Government Relations Reports

Government Relations Report: June-July 2016

Attention in Washington is increasingly focused on the Presidential campaigns and the November elections. Next week Congress adjourns for almost two months (July 18-September 5), for the conventions and to campaign. While the House and Senate are still rhetorically committed to passing individual appropriations bills, time is running out, and few individual bills will have been considered. This year’s appropriations process is effectively over.

The result will likely be a Continuing Resolution of indeterminate length followed by an Omnibus bill developed in a lame duck session, convened after the election. The results of the elections will go a long way to determining the length and content of these bills.

FY 2017 Appropriations

The House Labor HHS Appropriations subcommittee marked up today. It froze Adult Education at the FY 2016 level (as did the Senate). The House bill funds Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Adult and Youth programming at current FY2016 levels and would slightly increase Dislocated Worker formula grants. It freezes Career and Technical Education grants at Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 levels. The House bill would not continue increased investments in apprenticeship authorized in FY 2016 and proposed in the Senate for FY 2017.

Like the Senate, the House bill used funds from the Pell Grant surplus to mitigate the impact of spending caps. The bill took spending about $1.3 billion from the $7.8 billion surplus, though the maximum Pell Grant award would still rise to $5,935 next year. The House version of the bill does not does not restore year-round Pell Grants, a priority for many colleges and universities.

Some Democrats and Higher Education advocates are opposed to using these funds. In a letter to Labor HHS Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole, Rep. Bobby Scott (senior Democrat on the Education and Workforce Committee) and others wrote “we strongly oppose any harmful cuts to Pell funding in this year’s appropriations vehicle that will make college more expensive for students in future years” and that “The LHHS appropriations bill should not balance other funding needs on the backs of low-income college students.”

The House bill increases funding for the National Institutes of Health by $1.25 billion (versus $2 billion in the Senate) It also would provide a $500 million increase for IDEA special education grants and would fund the Student Support and Academic Achievement Grants under the Every Student Succeeds Act at $1 billion.

The bill also contains several policy riders to prevent implementation of several of the Obama administration’s higher education regulations, including: the “gainful employment” rule aimed at mostly for-profit colleges, forthcoming teacher preparation rules, state authorization regulations as well as the federal definition of a credit hour.

As we reported, the Senate acted on its version of the bill last month and froze Adult Education state grants ($582 million) and funds for National Leadership Activities ($13.7 million) at the FY 2016 level. In addition, it restored “Year Round Pell,” which allows students to receive a second grant to take a third semester of classes in an academic year, in order to graduate sooner. The program would affect approximately a million students, and the average recipient would be expected to receive $1,650 more in aid. The bill supports an increase in the maximum Pell grant to an estimated $5,935 for the 2017-18 school year.

Other Legislation: Perkins Act Reauthorization

On Thursday, the House Education and Workforce Committee unanimously approved its version of a CTE Reauthorization bill called “The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21 Century Act (HR 5587). ” The Committee made several changes to the draft bill introduced earlier this week. The amended version of the bill should become available next week. From the perspective of Adult Education, the bill adopts concepts, such as career pathways and sector partnerships, and terminology from WIOA and is designed to simplify the state CTE plan by allowing states to submit a combined plan for CTE and WIOA. The draft bill also:

  • Requires state and local programs to offer all students the opportunity to participate in work-based learning as part of a high-quality CTE program of study that gives students real world skills and fosters in-depth, first-hand engagement with the tasks required in a given career field.
  • Supports the integration of employability skills into CTE programs and programs of study to ensure all students learn the general skills that are necessary for success in the labor market for all employment levels and in all sectors, including the integration of academic knowledge and technical skills applied to the workplace, interpersonal, analytical and organizational skills, and personal qualities that enable individuals to interact effectively with others.
  • Re-engages disconnected youth with the education system through CTE by updating the definition for “special populations” to include homeless individuals and youth with a parent who is a member of the Armed Forces on active duty.
  • Increases focus on serving CTE students in juvenile justice and correctional institutions by increasing the amount of funds that States can reserve to serve these populations.
  • Requires funds to be used to meet the needs of special populations and students pursuing careers in nontraditional fields to prioritize equity of opportunity for all students, especially those in historically underserved and vulnerable student populations.
  • Increases the amount of funding available for state leadership activities to be used to support innovative strategies and activities, or the replication and expansion of evidence-based activities to improve CTE.
  • Authorizes increased appropriations for each year of the bill for a total increase of almost 9 percent over the life of the authorization.

According to the CTE community, the Committee does not have a commitment from the House leadership for Floor time to allow the full House consider the bill.

We still await action in the Senate where, as you know, we worked with Senator Reed’s office on a package of amendments to the CTE bill that would make more explicit the relationship between Adult Education and CTE.

WIOA Rules and Regulations

On June 30, the Departments of Labor and Education issued the long-anticipated WIOA Regulations:

All of the links below are available from the DOL/ETA Web site (https://www.doleta.gov/wioa/Final_Rules_Resources.cfm.

Final Rules

Final Rules Resources

Press Release

Performance Accountability Resources

Quick Reference Guides

Frequently Asked Questions

Final Rules and Performance FAQs

Fact Sheets

Government Relations Report: May-June 2016

FY 2017 Appropriations

This week the Senate Labor-HHS-Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee marked up its bill for the coming year. The bill was premised on the Budget agreement reached last year to add funds to both the defense and non-defense sides of the budget. The subcommittee’s FY 2017 allocation was $270 million less than last year’s, meaning that it had less money to work with. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the Senior Democrat on the Committee, called the allocation “snug but fair.” Other more technical issues meant that the subcommittee was perhaps as much as $ 1 billion below last year’s level, making cuts inevitable. To mitigate the impact of these cuts, the Subcommittee chose to reduce the Pell Grant surplus by $1.2 billion (out of a total of $7.8 billion) as well as resort to other accounting mechanisms.

