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GOVERNMENT RELATIONS REPORT: MARCH 2018
Do you think adult education is important? Do you value your work and the work of others in the field? If you do, then now is the time to stand up for adult ed and for our students.
While political Washington is focused on off-year special elections and gossipy Washington is placing bets on who in the President's cabinet is staying and who is leaving, the rest of us are paying attention to the fact that with a week to go, funding for Fiscal Year 2018 is not yet resolved.
As you may recall, the government is operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) that is due to expire on March 23. That CR is expected to reflect the bi-partisan budget agreement that added $130 billion to non-defense discretionary spending for Fiscal Years 20189 and 2019.
While the Republican House Majority had hoped to complete the bill this week, the bill is still being worked on. Among the more contentious issues are funding for the opioid crisis, the border wall, and a proposed tunnel to run from New Jersey to New York (and back). There are also so-called "policy riders" including funding for Planned Parenthood, gun control, and immigration. Finally, there are bills that might not otherwise be considered that Members in both Houses want to attach to this "must pass" package.
We can say with a high degree of certainty, that everyone concerned wants this to be finished by the 23rd, so the Congress can finally focus on Fiscal Year 2019. The appropriations season begins with Cabinet secretaries testifying before Congress on the Administration's budget. Secretary DeVos is supposed to testify before the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday, March 20 at 10 am. It may be that her appearance will conflict with the legislative calendar and be rescheduled.
The DeVos hearing, if it takes place, will be webcast. You can watch it by going to the House Appropriations Committee website and following the prompts to get to the Labor-HHS subcommittee.
The President's Budget was released on February 12 and, among other reductions and eliminations, it proposed to cut Adult Education by $92.2 million or 16 percent. (See February 12 Budget Alert). When he testified before Congress, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said the President's FY 19 Budget did not reflect the bi-partisan budget agreement "given our dire fiscal situation, the Administration is not proposing to match the new non-defense cap in FY 2019. The Administration does not believe these non-defense spending levels comport with its vision for the proper role and size of federal government." Nevertheless, Appropriators are expected to abide by the agreement and ignore most of the Administration's proposals. COABE is in the process of completing its FY 2019 Hill Day plans, working with members of the House and Senate on a strategy to demonstrate support for Adult Ed on the Hill, and continuing to rally the field to contact their legislators to let them know that adult education is important. If we do not stand up for ourselves, and our students, who will?
GOVERNMENT RELATIONS REPORT: FEBRUARY 2018
Budget and Appropriations
The continuing resolution now in effect expires in 9 days. The funding situation is quite fluid as negotiators try to finally complete work on FY 2018 funding. Given their recent experience with a government shut down, it is likely that Congress will have to pass another CR of indeterminate length. That will be the fifth CR for FY 18. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate Majority Whip has been quoted as saying that Congress will need to enact still another CR before it can close the books on FY 2018.
The House will vote on a new CR next Tuesday, although reports are circulating that so-called "defense hawks" and the conservative House Freedom Caucus are threatening to vote against the bill, the former because it won't provide an increase in defense spending, and the latter because they want the House to vote on a conservative immigration proposal. If both groups persist in their opposition, and if Democrats continue to vote en masse against the CR because it doesn't contain a DACA fix, the government would close down.
It appears that Senate Democrats may be willing to separate immigration issues from budget and appropriations discussions, relying on their commitment from Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) to start the debate on immigration if there is no agreement by the time the current CR expires. House Democrats want to link immigration and funding.
If the Senate position prevails, it should make it somewhat easier to strike a deal on how much to increase the budget caps that are currently in place.
Rumors suggest that negotiators are nearing an agreement to increase defense spending by a total of $150 billion over fiscal years 2018 and 2019. There is no agreement on how much to increase non-defense discretionary spending, but the increase is likely to be substantial.
Appropriations staff say that they can't begin work on a final product until they know the top line number and the full committee then adjusts its allocations to the 12 subcommittees who, in turn, produce new bills that reflect the agreement.
Traditionally, the Labor-HHS Subcommittee bill, which accounts for 31 percent of all non-defense discretionary spending, is not increased commensurate with its size. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the Ranking Democrat on the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee continues to advocate that the Labor-HHS bill receive its "fair share" of any increase in the level of non-defense discretionary spending. For example, in 2016, the Energy and Water Appropriations bill received a 12 percent increase over the previous year, while the Labor-HHS bill received only a 3.6 percent increase.
Senate Subcommittee Chair, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is also advocating for the Labor-HHS bill to receive a significant increase in funds.
If, as seems plausible, negotiations between the House and Senate start from the Senate levels, any discussions about adult education would start from the freeze level.
Because there is always pressure in the Labor-HHS bill to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health, address the opioid crisis, restore the Pell Grant surplus, as well as other priorities and there are programs in the Labor-HHS bill that received cuts (like a cut of $38.8 million in WIOA Title I funds in the House bill), additional funds may be used to mitigate cuts to programs made in the first versions of the House and Senate bills rather than provide increases.
In his State of the Union address, President Trump said "We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity. As tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training. Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential. As America regains its strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens. That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance."
The speech provided no additional details about these initiatives.
It is worth noting that the President's infrastructure proposal that was leaked to the press several weeks ago does not contain any education or training component.
On Tuesday, the leadership of the State Directors and COABE held a series of productive meetings in Washington D.C. intended to raise the profile of adult education and explore areas of potential partnerships. They met with Education (Office of English Language Acquisition) and Labor Department (Office of Apprenticeships) staff as well as with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Aides to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chair of the Senate HELP Committee have indicated that the committee may take up the reauthorization of the Perkins Act (CTE) this year. You may recall that Sen. Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the Committee's Ranking Democrat, have differed on how much authority the Secretary of Education should have. The House passed its version of CTE reauthorization last year.
