The Biggest Differences Between the House Republican and Democratic WIA Bills

(Updated Below)

This April 4th story from The Hill highlights the critical issues that stand in the way of a bipartisan Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill in the House. Both Democrats and Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee recently offered their own bills, (H.R. 4227 and H.R. 4297, respectively), and it’s unclear right now whether Democrats will attempt to offer amendments to the Republican bill, or how this will play out. (According to The Hill, The Senate will not take up the Republican bill as it now stands.)

The key issues? The Republican bill would consolidate all of the different WIA funding streams and convert them into a block grant program for states, and would not increase overall funding. Democrats are against block granting, and they would boost WIA funding by $8 billion. The third big issue has to do with the makeup of job training boards:

Aside from the fight over funding levels, the two parties are expected to differ over language dealing with business representation in local boards that distribute WIA funds.

Appointed by governors, state and local workforce investment boards allocate funds to various education and training programs within a state. Under current law, 50 percent of the board has to be business representatives.

Republicans want to increase business representation to two-thirds on these boards and leave the remaining one-third of the board up to the discretion of governors. Under this change, Republican governors could potentially decide to stack the whole board with business leaders.

In contrast, Democrats want to ensure the presence of labor organizations and community college representatives on these boards. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has also lobbied against this Republican provision.

There are plenty of other differences between the two bills, but I think you can make a good case that these are the three most significant areas of disagreement.

For adult literacy advocates, it’s worth noting that the Democrats’ bill increases funding for Title II (Adult Education and Literacy) to $1.1 billion, almost double the current appropriation (which hovers around $600 million). (See page 243 of H.R. 4227.)

UPDATE 4/11/12: Thanks to the person who alerted me to a similar post based on The Hill’s coverage of WIA on another blog, posted about two hours after this post. For the record, I don’t see much similarities between the two posts, and the author did not lift anything from this blog without crediting me. If anyone should be concerned, it’s the editors at The Hill, because several passages from The Hill’s story were copied pretty much verbatim for that post without attribution. (A link to The Hill’s coverage is provided at the end of the post, but the story is never quoted, nor is the The Hill credited as a source for their information.)

But thanks for the heads-up, and the words of support—that was a nice surprise.