The Subcommittee mark up on Tuesday was uneventful. It rapidly became clear that Republicans and Democrats had developed a bi-partisan bill that met the three most pressing demands facing the Subcommittee: the desire to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion, provide funds to combat the opioid epidemic, and fund the provisions of the recently reauthorized Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Appropriations Committee report on the bill here.

The Full Appropriations Committee considered the bill on Thursday, June 9 and reported it to the Senate by a vote of 29-1 (only Senator Lankford of Oklahoma voted no). There were no changes to the Subcommittee’s work. Members of the Committee noted that it was the first Senate Labor-HHS bill in seven years to be reported out.

As we reported, the Committee froze both Adult Education state grants ($582 million) and funds for National Leadership Activities ($13.7 million) at the FY 2016 level. In addition, the bill includes a provision to reinstate the Year-Round Pell Grant, which allows students to receive a second grant to take a third semester of classes in an academic year, in order to graduate sooner. The program would reportedly affect approximately one million students, and the average recipient would be expected to receive $1,650 more in aid. The bill supports an increase in the maximum Pell Grant from $5,815 for the 2016-17 school year, to an estimated $5,935 for the 2017-18 school year.

It is worth noting that in her opening remarks, Senator Mikulski, the Committee’s senior Democrat talked about hard choices that needed to be made and said that should additional funds become available, the Committee would revisit some of its decisions. Senator Murray said that she was disappointed in the lack of additional funding for education and referred to the funding levels in the bill as “a floor to build on.”

Implicitly, both were referring to efforts by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to add $18 billion to the Defense budget, increase the military pay raise and stop cuts to the Army and Marine Corps. The proposal would have broken the budget agreement reached last year to maintain parity between defense and non-defense spending. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island offered an amendment to restore that parity by adding $18 billion in non-defense spending, including full funding for WIOA. Both amendments were defeated, but they do suggest that some kind of budget deal can be reached later in the year to add additional funds to both sides of the budget.

It is not known when or whether the Senate LHHS-ED bill will be considered on the Senate floor as a free standing bill. The House Labor-HHS Appropriations has not yet scheduled a mark up, but staff says they hope to move before the July 4 recess. As of this writing, staff say on record that the Subcommittee will not tap the Pell Grant surplus, meaning that there will inevitably be more cuts in the House bill than in the Senate bill.

Other Legislation

House and Senate progress toward a CTE reauthorization seems to have slowed. Rumors have it that the bill is getting caught up in election year politics, with each side fearful of giving the other a legislative victory. We are continuing to work with Senator Reed’s office on a package of amendments to the CTE bill that would make explicit the relationship between Adult Education and CTE. As we noted, on May 17, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing, “Helping Students Succeed by Strengthening the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.” Of particular interest, given our work with Senator Reed, was the testimony of Dr. Monty Sullivan, President, Louisiana Community and Technical College System. He recommended focusing the Perkins Act special populations provisions on adults with no high school diploma. From his testimony:

“Under the special populations provisions of the Perkins Act, consider focusing on key populations. Community colleges serve a broad cross section of people. Those most in need of training are often adults with no high school diploma and returning military veterans. Consider making specific allowances for these populations.”

ESRA remains stuck over privacy issues.

With the effective conclusion of Presidential primary season we have more or less entered what Washingtonians know as “silly season” when Presidential politics affects virtually all decisions the Congress makes and less and less gets done.

The Congress will recess in July for the Presidential conventions and will then take its traditional August recess, returning to Washington after Labor Day for about a month. Everyone knows that there will be a lame duck session in which final spending decisions will be made.

Government Relations Report: April 2016

Appropriations

The Congress, when it is in session, is continuing to consider FY 2017 Appropriations bills. It appears that the House and Senate may consider the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill in late June.

As you may recall, aggregate domestic discretionary spending current fiscal and year and the next was the subject of a two-year agreement between the Congress and the Administration. We’ve noted that Republicans on the House Budget Committee have decided not to abide by that agreement, while the Senate is adhering to it.

Each of the 12 Appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate ultimately receives an allocation for the fiscal year, the so-called 302(b) allocation named after the relevant section of the Budget Act. That allocation is a cap on what the subcommittee can spend. The House Appropriations Subcommittee has not released its allocations but seems to be telling each subcommittee what its cap is once the bills are actually being considered. The Senate Subcommittee did release its allocation to Labor-HHS: $161.8 billion, about $300 million below the FY 16 level. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the Senior Democrat on the Committee, called the allocation “snug but fair” perhaps suggesting that, if other things fall into place, the Senate Democrats could work with the Republican majority to produce a bi-partisan bill.

In March, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual projections for the Pell Grant program. The revised cost estimates revealed a large projected surplus for the program over the next several fiscal years. In FY 2017 alone, the surplus is now estimated at $8.7 billion. This had led to calls to use the surplus to reinstate year-round Pell Grants. However, Congress could use the surplus to fund other programs, including non-education programs. At least as of now, House Republicans are not planning on using the Pell Grant surplus in their bill. But rumors persist that Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Subcommittee have agreed to a deal to use the surplus to fund some version of year-round Pell, add $1 billon to NIH, and use $500 million to fund programs authorized in the new ESSA legislation.

Meanwhile, the House is waiting until May 16 to consider Appropriations bills and the Senate process may be falling apart because the Senate is bogged down over an issue concerning purchases of Iranian heavy water. For those of us of a certain age this calls to mind Roseanne Rosannadanna’s immortal insight “It’s always something.”

It is now abundantly clear that the Congress will not complete work on all 12 Appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year and that there will need to be a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will run from September until well after the elections. Issues will be resolved in December and will presumably be included in an Omnibus Appropriations bill.