We continue to work with Senators Reed and Baldwin on the Career and Technical Education for Adult Learners Act, which will likely be reintroduced later in this session of Congress.
The HELP Committee is also working on a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Senate staff suggest that given the complexities of the Higher Education Act, discussions between Republicans and Democrats will take place in earnest this year, and the bill will be finished next year. The House Education and Workforce Committee passed its version of the Higher Education Act (HR 4508), The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act (known as PROSPER) last December.
Your advocacy efforts are more important than ever. Click below to contact your government officials and urge them to support adult education.
GOVERNMENT RELATIONS REPORT: JANUARY 2018
There is still a great deal of uncertainty around funding issues for FY 2018.
First, as you may recall, the continuing resolution (CR) is in effect until January 19. It is virtually guaranteed that there will need to be at least one more CR. It takes the appropriations committees about a month to write a comprehensive bill, but they can't start until they know how much money will be at their disposal. Negotiations on raising the defense and non-defense spending caps are underway, but haven't been resolved. Again, with no agreement on the top line, the committees can't move ahead.
Further complicating the situation is Congress' need to complete work on the disaster relief supplemental appropriation (to cover hurricane damage in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico and forest fires and floods in California), resolve the DACA issue and border security, and reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The House will vote on a new CR next week.
There are rumors that the Republican majority may jettison the Congressional budget process in FY 2019. This will have little effect on funding for adult education because appropriators routinely ignore the recommendations included in budget resolutions. It would, however, mean that efforts to change entitlements would likely fail, because, without the authority of the budget resolution, changes would require 60 votes in the Senate.
In other news, the Administration has yet to announce another nominee for the position of Assistant Secretary of Education for OCTAE. The Administration withdrew the name of Michigan State Representative Tim Kelly after blog posts he wrote several years ago came to light.
Let's keep up our advocacy efforts to ensure funding for adult education.
GOVERNMENT RELATIONS REPORT: HOLIDAY 2017 UPDATE
Certainty is always desirable, but perhaps never more than during the holiday season. Unfortunately, at the moment, there is little in Washington that we can be sure of. Funding the government, in particular, remains in a state of flux.
Funding the Government
You may recall that Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government until December 8 and then another to fund it through December 22. Presumably, the idea was that Members of Congress would rush to complete work on funding so they could spend time with their families during the holidays. With one week to go before the current CR expires, it is obvious that there will need to be at least one more CR -- this one to fund the government through the first few weeks of January 2018.
House Republicans have circulated a proposed bill to keep the government running after this continuing resolution (CR) expires next week. The proposed legislation would extend current funding levels for virtually all non-defense programs until January 19, 2018, while providing a $73 billion increase for defense spending. This level is far above the existing sequester-level cap for defense and would violate the Budget Control Act.
It also funds the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), although the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports, "The spending package includes a harmful provision ... that would take insurance away from up to 688,000 low- and moderate-income people each year who miss a premium payment for marketplace coverage. It would also deeply cut the Affordable Care Act's Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides essential support for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention programs in areas such as responding to infectious disease outbreaks, reducing tobacco use, and immunizing children."
The proposal is a non-starter for Democrats, who oppose it for many reasons. Of particular importance to us is that it does not lift the non-defense discretionary (NDD) cap or fund NDD programs for the full year, breaking the principle of parity between defense and non-defense spending that Democrats have insisted on.
Nor does the House Republican proposal contain a fix for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Dreamers or disaster relief--- both items that different Congressional constituencies have insisted be included in a year-end funding bill.
Now that it seems that Congress will pass the tax bill, it is possible that the House will pass this bill next week --- likely without any Democratic support --- after it acts on taxes. Even if this bill can pass the House, it would take 60 votes in the Senate to pass this CR, and the votes are not there to pass this bill because Senate Democrats, and some Republicans, are likely to oppose the bill.
There are a number of possible scenarios of what could happen next, but Senate Majority Leader McConnell is on record that there will not be a government shutdown. Earlier this week he said, "There isn't any chance we are going to shut the government down. We're in discussions, not only on a cap deal, but also on the way forward on appropriations. The American people need not worry that there is going to be any kind of government shutdown." For his part, Senate Minority Leader Schumer was quoted as saying, "Democrats will oppose any budget deal that would allow defense spending to increase while holding down domestic priorities."
In short, it is clear that there will need to be another CR after December 22 and further action in 2018, but it's not clear what the next steps will be. Eventually, an increase in both the defense and non-defense caps is likely. Whether the principle of parity is retained also remains to be determined.
As of this writing, it appears that there will be a tax bill that Congress will pass. Its contents are not yet completely known, but rumors are that some of the items that were deemed most harmful to education have either been dropped or modified.
Higher Education Act Reauthorization
The House Education and Workforce Committee reported out a Higher Education Act Reauthorization (called the PROSPER Act) along party lines.
PROSPER stands for Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity Through Education Reform.
Higher Education Community is largely united in its opposition to the bill arguing that overall the proposals would make higher education more expensive for students and families and significantly change federal higher education policy. The bill cuts programs, restructures policies, and imposes new regulations that many argue are harmful to students and families.
Among the programs slated for elimination or reduction:
- The in-school interest subsidy for undergraduate students
- The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program
- Loan forgiveness and other benefits currently available in the student loan programs
- Title III-A Strengthening Institutions Program
- The Teacher Quality Partnership Grants program reduced by $50 million
Graduate students would be hit hard, losing Federal work-study eligibility and having their federal graduate loans limited, forcing them to borrow at higher costs and with fewer protections in the private market.
