Bipartisan bill inspired by American Graduate proposes grants to stations

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Two members of Congress have introduced legislation inspired by CPB’s American Graduate initiative that proposes providing grants to public media stations for content and services promoting workforce development.

The bipartisan Partnerships for American Jobs Act requests establishing a competitive grant program at the Department of Education to promote technical programs that could fill in-demand jobs in communities.

“With a skills gap of over 7 million where employers have job openings but can’t find adequately trained employees to fill them, we must do more to educate and encourage Americans to pursue career pathways that prepare them for high-skill, in-demand jobs in their communities,” said the bill’s summary. “This legislation is one integral solution to achieve this goal.”

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), who took the lead on drafting the legislation, told Current he hopes grantees will produce content that will break down stigmas for students who wish to forego a four-year college degree in favor of occupations that require technical training programs.

“Manufacturing is not the dirty, dangerous, dingy work that it was maybe 50 or 60 years ago,” he said. “In a lot of places it involves working in a clean environment and computer programming, including coding.”

A spokesperson for Krishnamoorthi said the bill directs the Appropriations Committee to set the funding total during negotiations and does not authorize a specific amount. The spokesperson said the amount could be “likely several million dollars.”

Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Penn.), who cosigned the bill, told Current in a statement that he prioritizes economic revitalization and that closing the skills gap through strategic legislation is an effective way to do so.

“The Partnerships for American Jobs Act utilizes public media stations, which reach 99% of the American population, to promote available skills training programs and job opportunities in our communities,” he said. “Harnessing the power of public media is an innovative, effective way to connect job-seekers, small businesses, and career technical institutions to address workforce development needs across the nation.”

CPB created American Graduate in 2011 to support projects at public media stations aimed at lowering the high-school dropout rate.

Since 2017, it has focused more on job training. In January, CPB awarded four stations more than $900,000 to develop educational media for grade-school and university students as part of American Graduate.

Local stations taking part in the program include WHRO in Norfolk, Va., which launched online resources that employers and schools can use for people entering the workforce. PBS Charlotte in North Carolina convened a town hall on economic mobility featuring local school officials.

The proposed legislation speaks to both Democrats and Republicans who are interested in supporting their local communities, said Kate Riley, VP of government and public affairs for America’s Public Television Stations. APTS President Pat Butler commended the bipartisan effort after the bill was introduced Thursday. 

“The grants established by the Partnerships for American Jobs Act would provide critical support for these activities at local public media stations throughout the country, helping ensure that every community can connect students and workers to the education and training pathways for the high-skilled technical careers that their local economy needs,” he said in a press release.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, third from right, receives the American Graduate Champion Award Feb. 26. From left: Sandra Cordova Micek, CEO, Window to the World Communications; CPB CEO Pat Harrison; and CPB board members Robert Mandell, Elizabeth Sembler and Ruby Calvert.

CPB President Pat Harrision spoke about the bill at APTS’ Public Media Summit Feb. 24. “As members learned about the impact of American Graduate in their districts, policymakers began to take notice,” Harrison said. “That taking notice has resulted in something very special for public media.” 

Krishnamoorthi “is the son of immigrants,” Harrison said, “and he is really motivated to ensure that the American dream is within reach of everyone.”

The representative received the American Graduate Champion award following the APTS Summit in recognition of his work supporting American Graduate and CPB.

The Department of Education already provides funding for Ready To Learn, supporting public television educational content, research and community outreach for educators.

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