Other Legislation

In a recent briefing, Senate Republican staff reiterated the Senate HELP Committee’s commitment to producing a draft of a CTE reauthorization bill this year. They indicated that hoped to have a discussion draft available for comment in the near future.

House Republican staff said that they are in the early stages of negotiating with Democrats and that “everyone wants to get it done.” They said they wanted to circulate a discussion draft in advance of a House vote in July. They said they were mindful of the need to align CTE with WIOA and ESSA. They foresaw the federal role in CTE as one issue that could divide Republicans and Democrats, and said this issue, and other difficult issues, had not yet been addressed in their meetings with Democrats. They also expressed concern that the Administration was “not in sync” with the Hill with regard to CTE reauthorization.

We are continuing to work with Senate staff on a package of amendments that will strengthen the connections between Adult Education and CTE.

Government Relations Report: March 2016

Funding for FY 2017 was supposed to be easy and noncontroversial. After all, at the end of last year, the Administration and the Congress agreed on a two-year budget and appropriations deal that established how much money would be available in FY 2016 and FY 2017 for non-defense discretionary programs. To date, FY 2017 funding has been every bit as controversial as previous years.

In the middle of the month, Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus decided not to support a FY 2017 budget of $1.07 trillion proposed by House Republican leadership that was consistent with the recently negotiated deal. They instead argued that the budget should be capped at the $1.04 trillion sequester level.

On March 16th, the House Budget Committee reported a Budget Resolution for FY 2017 does not abide by the FY16-17 Budget agreement. It proposes to balance the budget in 10 years without adding new revenues or meaningfully reducing either defense spending or Social Security. If adopted and the suggested policy options in the Committee’s Report were followed, it would result in deep cuts in a wide variety of education and other programs, such as:

  • The elimination of mandatory Pell grants;
  • Freezing the Pell maximum at the FY 16 level for next ten years;
  • The elimination of the in-school interest subsidy;
  • Possibly setting a maximum-income cap for Pell;
  • The elimination of Pell eligibility for less-than-half-time students;
  • The elimination of Administrative Fees Paid to Schools in the Campus-Based Student-Aid Programs;
  • The elimination of funding for The Institute of Museum and Library Services;
  • The elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting;
  • A recommendation to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program;
  • A phase-out of Eligibility for TEACH Grants;
  • A variety of changes to GI Bill education benefits;
  • Further cuts to the Workforce system;
  • The elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service; and
  • A reduction in SNAP funds and turning it into a block grant.

With regard to job-training programs, the proposed House budget suggests “further consolidation of duplicative Federal job-training programs and improved coordination with the recently reformed workforce development system. This budget will also improve the remaining programs’ accountability by aligning their performance indicators with those passed as part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. A streamlined approach with increased oversight and accountability will not only provide administrative savings, but will improve access, choice, and flexibility, enabling workers and job seekers to respond quickly and effectively to whatever specific career challenges they face. In addition, the budget recommends a 15-percent State flexibility allotment under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.”

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 62 percent of the cuts recommended by the House Budget Committee come from programs intended to benefit low and moderate-income people.

The House Republican Majority again finds itself in the familiar position of not being able to pass a bill because it cannot get a majority of Republican votes. In this case, the budget produced by the House Budget Committee alienates moderate Republicans, and cannot get Democratic support because it proposes cuts that the Democratic members will not vote for.

Adding to the confusion is news that House Republicans might try to tie funding for discretionary programs to additional cuts in entitlements. This would lead to a disconnect between the House and Senate appropriations bills because the Senate has given every indication that it will abide by the recent Budget agreement. Still another impediment to completing Appropriations bills is the insistence of House Republicans that legislative proposals or “riders” be attached to different Appropriations bills.

For the time being, at least, the chances that Congress will pass a Budget Resolution are exceedingly slim. It would be difficult, in any case, for the House to vote on all twelve annual spending bills between May 15 and the September 30 deadline — a task made more challenging in this Presidential election year.  The chances of a Continuing Resolution (CR) being needed to keep the government open beyond September 30th are significantly increased.

In the meantime, the House did begin consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, even though Speaker Ryan said that he would not allow votes on the bill until the budget impasse was resolved.

As we have indicated, for a variety of reasons — commitments to VA health, declining HUD receipts, and unforeseen crises like the Zika virus — Appropriators are warning that there will have to be cuts in spending this year. As one staff person told us, “This year, a freeze is a win.” One area that is drawing interest is that there is a Pell grant surplus estimated at $8 billion that could be used to mitigate cuts in other programs or to help fund “year-round” Pell. The Higher Education community typically opposes drawing down the Pell surplus, but the issue is on the table.

While Appropriators continue to express the hope that they will be able to complete their work, some are facing the reality of the situation. On March 25th, CQ quoted Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Chair of the House Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee, who said “Congress will probably need to pass a continuing resolution in September to avoid a government shutdown when current funding expires and fiscal 2017 begins.” The article went on to report that “Cole said he hoped negotiators would be able to pull together an omnibus in a post-election, lame-duck period so that the new administration wouldn’t have to deal with the headache of spending negotiations from the outset. …The Oklahoma lawmaker added that whichever party wins the White House, and which side is set to control the Senate, would have a stronger hand in negotiating an omnibus in late November or December.”

March on the Hill

On March 16th, NCSDAE held it’s annual March on the Hill event, bringing eleven State Directors or their representatives to Washington D.C. to meet with Congressional staff about the importance of adult education and the impact that federal adult education funding through Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act has on adult learners back home. Collectively we participated in 38 meetings. You can read a full report here.

In then process we identified new champions. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard posed a question to Education Secretary King about why the Administration did not ask for more funds for Adult Education and pushed back when she thought his answer was inadequate. (You can watch this exchange here.)