Among the PROSPER Act provisions the associations support, the legislation would provide a bonus to Pell Grant recipients to incentivize completion, simplify the process of applying for federal aid, eliminate origination fees on student loans, provide statutory authority to accreditors to use risk-based or differentiated accreditation procedures, and provide institutions the authority to limit borrowing.
The bill does strive to reduce unnecessary or duplicative regulations on students and institutions. However, these proposals are offset by other changes that would add burden and complexity, such as requiring weekly or monthly disbursements of student aid.
This bill will not come up for a vote this year. The consensus is that the real action is in the Senate, which has not yet produced a bill.
Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season and New Year.
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mayor, governor, and members of congress.
Government Relations Report: October 2017
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET RESOLUTION
There has been a significant amount of activity in Washington this month, culminating in the adoption of concurrent budget resolutions in the House and Senate.
A budget resolution is a nonbinding blueprint, and while it establishes topline funding levels, the appropriations committee decides funding levels per agency and program. However, the Budget Control Act of 2011 set binding spending caps for this year. Congress must increase those caps in order to fund all of the priorities outlined in the individual funding bills the House and Senate marked up over the summer.
In general, the main significance of the Congressional budget resolutions is that they are expressions of the authors' political vision. The House and Senate budget resolutions express their authors' view of the role of the Federal government, the significance of discretionary spending, and the importance of entitlement programs that essentially benefit low-income people.
The House adopted its budget resolution earlier this month. The House would increase defense spending by $72 billion, and cut nondefense spending by $5 billion. According to The Hill newspaper, "It also includes plans for trillions of dollars in spending cuts over a decade, including from programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, but does include enforcement mechanisms to enact those plans. The budget outline, for example, assumes the adoption of a House-passed ObamaCare repeal bill that has not advanced. The House budget leaves no room for tax reform to add to the deficit. Instead, it provides instructions for $203 billion in spending cuts from welfare programs in areas such as nutritional assistance and education."
The Senate resolution proposes to balance the Federal budget by the end of the decade. It calls for a $5.8 trillion decrease in funding, including $1.3 trillion in Medicaid and Affordable Care Act cuts, $473 billion in Medicare cuts, and so-called "income security" programs like TANF, SSI, SNAP, and others by $653 billion. It also proposes cuts to non-defense discretionary programs of $660 billion. It would allow defense levels to rise reaching $684 billion at the end of a decade. The cuts are intended to win over House members who may be uncomfortable voting for a resolution that increases the deficit.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states, if these policies are enacted funding for domestic programs that are funded by annual appropriations would fall 29 percent below 2010 levels, counting inflation.
The FY 2018 budget resolutions are also significant because their adoption will allow efforts to pass a tax reform bill to continue under rules that require only a 51-vote majority. The Senate budget resolution provides for a tax cut of $1.5 trillion without accompanying offsets and proposed discretionary and entitlement cuts.
Expectations are that this week the House will adopt the Senate resolution to expedite consideration of tax reform. The move would mean that Republicans would forgo plans to make $203 billion in mandatory cuts through reconciliation, a process that would have effectively shielded them from Democratic opposition in the Senate. The House budget resolution had called for the House Education and the Workforce Committee to come up with $20 billion of those cuts, a proposal that would have put student aid programs like subsidized student loans and mandatory funding for Pell Grants into play.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) explained his support of the budget by saying: "At the end of the day, we all know that the Senate budget resolution will not impact final appropriations."
The compromise budget resolution, if it passes Congress this week, essentially admits that the tax cuts will not pay for themselves through increased economic growth. Rather, the outcome is likely to be larger federal deficits. The danger is that as the deficits rise in the future, those who supported the tax cuts will blame growing deficits on increased spending and call for the kind cuts that were included in the Administration budget for FY 2018.
The House, Senate, and Administration budget plans would deeply cut non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding, the budget area that includes a broad range of investments and public services, from housing assistance to education to scientific research and transportation. These cuts would come on top of cuts imposed since 2010. By 2027, under the Senate plan, overall NDD funding would be 18 percent below its 2017 level and 29 percent below its 2010 level, after adjusting for inflation. The cuts under the Trump and House plans are even deeper. Under all three plans, by 2027 NDD spending would fall as a share of the economy to levels likely not seen since the Hoover Administration.
While the House and Senate plans don't say where these cuts would come from the Administration budget proposed deep cuts in WIOA Title I as well as many other programs.
To date, appropriators in both the House and Senate have rejected this approach and have struggled to minimize cuts to important programs. Indeed, they continue to search for a budget deal that would raise the caps on domestic discretionary and defense programs.
It is possible, but not likely, that such a deal could be struck before the continuing resolution (CR) now in place expires on December 8. It is more likely that there will need to be another CR enacted to take the issue up to Christmas, when the desire to get out of Washington for the holidays usually forces some action.
The final discretionary spending levels that will fund the government in 2018 will have to be negotiated between Congressional Republicans, Democrats, and the White House ahead of a December 8 deadline. Failure to reach an agreement or pass another CR by then would lead to a government shutdown.
There has been some other significant activity on other fronts this month. President Trump nominated Michigan State Representative Tim Kelly to become Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education if the U.S. Senate approves his nomination. Kelly, R-Saginaw Twp., currently chairs the House Education Reform Committee and the House appropriations subcommittee on school aid and is serving his third term in office. Prior to his career in the Michigan Legislature, Kelly served in former Governor John Engler's administration as an education policy adviser and as a special adviser to the director of the Michigan Department of Career Development.
Michael Wooten will be deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary for the department's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. Leonard Haynes will be a senior adviser. Wooten most recently was deputy chief procurement officer for the District of Columbia. He previously chaired the governing board of Northern Virginia Community College and was deputy department chair and professor of contract management at Defense Acquisition University. Wooten is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Government Relations Report: September 2017
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It is something of an understatement to say that for the time being, at least, Washington is focused on something other than funding and potential government shutdowns. In a flurry of activity Congress agreed to a three-month continuing resolution (CR) that postponed final funding decisions for FY 2018 until December 8, raised the debt ceiling for three months, and made a down payment on hurricane relief funding for Texas.
