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.
- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act; Joint Rule for Unified and Combined State Plans, Performance Accountability, and the One-Stop System Joint Provisions; Final Rule
- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act; Department of Labor Only; Final Rule
- Programs and Activities Authorized by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act); Final Rule
- State Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program; State Supported Employment Services Program; Limitations on Use of Subminimum Wage; Final Rule
- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Miscellaneous Program Changes; Final Rule
Final Rules Resources
Quick Reference Guides
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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.
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.