Two additional thoughts: Jon Kerr (state director from Washington) also visited with his governor’s D.C. office (every state has an office here) as part of this year’s event. As an organization, we do reach out to individual state offices and with national associations here in town that represent mayors and other local elected officials. We’d be interested in hearing from members interested in making connections with these organizations as well.

We also have begun discussing a plan to include representatives from the private sector to our Hill visits in order to strengthen the case that investment in Adult Education strengthens the economy. Again, we welcome your thoughts on potential business and other private sector champions in your state who might be interested.

Other Legislation:

  • The CTE community anticipates that the Senate HELP Committee will distribute for comment a draft bill within the next several weeks. The House is moving more slowly.
  • No one seriously thinks that the Congress will take up the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this year.
  • Action on ESRA remains stalled.

Government Relations Report: February 2016

The elation that accompanied the signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act has been short-lived. That legislation reflected a new two-year agreement (Bipartisan Budget Act or BBA) between the Administration and Congress to raise the spending caps in Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. It is now becoming increasingly obvious that the caps are too low to accommodate all the non-defense domestic discretionary spending that advocates want and too high to satisfy many House Republicans.

At this writing, House Republicans have yet to agree on the content of a Congressional Budget Resolution for FY 2017.  The Republican Study Committee and the Freedom Caucus, two organizations of conservative members of the House, have announced their opposition to the spending caps agreed to just a few months ago. These Members want the caps to be reduced or offset by an additional $30 billion in cuts in mandatory programs. In fact, the RSC would like to keep the defense cap in place, but take the entire $30 billion from non-defense discretionary programs, which would reduce them by almost 6% below FY 2016.

It is not yet clear whether this proposal can pass the House. This has thrown a monkey wrench into the proceedings. Appropriations bills for FY 20217 are predicated on the $1.070 trillion level included in the BBA.

Both Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan have pledged to act on appropriations bills. But, proposing a budget of less than $1.070 trillion will inevitably result in the Senate blocking any bill that passed the House and could prevent the House from taking up bills with popular programs in them because Members would not want to be on record supporting deep cuts in those programs in an election year

If, as many predict, a solution is not found to this likely stalemate by September 30th, Congress will be forced to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) at the FY 2016 levels. The length of that CR will likely be influenced by the results of the elections in November.

Other Legislation

CTE Reauthorization:  CTE remains everyone’s candidate for the Education bill most likely to get done this year. We are working with Sen. Reed (Rhode Island) on a series of amendments intended to strengthen the relationship between Adult Education and CTE.

ESRA:  You may recall that we worked closely with Sen. Reed to strengthen language in the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) with regard to Adult Education. The bill that passed the Senate with this language included makes it clear that the mission of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to “provide national leadership in expanding fundamental knowledge and understanding of education” includes adult education. The Senate also agreed to language that added “improving access to, opportunities for, and completion of postsecondary education and adult education” to the list of the Institute’s priorities. The Reed amendment also added “State leaders in adult education” to the list of those who may serve on the National Board for Education Sciences and added adult literacy data to the list of types of statistical data to be collected, reported, analyzed, and disseminated by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Finally, it added “access to, and opportunity for, adult education and literacy activities” to the list of topics that the Center is supposed to collect data on.

ESRA, now known as SETRA (the Strengthening Education Through Research Act) has become ensnarled in two issues that have slowed its progress through the Congress. First, is a concern that the research could infringe on privacy rights. The second is that the Senate version of the bill refers to “social/emotional learning,” which has caught the attention of the blogosphere. Congressional staff seems cautiously optimistic that these concerns can be successfully addressed.

Reminder: Please call your senator to ask that he/she sign on the Reed-Blumenthal letter seeking increased funding for Adult Education.

Government Relations Report: January-February 2016

January was relatively quiet. Congress was on recess for a good part of the month and was, in any event, basking in the glow of completing a Budget agreement, implementing that agreement in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, (also referred to as the Omnibus Appropriations bill), reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as ESSA), and enacting a new highway and infrastructure bill.

In addition, Congress and the Administration laid the groundwork for this year, in which the Presidential election will soon take center stage. Congress will spend a lot of time out of session and campaigning for re-election. Nevertheless, it will need to focus on Budget and spending issues and may try to tackle a few other issues on which there appears to be some glimmer of bi-partisanship.

The Omnibus Appropriations bill, which funds the entire federal government for fiscal year 2016, was the product of an agreement between the Administration and Congressional leaders to raise the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending by approximately $80 billion over two years. The final package funded Adult Basic Education State grants at $581.9 million and National Leadership Activities at $13.7 million. This is an increase of $13 million or 2.2 percent over last year. As we noted earlier, $582 million was more than either the House or Senate assumed earlier in the appropriations process and more than the Administration requested.

The bi-partisan budget agreement puts in place new caps for fiscal year 2017. This means that Congress now knows exactly how much money it will have to appropriate in fiscal year 2017. The Appropriations Committees still need to divide that money across the various subcommittees and the subcommittees need to decide how much to allocate to each individual program.

Some members of the House Freedom Caucus (generally regarded as the most conservative members of the Republican Caucus) have been quoted as saying that they might vote against the Congressional Budget Resolution which sets tax and spending limits, unless the caps are rolled back.

Last week, CQ reported that House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (KY), “warned that breaking from the budget caps in the fiscal 2017 budget resolution — as some conservatives advocate — would weaken the GOP’s leverage in adding policy riders to spending bills…” and that retreating from the topline discretionary limit in the budget deal would “be a one-way ticket to an omnibus. The Senate would never agree to the new number.”

Congress may not be in session long, but the year may hold its share of drama.

