Legislative Archives


COABE's Legislative Center generously sponsored by ETS HiSET


While face to face meetings may take more time to plan and follow up, they are the most effective way to communicate. A great opportunity to meet with your federal legislator is during Congressional recess when legislators are in their home districts.


Deciding With Whom to Meet
Even if you are unable to schedule a meeting with your legislator due to scheduling conflicts, the LA ultimately advises the legislator on the vote and is the person who actually drafts legislative language for consideration by the committees in the Senate and House. LAs also have a high turnover rate as they advance quickly throughout their legislative careers. One never knows where he or she will end up; running an elections campaign, becoming head over an agency, or joining the staff at the White House. Meeting with the legislator, the LA, or the regional representative are all very effective approaches for educating the legislator on adult education issues.
While one-to-one meetings can be very effective, it’s usually helpful to have a small group meet with the legislator, LA, or regional representative. Choose your group before scheduling the meeting.

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.
Other Legislation
Perkins/CTE Reauthorization
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

Click "Take Action" above, enter your contact information and click "SUBMIT" to preview the letter we will send on your behalf to Congress.

Click "Take Action" above, enter your contact information and click "SUBMIT" to preview the letter we will send on your behalf to Congress.

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.

Education Budget

Click "Take Action" above, enter your contact information and click "SUBMIT" to preview the letter we will send on your behalf to Congress.

Click "Take Action" above, enter your contact information and click "SUBMIT" to preview the letter we will send on your behalf to Congress.

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)

Higher education

  • 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.


  1. There is no bi-partisan budget agreement in place that undoes the sequester levels. There is no parity between defense and non-defense spending.  
  2. 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.
  3. The allocation to the Labor-HHS subcommittee is particularly important. Traditionally, it tends to get only modest increases (if any at all).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


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. 
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.

Government Relations Report: April 2017

This report focuses on budget and appropriations issues.
Congress is on recess for another week.
The continuing resolution (CR) under which the government is operating expires on April 28. There is a need to determine how the government will be funded for the remainder of the year. There is still a certain lack of clarity about whether there will be a long-term CR to carry funding through to September 30, or an omnibus appropriations bill (or bills) that will make actual funding decisions on an account-by-account basis. In either case, there may need to be a short-term  continuing resolution because work won't be completed by the 28th of the month.
Appropriations staff report that they have mostly completed work on the bills and that contentious funding issues and legislative riders will be hashed out at the leadership level.
We also understand that the appropriators have rejected the Trump administration's request to cut FY 2017 domestic discretionary funding to fund defense and to accommodate spending for the southwestern wall. The allocation for Labor, HHS, and Education has not been significantly changed, and it is possible that total Education Department funding could remain about the same, but there could be changes in individual funding levels from the House and Senate versions if there is an omnibus bill. 
There remains a possibility that the Republican leadership will seek to accommodate at least part of the president's request to fund the wall, defund Planned Parenthood, or attach controversial riders. Democratic leaders in the Senate have threatened to shutdown the government if such funding, or language, is included in the appropriations bill.
While Congress has made progress on FY 2017, both House and Senate staff (and both Democrats and Republicans) report that they "are as much in the dark on FY 2018" as everyone else. There are reports that release of the administration's budget will be delayed until June. We do know that the budget caps for FY 2018 are set in law and that the FY 2018 cap is several billion dollars below this year's level. This means that without another bipartisan budget agreement to raise the caps on spending there will be continued downward pressure on non-defense discretionary spending, which is already at historic lows as a percentage of gross domestic product.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "2018 will be the eighth straight year of austerity in NDD [non-defense discretionary] appropriations. The 2018 cap is scheduled to fall by almost $3 billion relative to the prior year's cap reflecting the imposition, for the first time, of full sequestration cuts, because the most recent bipartisan sequestration-relief agreement expires after 2017. Cumulatively, this cut will bring the non-defense cap 16 percent below the comparable 2010 level, after adjusting for inflation." 
A similar budget proposed in FY 2016 ran into difficulty in Congress because it did not cut enough for some and cut far too much for others. There is ample evidence that the cuts proposed by the Trump administration will again face some skepticism in Congress. For example, Hal Rogers, former chair of the House Appropriations Committee issued this statement:
"While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the president's skinny budget are draconian, careless, and counterproductive. In particular, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has a long-standing history of bipartisan support in Congress because of its proven ability to help reduce poverty rates and extend basic necessities to communities across the Appalachian region. We will certainly review this budget proposal, but Congress ultimately has the power of the purse. As the full budget picture emerges in the coming weeks, I am optimistic that we can work with the administration to responsibly fund the federal government, including those agencies which serve as vital economic lifelines in rural parts of the country that are still working to overcome substantial challenges."
Senator Lindsey Graham specifically referred to proposed cuts in foreign aid, "It's dead on arrival - it's not going to happen. It would be a disaster."
According to Reuters, "Moderate Republicans expressed unease with potential cuts to popular domestic programs." Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, attacked plans to cut or eliminate programs that help the poor pay heating bills, provide aid for localities to deal with wastewater, and subsidize air travel in rural areas like her home state of Alaska. "We need to remember that these programs are not the primary drivers of our debt," Murkowski said.