Congress and the country are focused on providing relief to storm damaged areas in Florida, whether there will be a tax reform proposal to consider by the end of the year, how to deal with the DACA issue, and continuing tensions on the Korean peninsula. In addition, because of arcane rules, the House and Senate need to adopt budget resolutions to enable them to proceed with tax reform efforts.
There are concerns about whether Congress, which has been unable to accomplish virtually anything of consequence all year, would be able to accomplish all of this in the three months of 2017 that remain. The correct answer seems to be that nobody knows.
And, with Washington being Washington, there is continued interest in whether a new way of the Administration and Congressional Democrats doing business together has been established.
What we do know is that both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bills which fund adult education at the FY 2017 level. The Congress did not act on the President's proposal to reduce funding for adult education by $96 million, or 16 percent.
A few key points about the rest of the year:
- There is no bi-partisan budget agreement in place that undoes the sequester levels. There is no parity between defense and non-defense spending. But the caps on defense and non-defense spending remain in place.
- The Administration requested a $54 billion increase in defense spending, but the existing spending caps preclude an increase of that magnitude. An increase in defense spending requires that the defense cap be raised. Such a move is likely to require that the cap on non-defense spending also be increased.
- The allocations to the respective Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittees are particularly important. There is a wide difference between the House and Senate Labor-HHS bills. The gap is sufficiently wide enough that many doubt that the differences can be bridged. Barring a new budget agreement, a long-term CR may be in the offing.
- The debt ceiling will need to be raised to enable the government to pay its obligations. This will create a crisis situation in which both sides will jockey for advantageous positions and be a test of whether the Administration and the Democrats can work together.
Experts believe that we are facing a binary choice: either a budget agreement or a CR that will run for the entire year.
We need to continue our efforts to Educate and Elevate national public awareness campaign because final funding decisions for FY 2018 must still be made. This campaign was launched to encourage legislators to invest in Adult Education. Get the details HERE.
More than 50 adult education advocates, along with students, are scheduled to participate in the COABE Hill Day on September 26 to coincide with Adult Ed and Family Literacy Week. We anticipate at least 100 meetings will occur as COABE members and several State Directors of Adult Education visit the Hill to make the case for additional investments in adult education. As we ramp up to Capitol Hill Day, we encourage all members every where to raise your voice on behalf of Adult Education. We have provided a very user friendly tool that enables you to contact your mayor, governor, and members of congress with one simple click. More than 16,000 contacts have been made since February. Join the movement and send your email (HERE) or make your call (HERE) on behalf of Adult Education!
Government Relations Report: Summer Update
Send a quick email to your legislator (HERE).
Congress is on recess until after Labor Day, but September promises to be busy and to have more than its share of controversy.
It is something of a cliché, but this three-week period may be the calm before the storm. If you have not done so yet, we highly recommend that you send an email to your legislator to raise the importance of adult education. You can do that (HERE). When Congress returns it will be in session for only 12 days before the end of the fiscal year. That is not very much time to finish work on all the appropriations bills (not one of which has been enacted into law) and raise the debt ceiling.
The Debt Ceiling
Let's start with the need to raise the debt ceiling. The debt limit must be increased because the federal government has borrowed as much as the law allows with which to pay its bills. When it needs to borrow more but lacks the authority to do so, the debt limit needs to be increased.
Raising the debt limit used to be relatively noncontroversial until members of Congress (mostly conservatives who realized that withholding their votes to raise the limit gave them a bargaining chip) threatened to let the government default on its debt. While nobody knows the impact a default would have, conventional wisdom says that the stock market would plummet, interest rates would rise, our allies would be shocked, and the economy would go into recession. The Treasury Department website warns of "catastrophic economic consequences" if the debt ceiling is not increased.
Unless the limit is raised, the government is expected to reach the debt limit on September 29, the day before the fiscal year ends. Unless Congress acts to fund the government, it will shut down on October 1.
The confluence of these events adds another level of uncertainty to an already uncertain situation. Press reports say the House Freedom Caucus may withhold its vote to raise the debt ceiling unless Congress agrees to deep cuts in mandatory spending programs, repeals the Affordable Care Act, creates a bill to change how the government pays its obligations so that there would be no default, or sells federal assets.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put the chances of a government default at zero. Raising the debt ceiling is likely to require Democratic votes. What the Democrats will want is rumored to focus on tax issues.
The House is scheduled to vote on a package of appropriations bills when it returns from recess. Advocates for programs that have been cut or eliminated are discussing possible amendments. Amendments that add money back to the bill will have to be offset by cuts elsewhere.
As we reported, the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee intends to mark up its bill in early September, most likely on September 7.
It is still unlikely that Congress will have completed work on appropriations bills before October 1. Thus, there will need to be a continuing resolution (CR) for some government agencies for some length of time.
One issue to watch is funding for the border wall. The Administration is demanding funds for the wall that was the centerpiece of his successful presidential campaign, but Democrats have said they will oppose such funding, setting up another confrontation. President Trump threatened to shut down the government if Congress did not appropriate funds for the wall. The Democratic Congressional leadership reiterated its opposition to funding the wall.
Another complicating factor is the possibility that House Democrats will try to force a vote censuring President Trump for his remarks about the incidents in Charlottesville.
Those participating in COABE's Hill Day will be in Washington on September 26th to witness firsthand how this turns out. In the meantime, please continue to contact your Senators to promote adult education. You can do that (HERE). We also highly recommend that you participate in the jointly sponsored "Educate and Elevate" national public awareness campaign. The public awareness campaign encourages legislators to view Adult Education as an investment in the economy, and many states are featuring and promoting the campaign at the state level. You can access the campaign toolkit, watch previous webinars, and get all the details at educateandelevate.org.