On February 9, the Administration released its FY2017 budget. They requested $582.0 million for Adult Education State Grants for fiscal year 2017, (the same as the 2016 level), but an increase in funding for National Leadership Activities from $13.7 million to $24.7 million, an increase of $11 million.

The Leadership money is intended to improve standards and assessments and carry out data collection activities authorized by AEFLA to support States in their efforts to improve adult education standards. It also includes $5 million to provide technical assistance to help States meet the WIOA requirement to align adult education content standards with the State determined academic standards for K-12 education required by Title I of ESEA.

Other Department of Education highlights in the Administration’s FY2017 budget include:

  • A proposed increase in English Language Acquisition state grant funds from $737.4 million to $800 million.
  • A requested increase of $75 million for CTE state grants.
  • $180 million for the Education Innovation and Research program, an increase of $60 million, or 50 percent to expand support for evidence-based initiatives to develop, validate, and scale up effective education interventions that will help states and local educational agencies to meet requirements under federal law.
  • The budget again proposes the America’s College Promise initiative, a partnership with states designed to make two years of community college free for responsible students. Students would be able to earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree and earn the skills needed to succeed in the workforce – at no cost. ACP also would provide grants to schools that support new low-income students, including those transferring from a community college. Students would be able to receive up to two years of college at these institutions at zero or significantly reduced tuition.
  • The budget proposes maximum Pell Grants adjusted for inflation beyond 2017.
  • A Pell for Accelerated Completion program, making year-round Pell Grant funds available to students who take a full course load and have used up their existing award.
  • The budget would provide an additional $300 Pell Bonus for students who stay on course to complete college on time by taking at least 15 credit hours per semester.
  • The Administration requests $209.3 million, an increase of $14.3 million over the fiscal year 2016 level, for the Research Development and Dissemination program. The RDD program identifies effective strategies for improving student learning in early childhood, K−12, postsecondary, and adult education and works to disseminate this information to policymakers and practitioners in ways that maximize its utility.

The FY 2017 budget also proposes significant new investments in job training — some entirely new, and some that were requested in last year’s budget proposal. The President also proposes investments in expanding apprenticeship, a focus on “opportunity youth,” and a workforce data initiative.

Department of Labor Highlights: New Initiatives

  • A $5.5 billion request for a new mandatory program to target job and skill training opportunities for youth, including $3.5 billion in formula funding for partnerships with employers and communities to support up to one million summer jobs and 150,000 year-round work experiences for out-of-school youth. It also includes a $2 billion competitive grant program for communities that would be administered jointly by the Departments of Labor and Education and would focus on dropout recovery strategies.
  • America’s Talent Compact: A $3 billion request targeting regional partnerships to train workers to meet local employers’ demand. The Administration proposes linking these efforts to WIOA requirements to focus and develop industry and sector training strategies. The Talent Compact would fund 50-60 regions a year, through competitive grants, to increase collaborations between workforce boards, employers, CTE programs, community colleges and economic development organizations.
  • Workforce Data Science and Innovation Fund: The President requests $500 million in mandatory funding to invest in tracking and updating data on workforce needs and trends. The system would be based on Health and Human Services Open Health Data Initiative and include partnership with Department of Commerce to share data collected.
  • Apprenticeship Training Fund: The Administration again asks for $2 billion to expand apprenticeship to double the number of apprentices nationally by 2019. This fund would include a new $200 million proposal targeting youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship; $1.3 billion for state-led strategies for increasing the number of employers using apprenticeship as a training system and $500 million targeting local and national partnerships to support apprenticeship.
  • Career Navigators: The president’s budget includes $1.5 billion over 5 years in mandatory funds to create a network of Career Navigators to specifically work with long-term unemployed and those who have left the labor force.

Proposals for Existing Programs

  • The administration requests funding at the FY17 authorized levels for the WIOA adult program, the Dislocated Worker Program, WIOA Youth formula grants, and the Employment Service 
  • Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) and State Data Longitudinal Systems Grants – the Administration requests $40 million, an increase of $34 million over FY 2016 levels for WDQI grants.
  • Apprenticeship Grants: the Administration requests $90 million in funding, which would build on the $90 million in funding included in the FY 2016 omnibus.
  • The Administration requests $95 million, an increase of $7 million over FY 2016 enacted levels for the re-integration of ex-offenders. The additional resources would support expanded programs serving adult and juvenile offender in areas most impacted by recent “unrest.”
  • Indian and Native American Program – the Administration requests $52 million, an increase of $2 million over the FY 2016 enacted levels.
  • Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Program – the Administration requests $ 81,896,000 million, consistent with FY 2016 levels.
  • The Administration freezes the YouthBuild program.

Health and Human Services

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): the President’s budget proposes to increase the TANF overall state block grant by $8 billion over five years, and would require states to spend at least 55 percent of combined federal and state funds on core benefits, including work activities.
  • The request would repurpose the current TANF Contingency Fund to, among other things, establish a $473 million “Pathways to Jobs” Initiative and invest $100 million in two-generation demonstration projects. The budget also calls for the establishment of a $2 billion “TANF Economic Response Fund,” similar to the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
  • Advancing Human Services Interoperability: the President proposes $10 million in discretionary funding to establish a Systems Innovation Center, to improve interoperability between programs including TANF, Child Care, Child Welfare and SNAP. The President’s proposal also includes $50 million in mandatory funding to create a Statewide Human Services Data System Grant Program intending to support states management of longitudinal data.

Republicans on the Hill have already declared the President’s Budget to be Dead on Arrival. Given that it is quite unlikely that the caps on discretionary spending will be raised, each of the new initiatives would have to compete with existing programs, making it very unlikely they would be funded. Similarly, this Congress does not appear inclined to create new mandatory, or entitlement, programs. The real impact of the President’s proposals may be to draw simply attention to what the Administration perceives to be pressing national needs.