We do have some evidence that members of Congress are increasingly concerned about spending levels for education and workforce programs. We have met with several members of the House and Senate Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations subcommittees and all expressed support for these programs, recognized the need to invest in America's workforce, and emphasized the need for American workers to have the education necessary to compete with workers elsewhere in the world. Several, in particular, cited the need to better educate workers in rural areas. Others referred to the results of PIAAC studies, which show younger workers in the U.S. near the bottom in international comparisons.
What You Can Do
COABE and the state directors of adult education have launched a joint public awareness campaign called "Educate and Elevate: An Investment in America's Future" that says "America is at a crossroads. We need every person in our nation ready to contribute to America's competitiveness."
You can learn more about the campaign and how to participate by going to the COABE web site and following the prompts. Teachers and students can go to HERE to write a letter or make a call to their elected officials to support the campaign.
Representative state directors were on Capitol Hill last month to "Educate and Elevate" and explain the importance of adult education to our nation's future.
The COABE Hill Day will take place on April 26, where we will meet with Secretary Betsy DeVos and a number of legislators. Almost 50 state-level leaders in adult education will be on the Hill visiting with members of the House and Senate to promote this message that, "Investing in adult education is good for the economy."
The House is on recess the week of May 8 and again the week of May 29. The Senate is on recess the week of May 29. These are opportunities to educate members of Congress on the importance of adult education by inviting them and their staffs to visit programs and participate in recognition ceremonies, as well as extending invitations for members to attend and speak at graduations.

Government Relations Report: March 2017

March Government Relations Report: "Skinny Budget" Edition 

This morning the Trump administration released its so-called "Skinny Budget" for fiscal years 2017 and 2018. This abbreviated budget (hence the nickname "skinny") highlighted several administration initiatives and an extensive list of budget cuts to non-defense discretionary programs that are intended to pay for those initiatives.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the budget would cut non-defense discretionary funding for FY 2017 (which expires on September 30) by $15 billion and another $54 billion in FY 2018. All of these funds are shifted to defense.

The Trump budget increases only the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Departments. Every other department is cut by an average of about 15 percent below current levels. The budget does not offer any guidance about where the FY 2017 cuts are to come from.

There is much that this budget does not tell us. Many cuts are, as yet, unspecified. The budget cuts funds for the Department of Education by about $9 billion or 13.5 percent below the level in the continuing resolution now in effect, but the document identifies $4.9 billion of cuts, so that is about $4 billion in cuts which the administration assumes but doesn't name.

The Education Department budget includes some increases to fund administration initiatives as well as cuts to offset those increases. The budget does not mention adult education, but that does not mean that the administration does not support cuts in the program. 

The Budget: 

 ·  Increases investments in public and private school choice by $1.4 billion compared to the 2017 annualized CR level.

·  Includes a $168 million increase (in 2018) for charter schools, $250 million for a new private school choice program, and a $1 billion increase for Title I, dedicated to encouraging districts to adopt a system of student-based budgeting and open enrollment that enables federal, state, and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice.

·  Maintains approximately $13 billion in funding for IDEA programs to support students with special education needs. 

·  Eliminates the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, which is poorly targeted and spread thinly across thousands of districts with scant evidence of impact.

·  Eliminates the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports before and after school programs as well as summer programs, resulting in savings of $1.2 billion from the 2017 annualized CR level.

·  Eliminates the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program.

·  Freezes the Pell Grant program by funding the discretionary appropriation while proposing a cancellation of $3.9 billion from unobligated carryover funding.

·   Supports historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions at $492 million.

·  Reduces Federal Work-Study significantly.

·  Provides $808 million for the Federal TRIO programs and $219 million for GEAR UP, resulting in savings of $193 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.

·  Eliminates or reduces over 20 categorical programs that do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, or are more appropriately supported with state, local, or private funds, including Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and International Education programs.

In addition, the budget requests $9.6 billion for the Department of Labor, a $2.5 billion or 21 percent decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. Details are particularly thin, but the budget proposes to cut "funding for ineffective, duplicative, and peripheral job training grants." It also "decreases federal support for job training and employment service formula grants, shifting more responsibility for funding these services to states, localities, and employers" and "helps states expand apprenticeship, an evidence-based approach to preparing workers for jobs."

As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "It is the duty of the president to propose and it is the privilege of the Congress to dispose." In the final analysis, decisions about funding will ultimately be made by Congress through the appropriations process.

