Here’s How the Budget Deal Will Impact Adult Education

(Updated below)

I have no idea.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 set overall discretionary federal spending for FY 2014 and 2015, ($1.012 trillion and $1.014 trillion, respectively), but we won’t know how this will specifically impact federal adult education spending—most importantly, the primary source of federal adult education spending, Title II of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA)—until the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 appropriations process plays itself out over the next several weeks.

But I do know  it’s going to work (based on reports from various sources): The agreement provides $63 billion towards sequester replacement: $45 billion for FY 2014 and $18 billion for FY 2015. In other words, the sequester level-spending limits that were going to be in effect for the next two years have been bumped up by $63 billion in FY 2014 and $18 billion in FY 2015.

Once the agreement is signed into law by the President, Senate and House appropriators have to figure out—pretty quickly—how they want to actually spend this money in FY 2014, (which actually began back in October). So they are getting ready to embark on something of a normal—if very abbreviated—appropriations process over the next several weeks (they have to finish by January 15th).

What’s interesting (if you can describe any of this as actually interesting) is that the new $1.012 trillion top line for FY 2014 presents a starkly different set of challenges for Senate and House appropriators as they put together their bills:

  • House appropriators are facing the task of adding money to the appropriations bills they wrote earlier that assumed a top line of just $967 billion. (Note that the House never produced a Labor-HHS-ED bill, so we never learned what they were planning to cut in terms of any education programs.)
  • The Senate, on the other hand, will have to trim spending back from the $1.058 trillion top line that Senate Democrats had used in their original FY 2014 budget. Unlike the House, the Senate did pass all 12 of their appropriations bills, including a Labor-HHS-ED bill at $164.33 billion, which proposed adult education funding of $594 million for FY 2014 (about $30 million over FY 2013 sequestered levels). That doesn’t mean Senate appropriators will propose an increase again this time around, but it’s possibly a clue into what they are inclined to do.

It’s possible that appropriators will simply propose a proportional increase for adult education relative to the overall increase in spending in the budget agreement—more or less putting adult education back to where it was before the 2013 sequester cut. But they could go for more—or less. So stay tuned. But also, you might want to consider contacting members of Congress and letting them know how important this funding is—particularly if they are on one of the House or Senate Labor-HHS-ED appropriations subcommittees.

Also—and I feel like I need to insert this reminder every time I write about the budget—remember that not all federal adult education spending comes out of Title II of WIA. Community Development Block Grants, AmeriCorps funding, funding for immigration programs, and some other pots of education money are also source of funding for some programs. So, if you care about adult education spending, remember that there will be several places in those appropriations bills you need to look at. I’m only paid to track WIA these days, so I don’t know how closely I’ll be following the allocations for these other programs.

Side Note: The budget deal did not include an extension of the longer term unemployment insurance benefits, which expire December 28th. Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are saying they plan to take up a one-year extension of the emergency unemployment program when Congress returns in January and something of a strategy to make it happen. This is worth keeping an eye on because two years ago during debate over extending UI, Republicans tried to insert several conditions to the extension, including a requirement that benefits be restricted to those who had passed the GED (or equivalent) or, if they had not, were enrolled in a course of study towards such a credential. I really don’t expect this to happen this time… but still, worth watching.

UPDATE: 12/20/13: Patrick Caldwell of Mother Jones quoting Joel Friedman of CBPP on the challenges facing appropriators over the next several weeks:

“It will be difficult,” says Joel Friedman, vice president for federal fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “They’ve added back some, but not the full amount of the sequester cuts. There will continue to be unmet needs. Not everybody is going to get the level of funding that they would like out of this.”