Adult Education Funding in 2014: Why an increase Isn’t an Increase

(Updated Below)

I was talking to someone last Friday who was a bit confused by this post—specifically, by what I’m counting when measuring the federal investment in adult education—and I thought a followup post might be helpful to others who might be confused as well.

Again, to start with, I’m looking at WIA Title II/AEFLA only. That is by far the biggest source of adult basic education/literacy funding in the federal budget. (In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the only line item you’ll see in the federal budget where adult literacy is mentioned.)

The U.S. Department of Education produces a lot of different tables and charts related to the programs that they fund. Sometimes it takes a little work to figure these out—and that work is made much harder if you are not familiar with the programs in question.

For example, this set of tables, last updated on January 23rd of this year, is the latest Department compilation of funding levels for each program it funds, based on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (where one will find the final appropriation amounts set by Congress for FY 2014).

The question posed to me last week was why my chart shows I’ve been claiming no change in WIA Title II funding from FY 2013 to FY 2014. Apparently the Department of Education claims there was an increase of about $3 million. Which is technically true if you look at the entire subtotal for adult education (see chart below), but that’s not the number you want to look at when trying to figure out how much the federal government is investing adult education programs. My chart is looking specifically at the line item for adult education state grants, which is where all the money for local programs actually comes from. The other line item that makes up the aggregate subtotal for WIA Title II/AEFLA funding is national leadership activities—money used by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) for a variety of national projects: standards development, curriculum material, research, etc. It’s conceivable that some of this money may find it’s way into the hands of local programs (for a demonstration project, for example), but it is not by definition money that is used to support local program services. So for the purposes of tracking federal adult education funding that actual goes to programs, I track the state grant program, which is where that money comes from.

You can see in the Department’s chart below that, yes, the total line time for adult education did in fact rise by $3 million, from $574,667,000 in FY 2013 to $577,667,000 in FY 2014. But the key number is in the second to last column, under the line item “Adult basic and literacy education State grants,” which as you can see shows an increase of exactly zero between FY 2013 and FY 2014. The increase in funding for adult education in FY 2014 was entirely allocated to OCTAE for national leadership activities.

(Click on the graphic to see it full size.)

adult-ed_overview_budget_budget14_14action_pdf

One other possible source of confusion: in the tables above, the Department simply lists “Adult basic and literacy education State grants” without noting that a certain percentage is set aside specifically for states to fund ESL/civics programs. Which makes sense, as this is not a separate program but a set-aside. Sometimes, however, the Department breaks that out in their tables. for example, in their “State History Tables by Program tables. here, there are two tables you need to look for in order to get the total for the state grant program for each year: “Adult Basic and Literacy Education State Grants” and the table that follows, “English Literacy and Civics Education State Grants (Excluded from Adult Basic and Literacy Education State Grants)”

You have to add up the totals in each of those tables to get the aggregate total for state grants for that year.

UPDATE 3/10/14: Ugh. I hate having to make a clarifying correction to a post that was in part meant as a clarification to begin with. In the 5th paragraph above, I mistakenly implied that my inflation chart included the FY 2014 appropriation. It doesn’t. It stops at 2013. The question referenced the chart in relation to a point I had made somewhere else (Twitter?) about the FY 2014 appropriation not including an increase for AEFLA state grants.

None of that has anything to do with the substance of my post, but it might have been confusing to anyone you clicked on the link to the chart looking for the FY 2014 appropriation. More on the FY 2014 appropriation here.