We are now at the stage in the process where Congress begins consideration of the president's budget. Congress will hear from the public and weigh the impact of each of these proposed cuts on districts and states and make its conclusions accordingly.The appropriations committees will hold hearings with administration representatives and seek to learn more details about administration priorities.

The president's budget is the beginning of the process, not the end. The story remains to be written.

Government Relations Report: February 2017

Washington is trying to acclimate to the Trump Administration. The president is acting through a spate of executive orders. The Senate is slowly making its way through confirmation hearings and discussing how to consider the president's nominee for the Supreme Court. The foreign policy establishment is trying to weigh the impact of the president's remarks on our relationships with Mexico, Australia, and Israel, among other countries. Information about the budget and other administration policies has not been revealed. Like so much else with the new administration, including its views on education policy, details will be forthcoming. However, it is definitely not business as usual in the nation's capital!

Secretaries of Education and Labor Confirmation Hearings

Secretary of Education designate Betsy DeVos had her confirmation hearing on January 11. The consensus is that she did not distinguish herself. On February 7, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote and DeVos was confirmed by a vote of 51-50.  

The new Secretary responded in writing to two questions about her views on adult education:

15. Do you have any experience working with adult learners or adult basic education programs? If so, please describe this experience, what it has taught you, and how you will use that experience in your oversight of these programs.

ANSWER: Too many Americans are suffering in the current economy. President Trump made improving the employment opportunities of these Americans a cornerstone of his campaign, and his administration will work to improve the prospects of those forgotten individuals. Reforms enacted in the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, which was reauthorized in 2014 as part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, were meant to help states and communities improve services for adult learners to better provide them the education and skills they need to obtain employment and increase self-sufficiency. If confirmed, I will work through the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education to implement these reforms to improve outcomes for adult learners. Combined with other efforts across the government, we have an opportunity to restore the American Dream for all Americans. I have had personal experience mentoring students in our local public school system. I became very well acquainted with one student's mother, and encouraged her to pursue her GED. Her experience made me realize how difficult the system made this for a single working mother. Many courses were only available during routine business hours, creating an additional hardship for her and her family. The lack of flexibility and adaptability in the system itself is all too often a barrier to success for nontraditional students.

56. As you well know, while some adults enrolled in adult education are still seeking their high school diploma or equivalent, a surprising number of American adults with a high school diploma still struggle with basic skills. Twenty percent (20%) of adults with a high school diploma have less-than-basic literacy skills and thirty-five percent (35%) of adults with a high school degree have less-than-basic numeracy skills. According to a recent study, conducted by OECD's Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), at least three million low-skilled American adults would like to enroll in adult education services, but cannot access a program. Without access, undereducated, underprepared adults cannot qualify for jobs with family sustaining incomes that require not only a high school equivalency, but also some college, preferably a one- or two-year certificate. Adults without a high school diploma or functioning below high school level have a difficult time qualifying for community college programs or access high demand occupations. If confirmed, how do you envision the department and the administration incorporating adult education into its competitiveness agenda?

ANSWER: In raising the issue of "undereducated, underprepared adults" you make a case for the need to improve education. When schools fail our students, there are long term consequences, both for individuals who are deprived of the knowledge and skills they need to be successful and our nation which is dependent on the innovative, creative, and economic contributions of it citizens. It is why we need to do more to provide parents with high quality educational options. Sadly, too many Americans are suffering from a lack of skills. President Trump made improving the employment opportunities of these Americans a cornerstone of his campaign, and his administration will work to improve the prospects of those left behind in this economy. If confirmed, I will work with the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and other relevant agencies to improve outcomes for adult learners. Combined with other efforts across the government, we have an opportunity to restore the American Dream for all Americans.

(The Committee has not yet posted a hearing date for Secretary of Labor designate Andrew Puzder.)


We are awaiting more details on funding proposals. The normal process is for the president to present his budget the second week of February.

However, as you may recall, Congress passed and the president signed a continuing resolution for FY 2017 that is in effect until April 28. According to staff, by the beginning of March, Congress will have to decide how it wants to close the books on 2017 as it works on funding for FY 2018. Thus far, the focus has been on health-related entitlements. Staff expects the administration to send Capitol Hill a budget document that provides some guidance about how it intends to proceed.

There has been a great deal of attention paid to the Heritage Foundation publication Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017 because of press reports that it forms the basis for the budget the administration will release at the end of this month. To summarize, the rumored Trump budget would include about $10 trillion or more in savings. The vast majority of these cuts would be in the non-defense portion of the budget, and according to the Blueprint would include the elimination of all job-training programs administered by the Department of Labor, because according to Heritage, "The Department of Labor has a history of operating ineffective job-training programs. The evidence from every multi-site experimental evaluation of federal job-training programs published since 1990 strongly indicates that these programs are ineffective. Based on these scientifically rigorous evaluations using the 'gold standard' of random assignment, these studies consistently find failure. Federal job-training programs targeting youth and young adults have been found to be extraordinarily ineffective."