Other Legislation

CTE Reauthorization: There is substantial energy behind CTE and the Senate is continuing to work on the bill on a bi-partisan basis. The House appears to have made less progress. The much-abbreviated legislative schedule, however, may work against a reauthorization in 2016.

ESRA:  Remains in limbo over concerns about student data privacy.

Government Relations Report: Year-end Wrap Up

On December 18th, the President signed the “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016,” (HR 2029) which funds the entire federal government for all of fiscal year (FY) 2016. Passage of the bill followed on an agreement between the Administration and Congressional leaders to raise the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending by approximately $80 billion over the next two years.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the agreement “effectively eliminates about 90 percent of the sequestration cuts for non-defense discretionary programs in fiscal year 2016, and about 60 percent of them in 2017, while also easing sequestration for defense by equal dollar amounts in both years – and thereby providing more substantial relief from sequestration than the Murray-Ryan deal provided …” However, “NDD [non-defense discretionary] funding under this deal would still be low in historical terms. … NDD funding for 2016 would be 12 percent below the 2010 level, adjusted for inflation. By 2017, NDD spending would fall to its lowest level on record as a share of the economy, with data back to 1962.”

The agreement puts in place new caps for fiscal year 2017. This means that Congress now knows exactly how much money it will have to appropriate next fiscal year. The Appropriations Committees still need to divide that money across the various subcommittees and the subcommittees need to decide how much to allocate to each individual program.

The Budget agreement gave the Appropriators the opportunity to revisit their earlier decisions regarding FY 2016 funding. As we noted when the bill was released, the Consolidated Appropriations Act included more funds for adult education than both the House or Senate originally provided, and more funding for state grants than the President requested in his FY 2016 budget. In its bill the House proposed $568.9 million for Adult Basic and Literacy Education and $10.2 million for National Leadership Activities. The Senate proposed $540 million and $7.7 million, respectively. The final package funded Adult Basic Education State grants at $581.9 million and National Leadership Activities at $13.7 million. This is an increase of $13 million or 2.2 percent over last year.

This activity is directly attributable to the sustained efforts of State Directors and other champions in the field to educate their elected representatives on the importance of Adult Education.

Please send letters to your Members of Congress and Senators thanking them for their support of Adult Education. It is important to let them know that we appreciate their efforts on our behalf.

Career Pathway Programs:

As we also noted previously, the Consolidated Appropriations Act amended the Higher Education Act to define a “Career Pathway Program” as it is defined under WIOA — as “a program that combines rigorous and high-quality education, training, and other services that:

(A) aligns with the skill needs of industries in the economy of the State or regional economy involved;
(B) prepares an individual to be successful in any of a full range of secondary or postsecondary education options, including apprenticeships registered under the Act of August 16, 1937 (commonly known as the ‘National Apprenticeship Act’; 50 Stat. 664, chapter 663; 29 U.S.C. 50 et. Seq.) (referred to individually in this Act as an ‘apprenticeship’, except in section 171);
(C) includes counseling to support an individual in achieving the individual’s education and career goals;
(D) includes, as appropriate, education offered concurrently with and in the same context as workforce preparation activities and training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster;
(E) organizes education, training, and other services to meet the particular needs of an individual in a manner that accelerates the educational and career advancement of the individual to the extent practicable;
(F) enables an individual to attain a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent, and at least 1 recognized postsecondary credential; and
(G) helps an individual enter or advance within a specific occupation or occupational cluster.”
(HR 2029, pages 397-398)

Strengthening Education through Research Act (ESRA):

Among its last activities in 2015, the Senate passed a bill (S. 227) to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) of 2002, and sent it to the House. Unfortunately, the House did not take up the bill before it adjourned but we hope that it will do so early in 2016.

It has taken almost 18 months to get to this point: Back on April 8, 2014, the House Education and the Workforce Committee first considered an ESRA reauthorization bill of their own, HR 4366, (the Strengthening Education through Research Act). The bill, which had bipartisan support, was adopted by voice vote.

The House bill was silent on adult education, but we worked with Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) to insert strengthened adult education language into the bill when the Senate considered it. In September 2014, the Senate HELP Committee, on a bi-partisan basis, adopted many pieces of the Reed proposal, supported by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

The Senate ESRA bill is substantively important because it adds adult education to the bill’s priorities:

  • The bill makes it clear that the Institute of Education Sciences‘ mission, which is to “provide national leadership in expanding fundamental knowledge and understanding of education” includes adult education, and adds “improving access to, opportunities for, and completion of postsecondary education and adult education” to the list of the Institute’s priorities.
  • It also adds “State leaders in adult education” to the list of those who may serve on the National Board for Education Sciences, which advises and provides input to the Institute Director.
  • It adds adult literacy data to the list of types of statistical data to be collected, reported, analyzed, and disseminated by the National Center for Education Statistics, and adds “access to, and opportunity for, adult education and literacy activities” to the list of topics that the Center is supposed to collect data on.

The bill is important politically, also, because it validates our strategy of trying to more closely connect adult education to other, relevant education programs. We are looking to do similar things with the reauthorization of both the Perkins Act and the Higher Education Act.

In remarks on the Senate Floor, Senator Reed’s cited NCSDAE for helping to develop the Senate language. An email we received from Sen. Reed’s Education staff person at the time stated “On the whole, we have much more to hang our hats on than we had before. I see it as a victory. Thanks for all your work. Your mobilization made this possible.

The Year Ahead:

Because 2016 is an election year, time will be short.

