Funding Still an Issue

Lauren Eyster, writing for the Urban Institute’s MetroTrends Blog, makes an important point about the WIOA bill that was passed by the House last night:

What WIOA does not do is return overall workforce development funding to pre-sequestration levels immediately. Funding would be increased annually until 2020, but states and local areas will continue to be asked to do more with less.

Gloomy as that sounds, this assessment is actually a bit on the optimistic side. The problem is not that the bill won’t restore workforce funding to pre-sequestration levels immediately, it’s that the WIOA bill itself will not restore funding to pre-sequestration levels at all (let alone increase funding significantly), despite those increases authorized in the bill, unless Congressional appropriators actually appropriate funding at those authorized amounts. And unless Congress raises the existing budget caps and eliminates the mandatory cuts under sequestration (which otherwise, don’t forget, will return in 2016) there isn’t much chance they will. If you’re a glutton for punishment, I wrote an excruciatingly long and tedious post about this a month ago.

I do think WIOA better positions advocates to make the case for increased federal funding, but prospects for increased funding for the programs covered under this bill will continue to be at the mercy of a Republican-dominated Congress for the foreseeable future—a Congress that, if anything, will press for further cuts to non-defense discretionary programs next year. (And remember also that there is a significant possibility that Republicans will control both chambers next year.)

The reason I’m being such a party pooper is because I think it’s important that folks on the ground who depend on the programs covered under WIOA are clear on this point. While the bill includes what many people feel are welcome policy changes to the federal workforce investment system, WIOA’s passage last night isn’t going to solve their biggest problem, which is the lack of adequate funding. I can’t speak for every program in WIOA, but for those of us in adult education, in particular, that remains our biggest challenge.