The Real Problem With WIOA

I’m still confused over why the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is already considered an abject failure because it didn’t do anything about the predatory lending practiced by institutions covered by an entirely different piece of legislation, but in the meantime, while watching this, I was pleased to see someone mention, even if somewhat obliquely (and then completely ignored by the host), the one clear aspect of WIOA (and its predecessor, the Workforce Investment Act) that really does work to the advantage of those schools that rip people off: the fact that there isn’t nearly enough funding in WIOA to provide quality training to people who are eligible for the program. If people had better options, maybe they wouldn’t be in a position to be taken advantage of by these terrible schools.

I’ve written about the completely inadequate funding levels for adult education in WIOA here. I’m not an expert by any stretch on the job training programs covered in WIOA, but I gather from what little I do know that the funding for these programs is inadequate as well. If people think that it’s the WIOA-funded one-stops that should be counseling people about higher ed student loans, then in their next breath it night be good to talk a little about whether one-stop staff capacity is sufficient—or sufficiently knowledgable—to do this, and if not, what kind of money it might take to  make that happen.

Again, I’m really interested in how workforce investment advocates might do more to stop the higher education scam artists that prey on the unemployed and unskilled, but most of the discussion over the last week or so hasn’t been very clear about the differences between higher eduction and WIOA, how they actually work together, and how they could work together better, given such a restrictive funding environment. Without such clarity, it’s hard to know which policy choices, if any, will make a difference. This is one area where your comments would be much appreciated!

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).

SKILLS Act Approved by the House – Now It’s Off to Die in the Senate

If you follow this legislation closely, you already know this, but in case you missed it: the House of Representatives, to no one’s surprise, approved the House Republicans’ Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill, H.R. 803 (known as the SKILLS Act) on Friday, pretty much along party lines. Only two Democrats voted in favor: Rep. Matheson (UT) and Rep. Barrow (GA).

Fourteen Republicans voted against:

Paul Cook (CA)
Gary Miller (CA)
Paul Broun Jr. (GA)
Thomas Massie (KY)
Justin Amash (MI)
Walter Jones Jr. (NC)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ)
Jon Runyan (NJ)
Christopher Gibson (NY)
Michael Grimm (NY)
Peter King (NY)
Michael Turner (OH)
Jim Bridenstine (OK)
David McKinley (WV)

Rep. Tierney (D-MA) offered the Democrats’ substitute bill, H.R. 798, as an amendment, but again, not surprisingly, it didn’t pass.

Interestingly, the two Democratic House members vying for John Kerry’s former Senate seat, Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch, both sat out the vote.

The bill will now go on to find a nice hole to crawl into in the Senate. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee is reportedly working on a bipartisan WIA reauthorization bill, and thus it is extremely unlikely that the SKILLS Act, having received virtually no Democratic support in the House, will ever see the light of day on the Senate floor.

It was a bit frustrating (for me, anyway) to see this bill introduced at this time, since it’s going nowhere in the Senate. Because WIA is so critical to adult education funding, adult education advocates couldn’t ignore it, but I fear that it served as a distraction from immigration reform, where I think there is better opportunity right now to generate some new awareness and support in Congress for adult education.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Democrats Walk Out on SKILLS Act Markup Hearing

(Updated Below)

Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee walked out of the committee vote Wedensday morning on the Republican-backed bill to revamp the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), claiming that the majority refused to work with them on developing a bipartisan bill. The Committee subsequently passed the bill, (H.R. 803), called the “Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills” (SKILLS) Act, by a vote of 23 to 0. (The final bill includes a couple of minor ammendments offered by Republicans, including one that would prohibit the use of WIA funds for lobbying and political activities—as well as “voter registration activities.”) Republican leaders have scheduled the bill for a floor vote next week.

During the hearing, before the walkout, Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) said that the bill “will never see the light of day in the Senate,” and from what I can gather, that is undoubtedly true.

But according to The Hill, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) highlighted the SKILLS Act in a speech last month as part of his “Making Life Work” agenda for the GOP, and really wanted to get this thing to the House floor as soon as possible.

In a joint statement, Tierney, Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) said that they viewed “boycotting this proceeding as our only alternative after many months of repeatedly requesting bipartisan negotiations and being rebuffed by committee Republicans,” and claimed that “[i]t would have been a dereliction of duty to continue to participate.”

Tierney, Hinojosa, and Miller sent a letter to Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and SKILLS Act author Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) on Monday, requesting that they cancel Wednesday’s markup and instead hold “member-to-member negotiations to reach a compromise.” The three Democrats said in their statement today that they received no response. And thus the boycott.

I was just sent this exclusive video clip of the hearing, including the dramatic walkout:

Actual webcast of the hearing here.

UPDATE 3/7/13: Some good reporting yesterday from Ethan Forman in the Eagle-Tribune on the concerns of people in the in the field in the Merrimack Valley/Southern New Hampshire are about the Republican bill:

Mary Sarris, executive director of the Salem-based North Shore Workforce Investment Board, said she provided input to Tierney to help craft his version of the Workforce Investment Act update.

Tierney’s bill, Sarris said, would provide opportunities for workforce investment boards to work with certain industries to train workers, such as, for example, offering a program for machinists at a community college. She said the current law does not allow the board to use federal money to provide for group training, which could be more cost-effective.

Wayne Burton, president of North Shore Community College, one of the North Shore Workforce Investment Board’s largest providers, said the Republican bill would have “major repercussions for us of the negative kind” by consolidating programs and making it uncertain where the worker training money might go. The legislation calls for business leaders to sit on workforce investment boards, eliminating community college representation.

“The funding goes to the people that need it, and it’s not hung up in the bureaucracy,” he said.