Links of Note 10/21/16

The Promise of Personalized Learning in Rural America [Bellwether Education Partners]
I haven’t read this but I would think that many of the issues facing rural K-12 schools would be similar to those faced by rural or otherwise isolated adult education programs.

Not Working Makes People Sick [Bloomberg View]
Does dropping out of workforce due to illness make you more sick? I think additional research would be needed to justify this conclusion, but it’s an interesting theory nonetheless.

Here’s What Economists Don’t Understand About Race [Institute for New Economic Thinking]
“The real driver of inequality… is not an individual’s level of education and productivity, but the resources that parents and grandparents are able to transmit.”

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.

An Immigration Reform Strategy That Includes Investments in Skills for All

Jared Bernstein looks at the impact of immigration on poverty in the U.S., and concludes that it doesn’t have much of an impact on poverty trends over time:

The fact that immigration isn’t placing much pressure on poverty rate trends suggests that if we want to reduce those trends, we’re less likely to get there by trying to reduce immigration.  A far better strategy would be to improve the earnings capacity–the skills, the availability of decent paying jobs, the work supports—available to all low-wage working families, regardless of their nativity. (my emphasis)

This was more-or-less the premise we started from when I worked with the National Skills Coalition on this set of immigration reform recommendations. That is, we looked at  immigration reform as an opportunity to begin overhauling the federal workforce development system across the board (including investing in more skills training and adult education). In fact, immigration reform seemed to me at the time to be the best chance to get something resembling workforce development legislation passed in the near term (even if prospects for WIA look a bit better right now), because, at least in the case of last year’s Senate bill, there were some significant dollars attached for education and training.

I also wonder if embedding immigration reform inside a broader education and workforce development strategy might be helpful from a political perspective, by placing it in the context of a political issue with a broader constituency. It might also give some structure by which to diffuse the argument that immigration reforms will result in immigrants taking away jobs from U.S.-born workers. (I know that a lot of people have made the case for immigration reform in the context of broader economic growth , but I’m not sure among that this connects very well with the general public in the way that jobs and job training does.)

Rep. Heck Says That Workforce Investment Issues Have “No Place in an Immigration Bill”

On July 4th, The Washington Post published an interesting article on the prospects of immigration reform legislation in the House, based largely on an interview with Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV). The Post published the entire interview on-line, and if you are interested in this topic, it’s worth reading.

One thing that was surprising to me: Rep. Heck isn’t wild about the “trigger”—the idea that border control provisions would need to be implemented and goals met before any of the pathway to citizenship provisions for unauthorized immigrants go into effect:

“I think there are reasonable steps that the Senate bill puts into place. The issue that I have is that there’s a provision where everything is pegged on being able to go from RPI [Registered Provisional Immigrant] status to green card status that says that if we don’t do all these border security things within 10 years, then they’re waived. And I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think if we’re saying that we’re going to put these things in place, then moving forward, we have to put these things in place.”

Rep. Heck also doesn’t like the idea of including workforce provisions in the legislation that are not directly connected to immigrant labor:

“In the Senate bill, there’s a provision that was tacked on that has to do with the Youth Job Corps. Now, as a workforce investment act item, it has nothing to do with immigration, it doesn’t create jobs for DREAMers or new immigrants, it’s for underprivileged youth between the ages of 16 and 25. And it’s going to be funded by an additional fee tacked on to the guest worker program paid for by employers.

“Look, I’m very active in educational workforce investment issues. I sit on the Education and Workforce Committee. I’ve introduced legislation to make the Workforce Investment Act work better. It has no place in an immigration bill. And that’s what happens when you have an 1,198-page immigration bill.”

Without passing judgment one way or another on the specific provision he’s talking about, those of us suggesting provisions within immigration reform that address jobs and job training in a more general way think this is fundamental to the success of the legislation, not just something that’s being “tacked on.” Our argument is that immigration reform is, in fact, a major piece of labor legislation—one of the biggest in recent memory—that will impact the entire labor market, and so it’s appropriate for there to be provisions in the legislation that support all members of the workforce, not just immigrants. And that by doing so, immigrant integration will be more effectively achieved (because everyone then has skin the game).