The House Education and the Workforce Committee has announced that it will markup its Workforce Investment Act (WIA) bill, H.R. 803, “Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act’’ or the ‘‘SKILLS Act’’ on March 6th. If you missed last week’s hearing on this bill, an archived webcast is available here. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, I do recommend—if only for the sheer entertainment value of it—skipping to about the 1:51 mark to hear Rep. Tierney (D-MA) and Chairwoman Foxx (R-NC) argue over Tierney’s charge that the Chairwoman has not been willing to work with Democrats on the committee on a bipartisan bill. Lots of talk on the Democratic side about the bill being “jammed through.” Pawnee’s infamous Councilman Jeremy Jamm would be proud.
You can read CQ Roll Call‘s account of the debate between Tierney and Foxx here. In addition to the on-the-record comments made by both, CQ Roll Call reports that the two “participated in a heated exchange off-microphone after the hearing officially ended.”
I don’t have much to say about this. The SKILLS Act is essentially the same bill that Rep. Foxx introduced last session. There are several things to dislike about the bill if you are an adult education advocate, but far and away the most critical problem is that it would allow states to consolidate Title II adult education funding together with job training programs into these big block grants to states that the bill would create, and I don’t believe there is enough in the bill to ensure that states will use their Title II funding for adult education and literacy services (or to ensure that money isn’t shifted away from the underserved populations that many of the Title I training programs were designed to help).
The Democrats on the committee have introduced their own WIA reauthorization bill (H.R. 798)—and, like H.R. 803, it’s also essentially the same bill they introduced last session. They may offer it as an amendment on the 6th.
People close to this issue tell me that it’s very important for groups to voice concerns about H.R. 803 now, before markup, or at least before the bill gets to the floor, rather than waiting for the Senate to take this up. Even if it’s likely (and I think it is) that H.R. 803 passes through committee and the full House without any significant changes, the thought is that speaking up now to build a record of strong opposition from around the country will make it easier for the Senate to push for significant changes if/when they take this up.