Update: Federal Funding for Adult Education Under AEFLA

A few years ago I started tracking the annual federal appropriation for adult education under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA, incorporated as Title II of the Workforce Investment Act and later the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), in both nominal amounts and, importantly, in inflation-adjusted dollars. I’ll update this again at the end of the year once the final annual inflation rate is announced, but in light of the fact that Congress will be coming back next month to finish up the FY 2017 appropriations process (several months after it should have been completed), I thought it might be a good idea to post a preliminary update now, so everyone is clear on how small the federal investment in adult education has been over the last 14 years.

Let’s start with a chart included every year in the Committee for Education Funding’s annual “Budget Response” book, in the article on AEFLA (an article I have written the last several years, I should add). It shows the nominal amounts appropriated for AEFLA state grants since 2002:

CEF AEFLA Funding History

There are actually two line items for AEFLA funds in the federal budget:  Adult Education State Grants and National leadership Activities (AEFLA section 242). We highlight the state grants line item in the CEF book because those are the dollars that are distributed by formula to states to actually fund adult education programs. (It is also by far the larger of the two amounts.) See this old post for an explanation of how the funding for adult education is divided up.

Looking quickly at this bar chart, you might be tempted to think that AEFLA state grant funding has been fairly steady—the bars look pretty even—but if you look closely you can see that there was a rather dramatic drop in funding  in 2013. This was the year we (along with every other federal non-defense discretionary program) got socked with the sequester, an automatic spending cut required by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. It doesn’t look that dramatic in this chart, but this was a cut of over $30 million dollars—a significant loss of funding when you consider our entire appropriation for this line item is less than $600 million. While there has been minor sequester relief since then, you can also see from this chart that, as of FY 2016, we have not yet returned to pre-BCA funding levels.

A couple of additional notes about this chart:

  1. Back in 2009, an injection of new, one-time funding for many education programs was included the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). CEF’s charts indicate this with a separate bar (FY 2009 ARRA). AEFLA did not receive any funding from ARRA, which is why there is a big zero there in this part of the AEFLA chart.
  2. In 2010, however, AEFLA state grants did receive a modest injection of new funds from a one-time adjustment made by the Department of Education to make up for several years of underpayment to some states. That anomaly wasn’t carried over to future years, and it shouldn’t be interpreted as growth. The actual appropriation that year without that anomaly would have been $582 million, which, interestingly enough, is where we find ourselves today.

Last year, thanks in large part to the efforts of Rep. Rosa Delauro (D-CT) and other House appropriators, AEFLA state grants got its most significant bump up in a while in the FY 2016 omnibus spending bill ($13 million), but, again, it’s important to note that AEFLA funding has still not yet returned to the pre-2013 levels. In addition, the overall appropriation for AEFLA in FY 2016 ($585 million) is considerably less than the amount authorized for AEFLA under WIOA ($622 million).

The situation looks considerably worse once inflation is taken into account. The buying power of 2016 dollars is less than it was in 2002. This chart shows the buying power of the AEFLA appropriation since 2002 in 2002 dollars.

AEFLA Funding Through FY 2016

Data Sources: U.S. Dept. of Education, OVAE and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, except as noted below.
*Actual 2010 appropriation included a $45,906,302 one-time adjustment. This is not included.
**Average inflation rate over the first nine months of 2016.

My inflation calculation from 2016 is using the average monthly CPI through September, so it’s a rougher estimate (for the other years I can use the annual average), but it’s good enough. (I realize also that there is debate about whether the CPI is a meaningful way to measure the rate of inflation for the costs related to running an education program, but it’s fairly standard to use this measure. We can all agree that cost have gone up, I think, and this is the inflation measure typically used.) Also, again, for FY 2010, note that I did not include that one-time adjustment discussed above.

The main takeaway here is that what might seem like relatively minor funding cuts look a whole lot worse when you adjust for inflation (the red line). The chart makes it clear that suing the standard measure of inflation, the 2016 appropriation was about 19% less than 2002’s appropriation in real dollars.