There is talk that the Administration will deliberately not spend all the money that Congress appropriates. Right now, that concern is focused on the State Department, which hasn't spent $80 million intended to fight Russian and terrorist propaganda and for fellowships intended for women and minorities. Efforts to avoid spending appropriated funds would raise the specter of an illegal impoundment.
The Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review
The Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review
Funded by OPRE (Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER) is a web-based systematic review of the effectiveness of employment and training programs and strategies for low-income adults. ESER aims to provide practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and the general public with a transparent and systematic assessment of the research evidence for effectiveness of programs designed to improve the employment-related outcomes of low-income adults.
The interactive website allows users to search for results by program studied, by target populations, and in other ways. The website also includes a series of briefs focused on synthesizing and examining employment strategies topics.
To learn more, visit ESER at http://employmentstrategies.acf.hhs.gov.
Government Relations Report: August 2017
The Congress has recessed for the summer. Congress left Washington having failed to pass a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, make noticeable headway on tax reform or an infrastructure package, or pass Congressional Budget Resolutions. It is months late on the appropriations process and must resolve FY 18 spending and confront a looming crisis over the debt ceiling.
You can tell it is recess because the Members have left town and the staff that was dressed conservatively the other day is now wearing jeans. Only the advocates are wearing business attire.
There were important developments in the budget and appropriations worlds. On July 19th, the full House Appropriations Committee completed its consideration of the FY 2018 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill and sent the bill to the full House, which could vote on it after Labor Day. In reporting on the bill, Committee Members made clear that they do not support the kind of Draconian cuts assumed in the President's budget. Indeed Subcommittee Chair, Tom Cole (R-OK), talked about adding funds if Congress could reach a bi-partisan agreement on increasing spending. Note, COABE's outreach to Representative Cole (HERE).
The House Labor-HHS bill was approved on a party-line vote. Several points of note:
- Adult Education remains frozen at the FY17 level, which we believe is due in large part to the work of our many members who wrote in and called to ensure funding was not cut.
- Title I Adult and Youth programs were cut by almost 5%. Wagner-Peyser State Grants were eliminated. The Ex-Offender Activities program was reduced by more than 7%.
- Subcommittee Chairman, Tom Cole (OK), opposed virtually all amendments, but reiterated his position that he was open to revisiting issues if more money became available. This was the position he took on cuts to Title I of WIOA. Cole said he hoped the funds for his Subcommittee would eventually be increased and that this bill represented "an initial allocation."
The Full Senate Appropriations Committee revealed that it was increasing the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee's allocation by $3 billion over the FY 17 level. According to sources, this amount is intended to allow the Senate Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee approximately enough money to fund programs at the FY17 level.
The fact remains that there will be a great deal of competition for these funds when the Senate Committee meets in September, after it returns from the August recess.
On July 14th, the House passed a $696-billion defense policy bill that would exceed President Donald Trump's budget request and exceed the statutory cap on defense spending.
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its Department Of Defense (DOD) Authorization legislation last month. The full Senate has yet to take up the bill.
To fund defense at these levels, lawmakers would need to strike a deal to raise the defense cap. Many members of Congress believe that an increase in defense spending would have to be accompanied by an increase in non-defense spending.
There is pent up demand to increase defense spending. It is this demand that is fueling talk that there will ultimately be a deal that will raise the caps for both non-defense and defense spending.
Traditionally the Congress is supposed to agree on a Budget Resolution before the appropriations process begins. The Resolution tells the Appropriators how much they can spend. This year, neither House has completed work on its Resolution so the Appropriators have begun to consider bills anyway.
Congress is on recess until September 5th. Members are home-meeting constituents and visiting sites in their districts. This is an excellent opportunity to bring the Educate and Elevate campaign to their attention. You can find out whether, where, and when your elected representatives are holding Town Hall meetings by going to townhallproject.com for more information.
Last month we reported that September was likely to be busy. That now looks like something of an understatement. We need all hands on deck, with everyone reaching out to their legislators. It is especially important for our members that live in any of the following states to contact your legislators to set up a meeting with them while they are home on August recess.
- Roy Blunt, Missouri, Chair, 202-224-5721
- Thad Cochran, Mississippi, 202-224-5054, 202-224-5054
- Richard Shelby, Alabama, 202-224-5744
- Lamar Alexander, Tennessee, 202-224-4944
- Lindsay Graham, South Carolina, 202-224-5972
- Jerry Moran, Kansas, 202-224-6521
- Shelley Capito, West Virginia, 202-224-6472
- James Lankford, Oklahoma, 202-224-5754
- John Kennedy, Louisiana, 202-224-4623
- Marco Rubio, Florida, 202-224-3041
- Patty Murray, Ranking Member, Washington, 202-224-2621
- Dick Durbin, Illinois, 202-224-2152
- Jack Reed, Rhode Island, 202-224-4642
- Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire, 202-224-2841
- Jeff Merkley, Oregon, 202-224-3753
- Brian Schatz, Hawaii, 202-224-3934.
- Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin, 202-224-5653
- Christopher S. Murphy, Connecticut, 202-224-4041
- Joe Manchin, West Virginia, 202-224-3954
Be sure to review the free resources on "Working With Legislators" (HERE). After you make your meeting with your legislator, please let us know (HERE).
Congress is supposed to be in session for only 12 days before the end of the fiscal year. In those 12 days it must pass an increase in the debt ceiling, which is almost always a difficult vote that threatens shutting down the government. It is supposed to finish work on all appropriations bills, and pass other high-priority legislation that expires at the end of the fiscal year.
The senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee is likely to mark up in the first week of September.
The House and Senate must agree on a plan to fund the government by September 30, when the fiscal year expires. A likely scenario is that Congress will enact a Continuing Resolution of a few months duration to keep the government running. Any negotiations to raise spending caps would take place later in the year.
Also, Senator Alexander (R-TN), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) announced that next month the Committee would begin holding hearings on healthcare.
Senate Budget Committee Chair, Mike Enzi (R-WY), has indicated that he wants the Committee to mark up a Resolution in September.
There has been no action on Perkins Act Reauthorization.
On July 20th, Senators, Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), introduced the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act to ensure that workers are prepared with the skills needed for jobs that would be generated by a major infrastructure initiative.
The proposed legislation would leverage private sector partnerships to:
- Incentivize businesses and industry to work with the greater community to create on-the-job training programs to fill the jobs necessary to expand the country's infrastructure system
- Connect businesses and education providers to develop classroom curriculum to complement on-the-job learning
- Train managers and front-line workers to serve as mentors to people in the work-based learning programs
- Offer resources and career awareness programming to recruit and retain individuals for workforce training programs
- Provide support services to ensure workers are successful from pre-employment to placement in a full-time position
Earlier this year, the two Senators introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, legislation that would expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in short-term job training programs.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says he wants to revive bipartisan talks on immigration reform. McCain said that he raised the issue with Sen. Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority Leader. He told reporters "I think there are all kinds of deals to be made out there. I really do."
Meanwhile, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act or "RAISE Act." The bill, S. 354, would cap refugee admissions, cut total immigration in half by eliminating diversity visas and cutting family-based visas, and create a new visa system that awards points to potential immigrants based on characteristics such as speaking English and having higher education levels. The bill also includes provisions that would bar immigrants and their families from various forms of government assistance. Experts are skeptical that the Raise Act could pass the Senate.
Government Relations Update: July 2017
The full House Appropriations Committee completed its consideration of the FY 2018 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill. It reported the bill to the House without making significant changes to the bill approved earlier this week by the subcommittee. The bill was approved on a party-line vote. It is possible that the full House will vote on the bill in September after the House returns to Washington from its August recess.
Several points of note:
- Adult education funds were not cut but remain frozen at the FY 2017 level. We attribute this to the more than 15,000 legislative contacts that have been made as a part of our ongoing advocacy work. We encourage every person to do their part contacting their legislators and staff via the "Rapid Response" tool (Here).
- While Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (OK) opposed virtually all amendments, he reiterated his position that he was open to revisiting issues if more money became available. This was the position he took, for example, on cuts to job training funds in Title I of WIOA that remain in the bill. He reiterated his position that he hoped the funds that had been allocated to his subcommittee would eventually be increased and that the funds available to him represented "an initial allocation." It should be noted that COABE and NCSDAE have written a letter to Chairman Tom Cole (Here).
- Those who watched the mark up, which ran for almost 12 hours, heard subcommittee ranking member Rosa DeLauro (CT) refer to "$5 billion left on the table." She was saying that the House Appropriations Committee chose to cap nondefense discretionary spending at $5 billion below the level set in law for FY 2018. As a result, the full Committee reduced the amount of funds available for Labor-HHS-Education programs by $5 billion.
- Today, the full Senate Appropriations Committee revealed that it was increasing the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee's allocation by $3 billion over the FY 2017 level. We do know that the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee will have $8 billion more to spend than its House counterpart.
The fact remains that there will be a great deal of competition for these funds when the Senate Committee meets in September after members return from the August recess.
The next steps in the process should be as follows:
- The House votes on the Labor-HHS-Education bill.
- The Senate Subcommittee and full Committee consider the Senate version of the Labor-HHS bill.
- Bills pass each House, are "conferenced," and differences between the two bills are resolved.
- The President signs the Labor-HHS-Education bill agreed to by both Houses.
Much can happen between now and the end of the fiscal year. For example:
- Neither bill can pass its House because Conservatives believe they spend too much and Liberals believe they spend too little.
- Contentious legislative issues called "riders" derail consideration of the bills.
- Time runs out and Congress must adopt a continuing resolution to keep the government functioning.
- There is a budget agreement that funds the nondefense discretionary part of the budget, and the bills are significantly rewritten to provide more funds.
- The President can veto the Labor-HHS-Education bill because it doesn't contain enough of his priority initiatives.
- Or, some combination of all of the above may take place.
In any event, September will be a busy month, and it is in all of our best interest to continue to reach out to legislators and their staff so that they are aware of the importance and value of adult education.
Government Relations Report: July 2017
The Congress has recessed for the July 4th holiday. It left town without having completed work on health care, far behind schedule on any tax reform proposal, and months late on the FY 2018 appropriations process.
Nobody in Washington knows how the health care issue will be resolved, and there is a growing feeling that tax reform will be every bit as difficult to accomplish. We do know that Congress must complete work on annual appropriations so the government can continue to operate.
There were important developments in the appropriations world. It now looks likely that the House budget committee will delay mark up of a budget resolution for FY 2018 because some members of the Republican majority have balked at proposals to scale back non-defense spending--- discretionary and entitlements --- as the president had proposed in his budget. The House leadership is proceeding with a topline for non-defense discretionary level that is $5 billion below the FY 2018 sequester cap, which is about $8 billion below the FY 2017 enacted level. In a sign that the votes are not there to support such a proposal, the so-called "Tuesday Group" of more moderate Republicans has come out in opposition to the budget plan and called for an increase in the non-defense discretionary cap level.
Representative Charles Dent (R-PA) has sent a letter to Speaker Ryan (R-WI) calling for an increase in the caps. According to a report in Politico, the letter stresses the need for bipartisan negotiations "to reach an agreement that sets spending levels for, at least, [FY] 2018."
