More on the Federal FY 2014 Appropriations and Adult Education

A week ago I mentioned that the final FY 2014 federal appropriations bill passed by Congress in January didn’t include an increase to the line item that is the primary federal funding source for adult education programs in the U.S.: the state grant program that is authorized by AELFA, otherwise known as Title II of the Workforce Investment Act.

Over the weekend I planned to post something about the President’s FY 2015 budget proposal but I realized that I never actually completely summarized what was in the FY 2014 appropriations package. By now, most federal budget analysts have moved on to the President’s proposal, but before I do that, let’s finish up with a few more points about how things shook out for adult education in FY 2014. I think it’s important in order to properly assess what the President has proposed for FY 2015.

First, by way of background, remember that the Bipartisan Budget Act, which passed in December, eliminated sequestration for FY 2014 and 2015 and set funding levels for each year at $1.012 trillion and $1.014 trillion respectively. That’s going to be important to keep in mind for the discussion below, and also when analyzing the FY 2015 budget proposed later on. The BBA provided $63 billion toward sequester replacement: $45 billion for FY 2014 and $18 billion for FY 2015. In other words, for FY 2014, Congress had $45 billion dollars to restore to discretionary programs that had been cut by sequestration in FY 2013.

However, while the bill did in fact boost funding for some programs compared to what these programs would have received under sequestration, Congress did not restore any of the AEFLA state grant funds lost to sequestration in FY 2013. That left the final appropriation for state grants at exactly the same level as Fy 2013, which was $31,038,000 less than the amount requested by President Obama ($594,993,000) in his FY 2014 budget. And, as you may recall, the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee had originally recommended $593,803 in their appropriations bill last spring, which was close to the President’s request. (All of which is also going to be worth keeping in mind when evaluating the President’s FY 2015 request for adult education.)

The bill did include, however, a $3,000,000 restoration for National Leadership Activities, a 28.0% increase above the FY 2013 sequestered amount. As noted in this post, these funds are used by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) for a variety of national projects: standards development, curriculum material, and research—but not, generally speaking, to support local program services.

Some other interesting provisions related to adult education accompanied the bill (page numbers below refer to the bill as originally introduced):

  • It renamed the Office of Vocational and Adult Education to the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. (Page 79)
  • It “urges” the Department of Education to strengthen adult education programs by “increas[ing] the focus on adults with the lowest literacy and numeracy skills.” Authorizers also want the Department to “work with national adult literacy organizations to identify and promote new capacity building initiatives on adult learner leadership and advisory roles in local programs and assist in evaluating program effectiveness.” (Page 74) (Again, this language will be interesting to revisit when looking at the President’s FY 2015 request.)
  • It sets aside $3,000,000 from the National Leadership Activities line item to support new awards for prisoner re-entry education models as described in Senate Report 113-71. (1)

A lot of folks in the education community were disappointed that more programs weren’t fully restored to their pre sequestered levels. Part of the reason was due to the fact that in the end there wasn’t as much money to work with after all, after certain programs had to be prioritized for a variety of reason I won’t into here.

But one of them is important to keep in mind for future years: millions had to be added on the discretionary side for nonprofit (NFP) student loan servicers, because the BBA eliminated it as a mandatory funding programNext year, the NFP loan servicer amount will grow to $300-400 million, which will contain appropriators even further.

Recall from above that the BBA provided just another $18 billion for sequester replacement in FY 2015. So even without that the additional NFP loan servicer expense, there would be little reason to expect much upward movement in any of the education programs that didn’t see all of their pre-sequester level budgets restored in FY 2014 (or any of it, as in the case of adult education state grants). As we’ll see, the President’s FY 2015 budget proposal stays under that cap, and even if Congress rejects some of what he has proposed (well, not if—they most certainly will not go along with everything he’s requested), Congress will be similarly constrained.

(1) From Senate Report 113-71: “National Leadership Activities.—The Committee recommends $14,302,000 for national leadership activities, including $3,000,000 to support new awards for prisoner reentry education models that build on the success of the Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Education Opportunities [PRSCEO] competition. PRSCEO was funded in fiscal year 2013 with funds transferred from the Department of Justice under an interagency agreement.

The Committee recommendation will support projects that develop evidence of reentry education’s effectiveness and align with the model described in ‘‘A Reentry Education Model: Supporting Education and Career Advancement for Low-Skill Individuals in Corrections,’’ published by the Department in August 2012.”