A few points to keep in mind:

  1. Even if these proposals are ultimately put forth as part of the president's budget, Congress will ultimately have to act on them.
  2. Ultimate decision-making authority remains with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. That is why we are focusing our Hill Days on the appropriators, starting with the members of the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittees (See Senate Membership below).
  3. The state directors and COABE are working together to expand our reach to "grass roots and grass tops" so that, if necessary, we can launch a campaign capable of generating thousands of messages to Congress.
  4. The January webinar we cosponsored had 1000 listeners and 1500 sign-ups. The webinar is available for viewing on the COABE website.  http://www.coabe.org/webinar-resources
  5. We are preparing materials for Hill Day and the campaign that focus on a pro business, pro growth message.
  6. The state directors' Hill Days are scheduled for March 21 & 22 and will focus on states with members on the Appropriations Committees (see the list below).
  7. COABE's Hill Day is planned for April 26 and will focus on bringing in state association leaders to advocate with members of the Appropriations Committees as well as legislators in all 50 states. More details will be forthcoming shortly!  

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

  • Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman
  • Thad Cochran (R-MS)
  • Richard Shelby (R-AL)
  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  • Jerry Moran (R-KS)
  • Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
  • James Lankford (R-OK)
  • John Kennedy (R-LA)
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member
  • Richard Durbin (D-IL)
  • Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
  • Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
  • Brian Schatz (D-HI)
  • Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Chris Murphy (D-CT)
  • Joe Manchin (D-WV)

The House has not yet completed its assignments.

REQUEST:  Now more than ever, it is important to keep your member of Congress apprised of the need, success, and impact of your program. Many decisions are going to be made in the coming months and we would prefer them to be informed decisions.

Here are some things you can do:

  1. From your home phone, call the offices of your Congressperson and Senators, identify yourself as a constituent, and ask for the name and contact information of the staff person who is responsible for education issues.
  2. Email that person from your home with information about the need (how many undereducated adults are in the district or state and how many you are able to serve, pointing out the gap), the success you are having with those you can reach, examples of the impact you are having on constituents' lives, and invite the member or staff to come visit your program.

If we do not speak up for our students and ourselves, no one will.

Government Relations Report: January 2017

Washington is preparing for the Trump Administration. Congress reconvened yesterday and began the process of addressing health care. Like so much else with the new Administration, including its views of Education policy, details will be forthcoming.

Secretaries of Education and Labor Confirmation Hearings

We do know that Secretary of Education designate, Betsy DeVos, will have her confirmation hearing on January 11, before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). While some of her views are well known, others remain to be revealed. Based on what we know, we can say with some confidence that she wants to devolve more authority over education to the States, give the States more flexibility in how they spend federal dollars, reduce regulation, promote choice, and expand the use of vouchers. Her hearing can be seen on the HELP Committee website (go to senate.gov, click on "Committees", then click on "Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions", and you will see the announcement under "Hearings" on the right side of the page).  You can also watch it on YouTube by clicking HERE.

We have submitted a question to the Committee and hope that Senators will question the nominee about her views on Adult Education.

(The Committee has not yet posted a hearing date for Secretary of Labor designate, Andrew Puzder, although it is likely to take place the following week.)

In a late breaking development, Senate Democrats have asked that the DeVos hearing be postponed because ethics officials have not completed their review of her finances. Nor has she signed an agreement addressing possible conflicts of interest.  No word yet on whether the hearing will be delayed.


The Congressional Budget process is confusing in the best of circumstances. Last year, Republicans on the House Budget Committee proposed a budget that, if implemented, would have balanced the budget within 10 years - without raising taxes - by$6.5 trillion over ten years; one trillion of it from non-defense discretionary programs. The full House never voted on this proposal. The Senate did not do a budget resolution.

But next week, the Senate will finally consider a Budget Resolution for FY 2017. This is essentially a vehicle to allow the Senate to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), through the process known as Budget Reconciliation.

Reconciliation is the process by which the House and Senate Budget Committees instruct other Committees of jurisdiction to make changes in entitlement programs to achieve a certain level of savings. The most important things to remember about Reconciliation are that it affects only entitlements and that the bills require only a majority vote, instead of the usual 60 votes it takes to get a bill through the Senate.  

The Senate bill gives the relevant Committees less than a month to report bills that cut the deficit by at least $1 billion, although the result could be much larger. There is no expectation that the Senate HELP Committee, with jurisdiction over part of the ACA, will seek to achieve any savings through changes in student financial aid. The House is likely to take up this Budget Resolution after the Senate completes work.


