Thinking about the impact of the elections on adult education policy, I wonder if the results of some of the governer’s races are more significant for adult education (and workforce policy generally), than the shift in power in the Senate. While most education-related legislation languished without much progress during the last Congress, the current crew did manage to successfully dispose of the most important piece of legislation for our field, the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA), passing it by a wide margin this summer. The action is really now at the state level, where governors hold sway over WIOA’s implmentation.
What will party switches in the governor’s offices in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Maryland, for example, mean for WIOA implementation in those states?
The National Skills Coalition (NSC) has recently updated their extremely thorough and helpful Workforce investment Act (WIA) page with the 2013 Senate HELP Committee’s recently-released draft bill.
Of particular interest for adult education and adult literacy people:
NSC notes that while there are some differences between the 2011 and 2013 drafts, “the new staff draft has generally remained relatively similar to the 2011 draft.” That is consistent with what I’ve heard from others who have read through it (I have not read any of it other than Title III). NSC also reports that “it is our understanding that certain key issues—including potential consolidation language—are still being negotiated (and may or may not be included in a final draft of the committee bill).” That’s consistent with some off-the-record comments I’ve heard from people involved in WIA reauthorization going back to last year.
This morning I took a look at a new section on the Senate Budget Committee’s Web site, called “MyBudget,” which they describe as an “online platform for members of the public to weigh in as our nation works to tackle our budget and economic challenges.”
I have no idea how influential this kind of thing is, but it’s an easy way to do some federal budget advocacy. I particularly like the “share your stories” section, where people are asked to write about “about how federal budget decisions have impacted your family, your community, and your job.”
Another page asks for you to let the Committee know “what issues we should be focused on.”
One of the interesting pieces of the Senate immigration reform proposal released yesterday is the list of requirements for legal permanent residency status for undocumented immigrants. Their proposal would not only require those individuals to “go to the back of the line” of other prospective immigrants, but also require them to meet a more burdensome set of requirements for achieving permanent residency status than are required of other immigrants.
I’m specifically thinking about the English requirement: Under current law/regulations, when you apply for permanent legal status (a green card), there is no requirement that you know how to speak, read, or write English. It’s only when you apply for citizenship that you must “be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).”
But as I noted yesterday, the Senate proposal would require undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S. to, among other things, “learn English and civics” in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. It would appear, in other words, that they intend to apply the English requirement now just needed to qualify for full citizenship to the list of qualifications that undocumented immigrants must meet to just get to the permanent residency stage.
If that is the case, this suggests to me that under this plan we’d see a pretty big upsurge in demand for adult English instruction right from the get-go. Where the supply is going to come from is another question.
It’s also worth noting that under the current requirements for citizenship there are are exceptions to the requirement that applicants for citizenship know English. Specifically, applicants are exempt from the English requirement, (but not the civics test) if they are:
- Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (green card holder) in the U.S. for 20 years; or
- Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the U.S. for 15 years.
Applicants may also be eligible for an exception to both the English and civics requirements if they are “unable to comply with these requirements because of a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment.”
It remains to be seen whether similar exceptions will be included in the English requirement for permanent residency that is apparently going to be part of the immigration reform package introduced by the Senate.