The decision by the House leadership to mark up bills based on the sequester cap means, in effect, that the president's proposed $54 billion in non-defense discretionary cuts has been rejected. It also means that the annual appropriations process will do its work with less money to spend this year than last.
However, rejecting the president's budget proposal does not mean that all is well. Given the calendar, most Congress watchers believe that it is impossible for the appropriators to present all of their bills to the full Congress for votes. It is also possible that because of the tight budget caps and how available funds are allocated, bills that are marked up later in the year will be so unpopular that they cannot pass.
This has led to calls for a new budget deal that will raise the caps on both defense and non-defense discretionary spending. In addition to the Dent letter, the Democratic leadership in the Senate wrote majority leader McConnell and appropriations committee chair Cochran on June 26, "we believe that a bipartisan and bicameral agreement is needed to replace the irresponsible post-sequestration limits on defense and non-defense discretionary spending..."
The two most likely scenarios for Congress to complete FY 2018 funding this fall are either an agreement to raise the sequester caps for defense and non-defense discretionary spending or a continuing resolution because Congress will not be able to agree on bills at the current levels.
It is possible that a budget deal would enable the Congress to finish its appropriations work by September 30, the end of the fiscal year. Barring such an agreement, a continuing resolution of some length is inevitable.
It is likely that the House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee will mark up its FY 2018 bill when Congress returns from the July 4th recess.
On June 22, the House passed Perkins/CTE reauthorization by voice vote. H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act is similar to a bill that the House overwhelmingly passed last year, but which ran into a roadblock in the Senate. The reauthorization would allow for annual increases in funding of 1.38 percent per year for the next six years. The president's budget called for cuts in Perkins/CTE of 13 percent in fiscal year 2018.
You may recall that last year the House passed Perkins/CTE reauthorization by a wide margin on a bipartisan basis, but the Senate never considered CTE because of a dispute over the authority of the Secretary of Education to approve state plans. Those differences of opinion remain unresolved.
On June 28, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing titled "Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Education research While Protecting Student Privacy" to discuss the effectiveness of the current laws governing education research and student privacy protection.
In 2014, the Senate passed a bill reauthorizing the Education Sciences Reform Act, but the bill died in the House over concerns about whether research intruded on students' right to privacy. There has been no action in the last several years. A press release from subcommittee chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) said that "The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will continue to explore how Congress can strengthen our student privacy laws while also looking for new ways to utilize education research to create a better learning environment for students."
Supporters of adult education worked with members of Congress to successfully include language that made explicit the need to conduct research in successful adult education and literacy activities that result in increased numeracy and educational attainment for adult learners as well as other changes to ESRA. Since Congress did not take up the bill, that effort came to naught. Hopefully, this hearing will breathe life into ESRA and give us another opportunity.
Educate & Elevate
The Congress is scheduled to be on recess between July 28 and September 5. Members will be home meeting constituents and visiting sites in their districts. This is an excellent opportunity to bring the Educate & Elevate campaign to their attention. You can find out if, when, and where your elected representatives are holding town hall meetings by going to townhallproject.com for more information. You can also review the list of Educate and Elevate webinars that are taking place here: http://educateandelevate.org/webinars/.
Critical Investment in Adult Education
National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE) and the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) have joined in a public awareness campaign to highlight the value of adult education. Below is a joint statement regarding funding levels for adult education, developed in consultation with Gene Sofer, Government Relations/Public Policy Consultant for both organizations.
The statement summarizes the rationale for adopting a recommendation that emerged during a "Thought Leaders" conversation that took place at the COABE Conference in Orlando, April 2017. This recommendation was that the strongest and most effective message regarding funding levels is that adult education should be funded at the full authorized level. Thought Leaders in attendance represented the following organizations: Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), World Ed, Office of Career Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE), Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), ProLiteracy, National Council of State Directors of Adult Education, Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE), National Coalition for Literacy (NCL), Literacy Action Network (LAN), National College Transitions Network (NCTN), Adult Literacy Resource Center (ALRC), Association for Adult Literacy Professional Developers (AALPD), National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), and Core Civic.
We believe that investing in adult education at the authorized level of $649.3 million is important for the following reasons:
1. The recently circulated Reed-Blumenthal letter (here) asks for that level. That means that 16 Senators think the request is a reasonable one.
2. The State Directors and COABE have endorsed the $649 million level in testimony that they submitted to Congress.
3. The group of "thought leaders" that COABE convened in Orlando endorsed the $649 million level. Abandoning it would undercut their position.
4. The State Directors and COABE have conducted recent visits to Capitol Hill, including meetings on behalf of COABE (and the State Directors) where we asked for the funding at the authorized level and were met with no resistance from Hill staff. The Hill understands that in this process we all have a role to play. As advocates, our role is to push the Hill to do the right thing. The Hill's role is to tell us whether it is feasible to do the right thing.
5. Asking for the authorized level is not unique to us.
6. The Campaign to Invest in America's Workforce which represents Titles I, III, and IV of WIOA and includes other education advocates, supports the authorized level for WIOA.
Finally, we no longer need to be concerned that the Hill will misunderstand our position if our message changes from "no cuts" to "Adult Education: Invest in America's Future." Congress has completed work on the FY 2017 appropriation. FY 2018 is a new chapter, and nobody on the Hill will be confused by our advocating for the authorized level.
Read our "Return on Investment" fact sheet (here) and watch our short video (here) which describes the role of adult education. Click the "Take Action" button below to contact your legislator to ask them to fund adult education at the authorized level.