Last Friday night, Congress passed a second short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) ensuring that federal programs are funded at current levels, through April 28, 2017.  This action effectively ends the 115th Congress.  This CR includes a 0.19 percent across-the-board cut. The new Congress will be sworn in on January 3rd, and the new President will be inaugurated on January 20, 2017. 

When the Congress reconvenes, it will have a full plate. Committees will reconstitute themselves, Senate Committees will hold confirmation hearings on prospective Cabinet members, the Budget and Appropriation processes for Fiscal Year 2018 will begin, while the Congress finally completes work on funding FY 2017, and the debt ceiling will expire--potentially raising the threat of a government shutdown.

Let's start with budget and appropriations.

As we have noted before, there is a Congressional Budget process, which is supposed to culminate in the adoption of a Congressional Budget Resolution that is not signed by the President. The Resolution includes a series of revenue and spending assumptions and overall limits on discretionary spending, both defense and non-defense. The Budget Resolution is supposed to guide the work of the Appropriations Committees, but its proposals for spending are not binding.  If the Congress does not adopt a Resolution by April 15, as happened last year, the Appropriators can begin their work. 

This year will be odd because Congress is expected to adopt a Budget Resolution for Fiscal 2017 and a Budget Resolution for fiscal year 2018 almost simultaneously.  It is widely expected that this Resolution will use the process known as Reconciliation to make changes to the Affordable Care Act.  Reconciliation allows for the Senate to adopt changes in mandatory spending and revenues with a majority vote, instead of the 60 votes it usually requires to get a bill passed there.


After the new Administration releases its FY 18 budget proposal, Congress will have to adopt a budget resolution for fiscal year 2018. We expect that that Resolution will include instructions for cuts in a variety of entitlement programs and may also include tax reform. While we don't know what the new Congress will propose, last year the House Budget Resolution designed by Rep. Tom Price--the nominee to become Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration--included significant limits on spending for non-defense discretionary programs and entitlements. Budget Resolutions do not include specific cuts, but the rhetoric gives some insight into the authors' thinking.

The FY 17 House Budget Resolution, adopted on a party-line vote but never considered by the whole House, said this about job training:

  • The nation's workforce-development programs are too often unable to successfully match workers' skills with employers' needs. Federal job training programs are notorious for producing a labyrinth of bureaucracy that consistently fails to result in a substantial number of job placements. This is particularly detrimental to the 15.6 million Americans who are either unemployed or underemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while at the same time BLS reports 5.6 million job openings.

It echoed calls for further consolidation of existing training programs and took this position on Pell Grants:

  • After years of rising award levels, the program will again face a shortfall in fiscal year 2022. Instead of confronting the program's cost drivers, previous Congresses increasingly relied on mandatory funding to make up for discretionary funding shortfalls.
  • This budget prioritizes aide for those who need the most help. Reforms must be done for the program to continue serving students in need.

According to the Coalition on Human Needs, last year's Budget Resolution proposed cuts to "domestic and international discretionary spending far more deeply than would occur if the harsh sequestration cuts continued through 2026. Non-defense discretionary spending would drop from $518.5 billion in FY 2017 down to $472 billion in the next year; it then would stay absolutely flat through 2026, eroding with inflation year by year, showing a cut of $887 billion, as compared to current policy through 2026."

The Appropriators must complete work on FY 17 and work on FY 18. Because the CR for FY 17 expires at the end of June, it is possible that the Congress could decide to impose cuts on what remains of the current fiscal year.

We will continue to closely monitor these developments.

Education Policy In the New Administration:

Last month, we reported that we have no indication of how the Administration views Adult Education. There has been some speculation that Vice-President-Elect Pence will be handed oversight of the Education portfolio. Pence supported Adult Ed as governor. It is worth noting that federal support for Adult Education in Indiana amounted to $9.5 million, while the state put in $25.4 million.

There is very little to guide us in this area. The President-elect didn't talk much about education except to attack the Common Core and advocate for school choice; and Betsy DeVos, his nominee for Secretary of Education, is best known for her advocacy of vouchers and charter schools.

In the Higher Ed area, some analysts expect that the Administration will try to reduce the debt burden on students, get the government out of the student loan business, and perhaps try to use the tax code to induce private universities to reduce tuition.  Finally, we might expect the new Administration to be more kindly disposed toward for-profit institutions.

We expect that Ms. DeVos' confirmation hearing will take place in the middle of January.

Other Legislation: 

While the House passed a reauthorization of the Perkins Act, by the overwhelmingly bi-partisan vote of 405 to 5, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee never formally took up the bill.

Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats fell apart over the issue of limiting the Secretary of Education's authority.

This means that the new Congress will take up Perkins in the New Year.

We will continue to promote our package of amendments that would make explicit the relationship between Perkins and Adult Ed.

Similarly, Congress will have to begin again to reauthorize the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Center for Education Research. The "Strengthening Education Through Research Act," which included language that makes it clear that the mission of the Institute of Education Sciences to "provide national leadership in expanding fundamental knowledge and understanding of education" includes adult education. The bill 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.