Here is the same data in chart form. The three two columns show you the appropriation history for adult education from 2002 through 2016. The fourth column provides the inflation percentage change from the previous year. Using those inflation rates, the fifth column shows you the value of each year’s state grant allocation in 2002 dollars.

Year Total Appropriation State Grants Only Annual
Infl. %
State Grants 2002 Dollars % +/-
2016* $595,667,000 $581,955,000 1.0 $458,296,351 -18.9%
2015 $582,667,000 $568,955,000 0.1 $428,051,225 -24.2%
2014 $577,667,000 $563,955,000 1.6 $428,559,312 -24.1%
2013 $574,667,000 $563,955,000 1.5 $435,511,349 -22.9%
2012 $606,295,000 $594,993,000 2.1 $466,211,228 -17.5%
2011 $607,443,000 $596,120,000 3.2 $476,760,609 -15.6%
2010** $593,661,000 $582,315,000 1.6 $480,419,759 -14.9%
2009 $567,468,000 $554,122,000 -0.4 $464,659,000 -17.7%
2008 $567,468,000 $554,122,000 3.9 $463,006,145 -18.0%
2007 $579,563,000 $563,975,000 2.8 $489,431,514 -13.3%
2006 $579,552,000 $563,975,000 3.2 $503,269,608 -10.9%
2005 $585,406,000 $569,672,000 3.4 $524,751,509 -7.1%
2004 $590,233,000 $574,372,000 2.7 $547,006,561 -3.2%
2003 $587,217,000 $561,162,000 2.3 $548,658,188 -2.9%
2002 $591,060,000 $564,834,000

Two things I need to add anytime I post on the federal budget and adult education:

  1. The sequester and the overall budget caps that Congress imposed on itself with the BCA has resulted in spending cuts and freezes for many, many federal discretionary programs, not just AEFLA. Few education programs have received any funding increases since the BCA passed, and many have suffered worse than AEFLA. It would be a mistake to infer from this post that Congress, or Congressional appropriators, have something against adult education specifically, and are cutting our funds while enriching other education programs. That’s not the case at all. It is, however, fair to say that post-BCA, when subsequent budget deals  lifted those caps a tiny bit, adult education has not received much benefit. We do need more awareness and more champions in Congress to take advantage of those opportunities when they occur. But no matter how good our advocacy is, substantial funding increases will not be on the table until Congress does something about those caps. I can’t emphasize this point enough. It’s why I have personally invested so much time with CEF and in federal budget advocacy overall the last several years. Federal education funding is in crisis across the board.
  2. Also, remember that not all federal adult education spending comes out of AEFLA. Community Development Block Grants, AmeriCorps funding, Perkins/CTE, funding for immigration programs, and some other pots of education money are also sources of funding for some adult education programs and activities. So if you care about federal adult education spending, there are other programs you need to track.


Final WIOA Rules Published in the Federal Register

Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides the legislative authority for all federally funded adult education programs. Unless you are deeply involved in implementing WIOA at the state level, or are responsible for WIOA-funded programming or technical assistance, the pile of regulations that have been developed for WIOA are likely of limited interest, but I thought it was worth noting that the U.S. departments of Education and Labor have announced today the publication in the Federal Register of the final version of those rules:

All of the final rules, along with several guidance documents, are available at the www.ed.gov/AEFLA.

Links of Note 8/18/16

Launching a new semi-regular feature today: occasional posts that simply compile links to announcements, new research and other news about adult education or tangentially related topics (probably more of the latter), with little to no commentary from me to get in your way. Just click and go. There are those who will describe these kinds of posts as “curated links.” I’m not one of them, but if you are, then you have the basic idea.

I welcome your suggestions.

