Funding Still an Issue

Lauren Eyster, writing for the Urban Institute’s MetroTrends Blog, makes an important point about the WIOA bill that was passed by the House last night:

What WIOA does not do is return overall workforce development funding to pre-sequestration levels immediately. Funding would be increased annually until 2020, but states and local areas will continue to be asked to do more with less.

Gloomy as that sounds, this assessment is actually a bit on the optimistic side. The problem is not that the bill won’t restore workforce funding to pre-sequestration levels immediately, it’s that the WIOA bill itself will not restore funding to pre-sequestration levels at all (let alone increase funding significantly), despite those increases authorized in the bill, unless Congressional appropriators actually appropriate funding at those authorized amounts. And unless Congress raises the existing budget caps and eliminates the mandatory cuts under sequestration (which otherwise, don’t forget, will return in 2016) there isn’t much chance they will. If you’re a glutton for punishment, I wrote an excruciatingly long and tedious post about this a month ago.

I do think WIOA better positions advocates to make the case for increased federal funding, but prospects for increased funding for the programs covered under this bill will continue to be at the mercy of a Republican-dominated Congress for the foreseeable future—a Congress that, if anything, will press for further cuts to non-defense discretionary programs next year. (And remember also that there is a significant possibility that Republicans will control both chambers next year.)

The reason I’m being such a party pooper is because I think it’s important that folks on the ground who depend on the programs covered under WIOA are clear on this point. While the bill includes what many people feel are welcome policy changes to the federal workforce investment system, WIOA’s passage last night isn’t going to solve their biggest problem, which is the lack of adequate funding. I can’t speak for every program in WIOA, but for those of us in adult education, in particular, that remains our biggest challenge.

WIA/WIOA Update

I generally don’t have the time or inclination to post updates on legislative action with any kind of consistency—choosing instead to pick and choose, looking for spots where I think I might have a unique and/or possibly even interesting take on something. Presumably, loyal readers of this site have other, more reliable sources for regular legislative updates. But since I’ve written a lot about the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (now retitled, with more modern-sounding buzzwords, as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA)—most recently here—I thought I should mention that the WIOA bill which passed the Senate last month is scheduled for a vote in the House on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. The House is considering WIOA under a fast-track process known as suspension of the rules: no more than 40 minutes of debate, and no amendments will be offered. However, two-thirds of members will have to vote for the bill for it to pass.

This is not that unusual a move—it usually means that the House leadership is confident that the bill has the votes and time for lengthy debate/opportunity for amendment is not needed.

In talking with people in the adult education field, I’ve found that the level of interest/knowledge/excitement over WIOA tends to be lower than it is among policy people in Washington, D.C. I’d be interested to hear what folks on the ground in adult education (teachers, program directors, students) think the new bill will do for them.

Senate HELP Committee Set to Markup the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 2013 Next Week

The Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) Committee has officially announced on its Web site that it will markup the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 on Wednesday, July 31, 2013.  The bill was introduced earlier today by Sens. Murray, Isakson, Harkin and Alexander.

Obama Administration: SKILLS Act Fails to Meet the Needs of Adults With “Literacy and English Language Needs”

(Updated below)
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICYIn case you missed it, here is the Obama administration’s official response (known as a “Statement of Administration Policy”) to the SKILLS Act. The Republican-led bill to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act recently passed in the House, but is likely dead-on-arrival in the Senate.

The administration says the SKILLS Act “would eliminate, or allow the consolidation of, many targeted programs, without providing the critical assistance needed by vulnerable populations,” including “adults with literacy and English language needs.” (my emphasis)

UPDATE: Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris also released a statement last week that was critical of the SKILLS Act. He doesn’t mention adult literacy specifically.