Unfortunately, the Strengthening Education Through Research Act got ensnarled in two issues that have slowed its progress through the Congress. The first was a concern that the research could infringe on privacy rights. The second was that the Senate version of the bill refers to "social/emotional learning," which has caught the attention of the blogosphere.

The new Congress may take up this bill.

COABE Government Relations Election Day Update

The 2016 national election results are in, and Donald J. Trump is President-elect and Governor Mike Pence is Vice President-elect. In addition, since the Republicans maintained their majorities in both the Senate and the House, for the first time since 2010, one party will control both the White House and Congress.
Newly elected Senators are:

  • Kamala Harris, D-CA replaced Barbara Boxer
  • Tammy Duckworth, D-IL defeated Mark Kirk
  • Todd Young, R-IL filled seat vacated by Dan Coats
  • Catherine Cortez Masto, D-NV filled seat vacated by Harry Reid
  • Maggie Hassan (D-NH) defeated Kelly Ayotte
  • There is a run-off election in Louisiana for the seat vacated by David Vitter

As new Senators, each will be looking for issues on which they can focus. The next three months are a good time to contact these offices to identify the education staff person. Offer to be a resource. If possible, coordinate this outreach with your State Director. Your message can focus on the need, impact and success of adult education for their constituents. Invite the new Senators to visit programs and begin to build a relationship.
To date, Democrats picked up six seats in the House, with totals now at 238
Republicans and 193 Democrats. Seven seats previously held by Republicans switched to Democrats, while Republicans won two seats from Democrats. Four seats are still unresolved.
Again, these are new members looking for issues. House members are better approached by constituents from their districts to present the need, impact and success in succinct form.
Election Aftermath:
Official Washington is reeling after the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. This was an election that most of the pundits, media, and political class got wrong. Not only is Washington coming to grips with a Trump victory, it is also pondering the effects of Republican victories in Senate races that supposedly favored Democrats, and a still substantial majority in the House for Republicans.
Today, and for the next several months, Washington will be trying to figure out what it all means. In the short term, we can get some insight into what might happen by looking at changes in Congressional committee leadership and what happens during the lame duck session.
Election Day brings with it the obvious change in Administration, but it also means changes in Congress. Every Congress lasts for two years, and bills introduced but not passed when Congress adjourns at the end of two years must be reintroduced and go through the process again. House and Senate leadership positions, Committee chairpersonships, and even Committee memberships change.
Here are some of the major changes affecting Adult Education. The Republicans are expected to keep control of the House. There are two important positions on Committees: The Chair and the Ranking Member. The Chair is from the party in control (in this case the Republicans) and the Ranking member is the member with the most seniority from the party not in control (i.e., Democrats today).
In the House: 

  • Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chair of the Appropriations Committee is term-limited, creating a vacancy at the top of this extremely important Committee. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) is expected to seek the Chairmanship. Frelinghuysen has emphasized defense and homeland security during his tenure on the Appropriations Committee. In 2012, he described himself as a moderate Republican. 
  • Rep. John Kline (R-MN) is retiring at the end of this Congress and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is expected to become Chair of the Education and Workforce Committee. Foxx is currently Chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. It is possible that Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) a staunch supporter of Adult Education will replace Rep. Foxx as Chair of the Subcommittee. With the retirement of Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, the Subcommittee will get a new Ranking Member as well.

In the Senate:

  • Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the Ranking Member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, is retiring. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) would be among the top contenders to replace her. Murray and Durbin are also rumored to be contending for the Number 2 spot in the Democratic leadership. 
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is likely to remain Chair of the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is likely to remain the senior Democrat. The loss of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) means that there will be a vacancy on both the HELP Committee and the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