The Washington Post reports it has a copy of a "near-final" version of the President's request for the Department of Education (ED) budget for fiscal year 2018, with a total cut to education programs that basically matches what was in the President's "skinny budget" released in March (CEF's table shows the relatively few specified cuts and additions here). The Post reports gross cuts of $10.6 billion for ED for next year, with a net cut of $9.2 billion below the 2017 level (note that CEF's table compared the 2018 request to the 2016 enacted level, showing a net cut of $9.3 billion).
The Post article includes some specifics that were not in the skinny budget, including two large cuts. The first cut is eliminating the new student support and academic enrichment (Title IV-A) block grant created by the Every Student Succeeds Act to replace a host of categorical grants. It was authorized at $1.65 billion for fiscal year 2017, but funded at only $400 million in its first year. The second large cut is to Work Study (the skinny budget said it would be cut significantly), which is cut by $490 million (54%).
The Post article details the following cuts that are in addition to those described in the skinny budget:
Elementary and secondary education
- Student support and academic enrichment grants - eliminated ($400 million)
- Career and technical education - cut $196 million
- Arts in education - eliminated ($27 million)
- Native Hawaiian education - eliminated ($33 million)
- Alaska Native education - eliminated ($32 million)
- Promise neighborhoods - cut $13 million
- Javits gifted and talented students - eliminated ($12 million)
- Special Olympics education programs - eliminated ($12 million)
- Work Study - cut $490 million
- Perkins Loans - let the program end
- Student loan forgiveness for public servants - eliminated
- Subsidized student loans for needy undergraduates - "take the first step toward ending" this
- International education and foreign language studies - eliminated ($72 million)
- Child care access means parents in school - eliminated ($15 million)
- Adult education - cut $96 million
- Office of Civil Rights - cut $1.7 million
The article also describes some of the changes in funding for Title I - making $1 billion "portable" to follow children to other public schools beyond their neighborhood, among others. We will, of course, provide a detailed description and table once we actually see the budget.
Government Relations Report: May 2017
Eight months into the fiscal year, Congress completed work on the omnibus bill FY 2017 Appropriations Act. The bill passed in the House on May 2 by a 309 to 118 vote and in the Senate on May 3 by a vote of 79 to 18. After writing that the country "needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix [a] mess," the president signed the bill on May 4.
The bill froze funding for adult education at the FY 2016 level. Other Titles of WIOA were basically frozen, as well.
The FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill provides $68.2 billion for the Department of Education, but once the $1.3 billion rescission from the Pell Grant reserve is included in the calculation, the funding level drops to $66.9 billion, a net cut of $1.1 billion compared with the 2016 level.
The bill does not make the major cuts suggested last month by the Trump administration, with most existing programs receiving about what they did last year.
The bill reinstates year round Pell Grants, allowing an estimated 1 million students to receive a third grant during a given year to attend the summer semester, in addition to two other academic sessions.
Now the focus is on FY 2018. Remember that the skinny budget proposed to cut $54 billion in non-defense funds and spend the money on defense. Many programs across the non-defense budget were targeted for elimination. Others would have to receive a cut on the order of 14 percent to make the numbers work in the skinny budget. While the skinny budget was silent on adult education, Hill staff warned that we could expect a substantial cut.
Rumors say that the administration will release its 2018 budget on Monday, May 22, although that hasn't been confirmed, and some slippage is possible.
You may recall that the president's budget is usually published in February. Each branch of Congress prepares a budget resolution (which does not need the president's signature) and resolves the differences between the two. This is supposed to be done by April 15. The budget resolutions set overall spending levels for the appropriators. These aggregates are then divided among the different appropriations subcommittees and act as caps on what each subcommittee can spend. If there is no budget resolution in place, the House and Senate can enact targets so the appropriators can start their work. That is likely to be the case this year.
The full budget is expected during the week on May 22, but it could slip.
KEY POINTS ABOUT FY 2018:
- There is no bi-partisan budget agreement in place that undoes the sequester levels. There is no parity between defense and non-defense spending.
- FY 2018 will be below FY 2017 without any action. Non-defense discretionary appropriations in the aggregate will be below the level in FY 2014. The administration will put pressure on Congress for funding for the wall, for choice, etc., leaving less money to fund existing programs.
- The allocation to the Labor-HHS subcommittee is particularly important. Traditionally, it tends to get only modest increases (if any at all).
- Over the next several months, the administration and Congressional leadership will have to figure out how to avoid a default on the national debt and avert a government shutdown.
- New appropriations bills should be enacted by the end of September, but Congress is already behind schedule on producing a budget because FY 2017 dragged on for so long and because the administration has not released its budget.
- The debt ceiling will likely need to be raised in the fall to enable the government to pay its obligations. This will likely create a crisis situation in which both sides will jockey for advantageous position.
COABE HILL DAY
Forty adult education advocates participated in COABE's third Hill Day on April 26. More than 88 meetings with legislators and staff took place, and participants shared the feeling that our collective efforts are starting to have an impact. Members of Congress and their staffs showed growing recognition that the economy demands higher skills, that rural areas as well as urban ones are facing a shortage of skilled labor, and that we are lagging behind our competitors. The successful Capitol Hill Day was capped with a meeting with Betsy DeVos by COABE and NCSDAE leadership.
REED-BLUMENTHAL FUNDING LETTER
Senators Reed (D-RI) and Blumenthal (D-CT) are circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter advocating for more funding for adult education in FY 2018. If you are able, please urge your Senators to sign the letter.
Click here to send an email or make a phone call supporting adult education. If your legislator is interested, they should contact Senator Reed's office. The deadline for signatures is May 19.
The bipartisan Perkins CTE legislation was introduced on May 4. Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) introduced HR 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The proposal is similar to legislation that passed the House in September 2016 by a vote of 405 to 5. The committee is expected to consider the legislation in the coming weeks, however the Senate is moving more slowly.