In Many Courtrooms, Bad Interpreters Can Mean Justice Denied [Pew/Stateline]
“Because there are so many U.S. residents — roughly 25.6 million — who have limited proficiency in English, the credibility of the nation’s justice system relies on competent interpreters.” I witnessed this problem firsthand in Boston courts 25 20 years ago; it seemed to me that non-English speakers were often targeted for minor traffic violations. Many were frankly terrified and the lack of translation services certainly didn’t help.

DACA at Four: Participation in the Deferred Action Program and Impacts on Recipients [MPI]

  • “Examining DACA application rates against the MPI population estimates suggests that 63 percent of the immediately eligible population had applied as of March 2016; the rate fell to 48 percent when including the share that did not appear to meet the educational criteria but may have enrolled in a qualifying adult education population.”
  • “[T]he vast majority eligible to renew the two-year DACA grant have done so—93 percent MPI estimates.”

Lessons From a Year Teaching Digital Literacy [Pacific Standard]

Veteran Hillary Clinton Education Adviser Named to Candidate’s Transition Team [Politics K-12 – Education Week]

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton Say They’ll Ease the Burden of Child-Care Costs [Real Time Economics – WSJ]
Summary of the two major party candidates’ proposals.

Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform [VERA]
“Women in jail are the fastest growing correctional population in the country—increasing 14-fold between 1970 and 2014. Yet there is surprisingly little research on why so many more women wind up in jail today. This report examines what research does exist on women in jail in order to begin to reframe the conversation to include them.”

Two Lingering Suspicions About Economic Statistics [Bloomberg View]
Helpful primer (for me, anyway) on data smoothing (such as the seasonal adjustments made by the BLS to unemployment data) and “Pollyanna creep,” defined here as the likelihood that changes in economic indicator measures/calculations that make the economy look better are more likely to be implemented than changes that do not, resulting in a cumulative effect that is increasingly removed from reality. “[C]hanges made in the calculation of inflation over the past quarter-century… have come under the most fire.”


Former Prisoners Describe How Education Transformed Their Lives

Today’s edition of Politico’s Morning Education features some great personal testimony coming out of yesterday’s Second Chance Pell event hosted by the Vera Institute of Justice and others:

FORMER PRISONERS GET PERSONAL: Three former prisoners described to Education Secretary John B. King Jr. on Tuesday how college programs they participated in while incarcerated transformed their lives – even as post-prison life hasn’t been easy. “Second chances are possible. People really do need them,” said Jason Bell, now a student at Lake Michigan College. Bell entered prison at age 23, with just a fourth-grade level education.

– Bell and Devon Simmons, a former prisoner who recently graduated from CUNY Hostos Community College with honors , described getting a GED in prison but then facing years-long gaps without schooling while jailed – until college opportunities opened for them behind bars. Once out, Simmons said he was able to complete his degree despite getting shot right after his release from prison by someone “seeking prior revenge.” He credits support from the Prison-to-College Pipeline program through John Jay College (part of the City University of New York) with helping him. He’s now taking a screenwriting class at Columbia University. “I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Simmons said. “I’m honored to have a second chance because that doesn’t come to many.”

– Ivelisse “Bibi” Gilestra said participating in education programs in prison gave her a sense of community. Gilestra said she was no longer just a prison number, “I was student such and such.” Even as she’s now a Rutgers University student, she said “nobody leaves prison unaffected.” When she left, she said she was a “nomad” because she couldn’t live in her mother’s public housing unit because of her record. She’s had to take multiple low-paying jobs because she fails employer background checks.

– The three spoke at an event focused on the Education Department’s Second Chance Pell program, hosted by the Vera Institute of Justice and others. King told Morning Education afterward that college access behind bars changes the culture of a prison. “You can shift the culture within the prison as folks realize there are these educational opportunities available,” King said. Roughly 12,000 inmates are expected to participate in the experimental program, which will provide an estimated $30 million in Pell Grants to prisoners. Congressional Republicans have questioned the department’s authority to roll out the program, and whether it’s the best use of taxpayer dollars.

There is a longer piece about this over at Politico Pro, if you are a subscriber.