The Lame Duck Session:
The lame duck session was supposed to be short, if not sweet. The Trump victory probably shuts the door on any chance that spending caps will be raised. It also adds a degree of uncertainty. Before the election, both sides seemed interested in completing work on a CR (Continuing Resolution to maintain funding levels) or Omnibus (lumping all the appropriation bills together) to clear the decks for the new Administration. Now, some Republicans are arguing for a short-term CR to give the new Republican Administration an opportunity to put its stamp on the final product.
The Trump campaign offered very little insight into its approach to non-defense discretionary spending beyond a proposal dubbed the "penny plan" which called for cutting one cent from every dollar appropriated. This one percent cut sounds relatively innocuous but, when combined with the impact of inflation, would have serious consequences.
One ominous development is that President-elect Trump and other Republicans have also suggested the elimination of the sequester on defense funding to enable more defense spending, which would be funded by deeper cuts in non-defense spending. The Obama Administration has opposed treating defense spending differently from non-defense spending.
We can expect that opposition to domestic discretionary spending will continue unabated.
Education Policy in the New Administration:
We have no indication of how the Administration views Adult Education. There has been some speculation that Vice President-elect Pence will be handed the Education portfolio. Pence supported Adult Ed as governor. It is worth noting that federal support for Adult Education in Indiana amounted to $9.5 million, while the state contributed $25.4 million.
There is very little to guide us in this area. The President-elect didn't talk much about education except to attack the Common Core and advocate for school choice.
Given his position on regulation, we can hypothesize that the Administration will roll back regulations intended to implement ESSA as advocated by Sen. Lamar Alexander, Chair of the Senate HELP Committee. Presumably, it will also look at other regulations affecting school discipline.
It is likely that Congress will restore, and possibly expand, the voucher program for students in Washington, DC, to use to attend private schools. I would expect it to continue to promote charter schools as part of its strategy to improve urban schools, which Trump attacked for being of poor quality.
In the Higher Ed area, some analysts expect that the Administration will try to reduce the debt burden on students, get the government out of the student loan business, and perhaps try to use the tax code to induce private universities to reduce tuition. Finally, we might expect the new Administration to be more kindly disposed toward for-profit institutions.


November 1, 2016

As you know, Congress is supposed to consider 12 individual appropriations bills each year. Each bill is supposed to be written by an Appropriations Subcommittee, which is responsible for a particular subject area or subject areas (the Labor-HHS-Education-Independent Agencies bill has several subject areas, as the name implies). Thus, the Appropriations Committee is responsible for funding the government’s entire discretionary budget each year. While their power has been eroded over the last several decades, Appropriators still wield significant power (Subcommittee Chairs are occasionally still referred to as Cardinals and collectively as The College of Cardinals.)

Completing work on Appropriations bills on time is part of what Members of Congress mean when they talk about a return to “regular order.” But, regular order is increasingly elusive. This year, only one Appropriations bill was signed into law before the fiscal year expired. So, instead of regular order, the Congress passed a Continuing Resolution on September 28 and left town to campaign for re-election. It will reconvene in November and resolving this funding situation is its highest priority.

The CR which passed the Senate (72-26) and the House (342-85) will expire on December 9 and is in effect for only the first nine weeks of the new fiscal year. The bill provides funding at an annualized level of $1,066.7 billion – $3 billion below the FY 2017 discretionary spending cap
– and includes money to combat the Zika virus and flood relief for Louisiana. A separate deal will provide funds to address the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Usually, a CR extends funding at the same level from one year to the next. But, because of a series of policy choices and arcane budget rules, just extending last year’s spending levels would break the non-defense discretionary and defense caps put in place last year. To make up the difference, the CR includes a $5 billion across-the-board cut of .496 percent and other cuts and changes to get back under the cap.

This cut does not have a significant impact on most education programs because they are forward funded. However, five programs could feel the cut immediately because they get 2017 funding on October 1: Impact Aid ($6.5 million), Title I ($74 million), IDEA ($59.1 million), teacher state
grants ($11.7 million), and career and technical state grants ($5.5 million).

The Department of Education will reduce grants to these five programs by applying the across-the-board cut to the total amount appropriated last year. If the eventual yearlong funding bill for 2017 does not contain the across the board cut, ED would restore the cuts. In the case of Perkins career and technical state grants where all the advance funding is obligated on October 1, 32 of the 54 states got reduced grants. The others did not because the cut would have dropped them below the funding floor in the Act).

Now the focus is on the lame duck session and how Congress does its work. Since everyone agrees that it will not do “regular order” and consider all remaining bills on their own, the options are a yearlong CR, an Omnibus bill that packages all the bills into one enormous product, or several so-called “mini-buses” which include fewer bills and which are easier for members to digest.

There is also a possibility, opposed by the Education community, that health-related policy riders could prevent consideration of the Labor-HHSED bill, and result in a CR just for this bill.
An Omnibus bill packages several bills but each bill includes decisions made by the Appropriators: some programs are increased, others cut, and still others frozen. In a CR funding is extended from last year to this but, as a rule, no programs are increased and any cuts are applied across-the board.
Appropriators hate Continuing Resolutions because they negate all of their work and decision-making.

The Congressional leadership will determine how work on the funding the government moves ahead. 

Other legislation:
On Tuesday, September 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5587, the Strengthening CTE for the 21st Century Act, by a vote of 405 to 5. Attention now turns to Senate activity, where the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee continues to work on the bill.

The Senate had been scheduled to mark up a CTE bill, but the session was postponed when the draft bill ran into a flurry of opposition. The draft bill included language supported by Chairman Lamar Alexander that would have significantly limited the Secretary of Education’s authority prohibitions that could be placed on the Secretary related to program oversight. Alexander has been involved in a long-running dispute with the Department of Education over implementation of ESSA and his antipathy toward the Department has spilled over into Perkins.