It is important to note that Congress will again attempt to pass individual appropriations bills. Its task will be made easier because overall funding limits for FY 2017 have already been determined. On the other hand, those spending limits will also make it challenging for Congress to significantly increase funding for programs in FY 2017 unless they decrease funding for other programs, or find other savings. Nevertheless, we will take the opportunity this year to again make our case for additional funding for adult education programs.

Having demonstrated its capacity to enact contentious legislation like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized No Child Left Behind, the Congress may well complete action on ESRA, which is decidedly less controversial. It may also take up Career and Technical Education and Higher Education. These will also present us with opportunities.

Government Relations Report: December, 2015

The last two months in Washington have been quite eventful. After secret negotiations, the White House and House and Senate Republicans and Democrats reached agreement on a budget package called the Bipartisan Budget Act.

Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the government open through December 11. We are now four days away from the expiration of that CR.

It is increasingly likely that Congress will have to pass a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. A short-term CR would buy Congress time to continue to work on so-called riders, which are legislative provisions that affect how the government does business rather than how much it spends. Examples of riders include limiting the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce certain rules as well as limits on abortion, campaign finance, Cuba, climate change, the Affordable Care Act, refugee policy, trucking issues, and many more.

If the opposing sides cannot come an agreement, a longer-term continuing resolution remains a possibility. According to CQ, “House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said [last] Tuesday he hopes to post the text of a fiscal 2016 omnibus spending agreement on Dec. 7, even as the most contentious policy differences appear far from resolved.” It further said, “The top Senate Democratic appropriator, Barbara A. Mikulski, said [last] Monday evening that negotiations over funding levels for seven of the 12 appropriations titles are nearly complete, but that the three most contentious domestic bills — Interior-Environment, Financial Services and Labor-HHS — were still in flux.”

Increasingly, it seems that negotiations have virtually broken down, making it unlikely that Congress can meet the December 11 date and making the possibility of a long-term CR more plausible.

As you may recall, there are real differences between a long-term CR and an Omnibus Appropriations bill. The former just extends funding at, or near, the FY 20125 level into FY 2016. An Omnibus actually funds individual programs so there are winners and losers. Appropriators hate long-term Continuing Resolutions because by treating all programs alike they negate the power of Appropriators.

Remember that the House froze Adult Education at $568.9 million (the FY 2015 level) and the Senate reduced funding by $29 million. Both levels are below the $622 million authorized in WIOA for FY 2016.

There have been virtually no leaks from Appropriators about any of their decisions so we don’t know where things stand with regard to funding Adult Ed in FY 20216.

It may not be too late for you to weigh in on funding for Adult Education. Remember that these decisions rest with the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations subcommittee that actually determines annual funding levels.

If you have not already done so:

  • Please contact your Representative and Senators to weigh in with House and Senate Labor-HHS-Appropriations Committee members, in support of the highest possible funding level.
  • Tell them that we continue to do more with less and that WIOA puts an even greater responsibility on Adult Ed programs than did WIA. The reality is that our adult education programs are reaching fewer than 2 million adults a year, just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Enrollment has decreased most sharply among the low-income populations that most need adult education and workforce skills services. Waiting lists exist in almost every state.
  • Remind them that Congress passed WIOA on a bi-partisan basis and assumed that Adult Ed programs would require at least another $60 million to achieve the goals included in WIOA.

Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies

Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), (202) 224-5721
Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), (202) 224-6521
Richard C. Shelby (R-Alabama), (202) 224-5744
Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), (202) 224-5054
Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), (202) 224-4944
Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), (202) 224-5972
Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), (202) 224-2854
Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), (202) 224-5824
Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), (202) 224-6472
James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), (202) 224-5754

Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Washington), (202) 224-2621
Richard J. Durbin (D-Illinois), (202) 224-2152
Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), (202) 224-4642
Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), (202) 224-4654
Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), (202) 224-2841
Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), (202) 224-3753
Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), (202) 224-3934
Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), (202) 224-5653

House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies

Tom Cole, Oklahoma, Chairman, (202) 225-6165
Mike Simpson, R- Idaho, (202) 225-5531
Steve Womack, R-Arkansas, (202) 225-4301
Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tennessee, (202) 225-3271
Andy Harris, R-Maryland, (202) 225-5311
Martha Roby, R-Alabama, (202) 225-2901
Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, (202) 225-6411
Scott Rigell, R-Virginia, (202) 225-4215

Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, (202) 225-3661
Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, (202) 225-1766
Barbara Lee, D-California, (202) 225-2661
Chaka Fattah, D-Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4001

Government Relations Report: November, 2015 (NTI Edition)

The last couple of weeks in Washington have been quite eventful. After secret negotiations the White House and House and Senate Republicans and Democrats reached agreement on a budget package called the Bipartisan Budget Act.

The deal would:

  • Increase discretionary spending by $80 billion over two years;.
  • Effectively increase both defense and non-defense discretionary spending by $33 billion in Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017; and
  • Include a clean debt limit increase to March 2017.

The increased spending would be offset by a variety of spending cuts and revenue increases, including:

  • Selling crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve;
  • Auctioning off federal spectrum;
  • Tax compliance provisions to raise revenue without an actual tax increase;
  • Repeal of a requirement in the health care law for large employers to automatically enroll their employees in health care plans; and
  • A series of changes aimed at preventing the exhaustion of the Social Security disability insurance trust fund including a reallocation of payroll tax revenue between the disability fund and main Social Security fund and various measures aimed at encouraging work and cracking down on fraud and abuse.

On Wednesday, October 28 the House passed the Bipartisan Budget Act by a vote of 266 to 167. One Hundred and Eight-Seven Democrats voted for the bill, while 79 Republicans voted Yes and 167 voted No. The Senate passed the bill at 3am on October 30. Eighteen Republicans voted in favor of final passage. Meanwhile, 35 GOP senators voted against the agreement.

