and Murphy (CT) asking for their support of NCDA’s recommendations. LobbyIt.com staff then facilitated meetings with the staff of several of these members. Following then-NCDA-President Rich Feller’s letter to Secretary of Education Duncan, his office scheduled a meeting with Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Delisle and a follow-up meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary Jonathan Brice. The meetings provided an opportunity to inform these leaders of NCDA’s programs and resources and the need to support them with legislative language and budget appropriations.
GR committee action to provide needed career services to veterans focused on a meeting with key Department of Labor (DOL) staff who provides services to veterans. The meeting was facilitated by Pam Frugoli and led by Charles Lehman, NCDA Veterans Committee co-chair and GR Committee member. Committee members Rebecca Dedmond (CDF Council Adviser) and Mike Marlowe (Automation Federation Executive Director) participated in the meeting which described NCDA resources which could provide assistance to veterans including the recently published NCDA monograph, Career Development for Transitioning Veterans and the Career Development Facilitator (CDF) training. Francina Carter, Executive Director of the National Institute for Corrections (NIC), commented on the effective use of CDF training in her organization.
While it is not clear when the elementary and secondary legislation will come to the House and Senate for a vote, career and technical (Perkins) education, higher education and workforce development legislation (WIA) may be acted at an earlier time. Since the Perkins and the workforce legislation contain specific and positive provisions for career development planning and counseling, the GR committee will be actively supporting their enactment and needed appropriations to support implementation. Funding will be critical, because despite the increasing need for career resources and services, the recent sequester and similar budget limitations have often limited these services when they were most needed. For example, GR Committee member Bridget Brown recently commented that since 2009 workforce development funding has been reduced by 30 percent, while the need for these programs has increased by approximately 200 percent.
As part of LobbyIt.com’s effort to increase NCDA’s presence on Capitol Hill, the team has begun coordinating with the appropriate offices and members of the career and technical education community. In November 2013, LobbyIt.com attended a hearing at the House Education & Workforce Committee, “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: Improving the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.” Communications with Norm Gysbers, Guidance Division Legislative Chair of ACTE and staff of the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education have been very helpful. The NCDA government relations team recently held a meeting, initiated by LobbyIt.com staff, with staff from the office of Senator Kaine (VA) on the newly created Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus. This contact will provide the opportunity to consult on CTE legislation and interact with caucus members who support CTE policy initiatives.
The long-term unemployment problem is a foremost policy concern for NCDA. NCDA offers a number of programs and initiatives that can serve as helpful resources for legislators and policy staff. In the coming months, the NCDA government relations team will expand NCDA’s footprint by offering policy solutions to address long term unemployment. To begin this process, LobbyIt.com staff has arranged a meeting with policy staff at the office of Sen. Patty Murray’s (WA). Senator Murray sponsors the Workforce Investment Act reauthorization and her office maintains an active interest in career education programs aimed at addressing unemployment.
The NCDA GR Committee and LobbyIt.com team, with the strong and positive support of the NCDA Board and staff and the increasing involvement of NCDA members and state divisions, is confident of its ability to strengthen NCDA’s visibility and influence at the federal level in Washington, DC.
E. Niel Carey, serves as the chair the NCDA Government Relations Committee, He is the NCDA Executive Director Emeritus, having served as the first executive director of NCDA from 1984 to 1994, and, prior to that, he was the Coordinator of Career Education for Maryland. MD. He can reached at Enielcarey@aol.com.
Matt Kent, Legislative staff, LobbyIt.com. Matt Kent has extensive experience in DC, including positions in the offices of Senator Charles Schumer (NY) and Representative Delaney (MD), and with the House Committee on Homeland Security. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.