What’s in the FY 2015 Federal Spending Bill for Adult Education

Members of the House and Senate reached an agreement late yesterday on a nearly $1.1 trillion FY 2015 spending bill that will fund most of the federal government through September 30, 2015. The one exception: funding for the Department of Homeland Security is funded only through February. This is supposedly going to give Republicans some leverage in the next Congress to block President Obama’s recent executive order on immigration.

Here is how adult education made out:

Total amount for WIOA Title II adult education is $582,667,000. State grants were funded at $568,955,000. (This is the money that is sub granted to programs for direct services.) The FY 2014 figure for state grants  was $563,955,000, thus this is a $5 million increase. National Leadership funding (basically funding that goes to the U.S. Department of Education to manage the WIOA Title II program and provide assistance, research etc.) was level-funded at $13,712,000 (but note that this line item did get a slight bump up in FY 2014).

There is also some report language on the National Leadership funding:
Career Pathways Report Language

No one is going to complain about an increase—whatever the amount—and in the current fiscal environment, even a relatively small $5 million increase should arguably be viewed as a victory. But as far as I can tell, nearly every adult education or WIOA advocacy group that spoke out about the FY 2015 budget advocated for a larger increase, and with ample justification. A $30 million increase was needed to bring state grant funding back to the pre-sequestration level of $595 million. This was what the House Democrats’ proposed Labor-HHS-Education bill included. The National Coalition for LIteracy advocated for the House Democrats’ proposal, noting that it would not only have restored state adult education grants to the pre-sequester level, it would have also maintained the slight bump up in national leadership programs that was included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act. For those interested, I have a post here that summarizes the different proposals for adult education funding under WIOA that were released over the course of the last year.

For what it’s worth, the total amount for WIOA Title II adult education contained in this bill—$582,667,000—is actually above the funding level authorized under WIOA for FY 2015, which simply carried over the FY 2014 funding level of $577,667,000. But as noted by myself and others, the WIOA authorized amounts are not even close to what is needed to meet the need for adult education in this country.

The new spending bill also includes a provision “reinstating” ability-to-benefit (ATB) financial aid eligibility for students without high school diplomas enrolled in career pathway programs at community colleges. Note that this is in fact a partial reinstatement of ATB, since the older provision didn’t restrict eligibility to those enrolled in career pathway programs. Regardless of whether you think such a restriction is a good or bad idea, I think it’s important to remember that this is not a full restoration of ATB.

The House and Senate are expected to try to quickly pass the bill this week.

Here is the source for all the FY 2015 information above.

Adult Literacy Programs at the Library of Congress Literacy Awards

LOC  Literacy Awards BookletI had the good luck to be in attendance at the presentation of the 2014 Library of Congress Literacy (LOC) Awards on October 8th. Now in its second year, this program, supported by philanthropist David Rubenstein, honors organizations that have made “outstanding contributions to increasing literacy in the United States or abroad.” This year’s top honors went to Room to Read, which was awarded the David M. Rubenstein Prize ($150,000); Start Making a Reader Today (SMART), winner of the American Prize ($50,000); and the Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV), winner of the International Prize ($50,000).

None of these organizations are adult-focused, although the AÇEV program provides adult literacy services for low-income mothers of the children they serve. (AÇEV also employs technology extensively in their program, using a mix of television and online materials. If you are at all interested in technology and adult education,  I suggest you check them out, although I should note that their Web site is in Turkish.)

I bring all of this to your attention because this year there was an increased emphasis on the other purpose of the program, which is the dissemination of effective practices, culled from not only the three prize-winners, but also a subset of the organizations that applied for an award this year but did not win. The LOC has published a Best Practices booklet summarizing those practices, and additional resources, such as symposia and webcasts, are in the works. Here, several adult education organizations are featured, including ProLiteracy, the Literacy Assistance Center of New York City, Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford, and California Library Literacy Services (CLLS).


Influential Research Center Has Closed

The Boston Globe is reporting that Northeastern University has closed the Center for Labor Market Studies, following on the heels of the retirement of its founder, Andrew Sum. For those of you who unfamiliar with Sum, he is one of the first I know of to study in depth the impact of literacy proficiency in the labor market. A huge influence in the adult education policy world.

Some samplings of his work:

Long-Awaited PIAAC Response Report Resurfaces

In case you missed it, this morning the White House announced the latest round of TAACCCT grantees. If you read the entire release, you may have noticed this curious related announcement:

In addition, the Department of Education is releasing a new report on the importance of building foundational skills in a job-specific context.

Ø  Department of Education Report on Transform Adult Learning through Work. The Department of Education is releasing a new report with recommendations to transform adult learning in the United States. After months of public engagement with a variety of stakeholders around the country, the recommendations for public-private partnership include strategies that engage employers to support upskilling of more entry-level workers while on the job, encourage the use of assessments and innovative learning tools to improve access to targeted career guidance for youth and adults, and promote better alignment and coordination of public and private programs so that youth and adults experience seamless services. The report highlights unique opportunities for implementing these recommendations as a result of the changed legislative environment made possible by the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in July 2014.

I confirmed today with Department staff that the report referenced above is the long-awaited PIAAC response report or action plan that was announced last fall and then previewed at last spring’s adult education state directors meeting  However, contrary to the White House statement, the report was not in fact released today. It is finished but still in the “awaiting clearance” stage. No one could give me a date for actual release but the expectation is that it will be out sometime this fall. I know a lot of us in the field were wondering about the status of this report—some were speculating it might not ever be released—so I thought it was worth mentioning. It lives!