As you can see, a majority of Republicans in both the House and Senate opposed the bill, strongly suggesting that the final package will need Democratic votes to pass. This is widely assumed to give the Democrats in both Houses important seats at the negotiating table.

The next step will be for the appropriations committees to negotiate an omnibus bill.  They’ll first have to agree to new subcommittee allocations. Then each subcommittee’s leadership will negotiate the line-by-line funding levels.

It’s important to remember, that both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ reported Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bills (which fund Adult Education and other programs) have aggregate cuts of more than $3.5 billion below last year’s level.

There is no guarantee that all of that funding will be restored by the new allocations. Nor is there any guarantee that all of the education cuts in the bills ($2.8 billion in the House and $1.4 billion in the Senate) will be restored.

The Coalitions to which we belong will be sending a letter urging the Appropriations Committees to provide an allocation for Labor-HHS-ED that allows for full restoration of the cuts and makes room for needed investments.

What can you do?

Educate both your Members of Congress and your Senators.

  • Remind them that less than one year ago, Congress voted for WIOA in overwhelming bi-partisan votes in both the House (415-6) and Senate (97-3). The law established Adult Education as one of the four key programs in the workforce system because it recognized the crucial role Adult Education plays in educating our population, teaching English and civics, and preparing adults for occupational training and to enter the workforce or improve their employment status. Such improvements as the law anticipates cannot be fully realized without sufficient resources.  That is why the $622 million authorized in WIOA in FY 2016 for Title II is so important.
  • Tell them that demand for services is increasing and that there are waiting lists in virtually every state.
  • Ask your Representative and Senators to weigh in with Rep. Rogers and Rep. Lowey, the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Sens. Cochran and Mikulski, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in support of a strong allocation for the Labor—HHS—Education subcommittee.
  • Ask your Member of Congress to support an increase in Adult Education funding from $569 million, the level in the House Labor – HHS bill approved by the subcommittee to $622 million, the level authorized in WIOA for Title II.
  • Urge your Senators to support an increase in Adult Education funding from the $540 million approved by the Senate Labor – HHS subcommittee to the $622 million authorized by WIOA.

Government Relations Report: September 2015

Budget and Appropriations

There is some good news to report.  Congress passed, and the President signed, a Continuing Resolution (CR’s) that will remain in effect until December 11. This averts a government shutdown and gives the Congress and the Administration time to try to work out a larger agreement on the Budget for fiscal year 2016.

There is more good news. Senator McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Majority Leader has indicated he would support an agreement to cover the next two years that would include raising the budget caps on both defense and non-defense spending. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) also supports a two-year deal.

The campaign to raise the budget caps in which we participate has achieved a degree of success. Raising the caps to permit more spending is now part of the debate. One might say that at the leadership levels, the discussion now revolves around how to do it (and by how much), rather than whether to do it at all.

An indication of how difficult the task is: more than 60% of House Republicans voted against the CR which maintained funding at current levels, and were thus willing to shut down the government. That is a much larger number of Republicans whose votes may be problematic on a budget deal and/or omnibus.

There are several challenges, however:

Presumably, a substantial portion of the increase would have to be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget. The President’s budget would have increased spending by $74 billion in FY 2016, alone. Where Congress will find $148 billion ($74 billion x 2) in a couple months is a real problem.

On September 25, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his intention to retire from Congress at the end of this month.  The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Boehner’s decision made it easier to avert a shut down at the end of September, but raised the chances of a shut down in December. While the House Republicans are struggling to elect a new Speaker, nobody knows whether that person will be able to negotiate a budget deal that House Republicans will support.

Politico quotes one unnamed Democratic aide as saying,” ‘The immovable object is about to meet the unstoppable force: Republicans cannot pass a bill that funds Planned Parenthood and congressional Democrats and President [Barack] Obama cannot vote for or sign a bill that defunds it.” Indeed Democrats told me they won’t stand for defunding Planned Parenthood and Republicans are starting to say they won’t stand for funding it.’”

There are rumors that this deal could also include a highway, or infrastructure bill, and the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, both controversial items in their own right.  Adding more controversy to the mix has to make an agreement more difficult.

As the legislative process bogs down, Members of Congress increasingly look to must-pass appropriations bills to achieve policy goals.  These goals often take the form of legislative riders, of which there are likely to be dozens, if not hundreds. Some will be easily dealt with, others like those dealing with Dodd-Frank, the Affordable Care Act, and Planned Parenthood are not so easy to resolve. They, too, will complicate any deal.

Finally, the Treasury has announced that we are likely to breech the debt ceiling on November 5, before the Continuing Resolution expires. While Congressional leadership has promised that there will be no default, it is not clear how much control the leadership has over the rank and file, particularly in the House.

By all accounts, serious discussions are just beginning. This while according to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), and the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, “we have been busy doing nothing this year.”

Appropriations staff says that it will need about a month to write bills that conform to the new caps (whatever they are), implying that most decisions will need to be made by the beginning of November. This raises the possibility that there may have to be short term CR’s enacted to give them time to finish their work.

The consensus seems to be that if efforts to craft a new package by December 11 fail, Congress will pass a yearlong Continuing Resolution.

All of which is to say that there is some distance to go before the situation is resolved, and not much time left in which to resolve it.

Other Legislation

On September 30, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) asked unanimous consent to allow the Senate take up and pass H.R.3594, The Higher Education Extension Act, a bill to extend temporarily the Federal Perkins Loan program. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Alexander objected, saying “I’m going to oppose a one-year extension because we’re in the midst of completing our work on the Higher Education Act including the Perkins loan and we should be through with that by the end of the year,” said Alexander.”

Most of those in the Higher Education community doubt that the Congress will complete action on the Higher Education Act reauthorization this year.

ESRA remains caught up in the same procedural morass it has been in for the better part of the year.