Nevertheless. Committee leaders continue to discuss options for moving the bill, possibly in the lame duck session after the election. The Adult Education community continues to work on a package of amendments that would make explicit the relationship between Perkins and Adult Ed.

During COABE Hill Day, members of the Arizona delegation met with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-9
th District) who represents Phoenix. Rep. Sinema is working on a bill called “The Prep for Success Act,” which would authorize $2 billion for the Department of Labor to make grants to states and
territories to help individuals obtain the skills necessary to transition into postsecondary education and employment. Providers of Adult Education under Title II of WIOA are eligible recipients if such activities are provided in combination with occupational skills training. We will track the progress
of this bill.


October 4, 2016

Today we are pleased to announce that COABE and the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education are partnering in an advocacy effort to strengthen and grow Adult Education.
COABE is organized to advance national and international adult education and literacy opportunities for all persons. Its more than 15,000 members include adult educators, administrators, and mentors working to improve educational outcomes for adults.
The purpose of the NCSDAE is to attend to its members legislative needs and concerns, to work with other adult education organizations to exchange ideas and solve common problems, and to establish and maintain a nationwide communication network regarding national policy and legislative issues.
According to COABE President Tom Nash, "We all know that advocacy is important to the health and well-being of the field. Effective advocacy will ensure that legislators, funders, and the general community are aware of the important work that we are all undertaking each and every day to make our country a better place to live, grow, and prosper."
Beverly Smith, Chair of the Council of State Directors noted, "The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) places new responsibilities on Adult Educators that require additional resources. We are excited to be working with COABE to make our policy makers more aware of the key role that Adult Education plays in enhancing our nation's competitiveness and our citizens more active and engaged."
Polly Smith, COABE's Public Policy Chair and Sharon Bonney, COABE's Executive Director, summed up the joint agenda as "advocating for more funds, more classes, and an end to waiting lists." They said "Adult Education state grants have been reduced by more than 25%, in real dollars, since 2002. In the meantime, other nations are fast outperforming America in boosting the educational levels of their young and working age adults. According to PIAAC (OECD's Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies), Americans lag behind the international average for basic skills in literacy and numeracy and "problem-solving in technology-rich environments (defined as "using digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks"). Worse still, the U.S. is losing ground. The United States is the only free-market country where the current generation is less well educated than the previous one. We must reverse this trend if we are to successfully compete in the world economy of the 21st century."
Art Ellison, Co-Chair of the State Directors' Policy Committee noted "some 36 million working age Americans have low literacy skills, and more than 60 million can't perform simple math and we need to improve their skills so they can compete for meaningful employment with family sustaining wages, lead their families and contribute to their communities."

The 50 State Directors and COABE's 15,000 members across the nation are dedicated to working together to expand access to Adult Education, promote professional development, and support high quality research about the role that Adult education is playing, and can play, in strengthening our Nation's economy and civil society through civics education.
Both organizations agree that this new partnership will make our advocacy efforts more robust, focused and effective as we work together to better our members and our students.
For more information, please contact: 
Sharon Bonney, Executive Director,
COABE at sharonbonney@coabe.org 
Dr. Lennox McLendon, Executive Director, 
National Council of State Directors of Adult Education at lmclendon@naepdc.org 


September 27, 2016


Congress is back in town for several weeks. Its highest priority is to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government at current funding levels in FY 2017, which starts on October 1. News reports suggest that Senate Republican leadership is negotiating with Democrats to pass a CR, which would expire on December 9, leaving final resolution of FY 2017 Appropriations, until after the election.  

Under this scenario, Congress would return after November 8 for a lame duck session and finish appropriations work, likely in the form of a large, omnibus bill similar to those used frequently in recent years or in a series of so-called “mini-buses” which would package a few bills at a time. 

The duration of the CR has become a political issue. It appears that while both the Republican and Democratic leaders want this CR to only last a few months setting up a “lame-duck session,” members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and other House conservatives, and want the government funded into 2017, when a new Administration and a new Congress can determine funding levels. They take the position that Omnibus bills completed to meet arbitrary deadlines rarely include their priorities. 

We could again find ourselves in a situation in which the House Republican leadership would need Democratic votes to pass a CR or in which it would pass a longer term CR, which Senate Democrats and the White House would likely oppose. If the House Republican leadership cannot devise a solution to this split, the prospect of a government shutdown will loom larger. House Republicans are scheduled to meet in closed-door sessions this week to discuss a compromise. We will continue to update you as we learn more. 

CTE Reauthorization: 

You may recall that on July 7, the House Education and the Workforce Committee unanimously approved a Perkins reauthorization bill, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 5587), sponsored by Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), co-chair of the House CTE Caucus, and Katherine Clark (D-MA). The bipartisan committee bill is the first comprehensive reauthorization of Perkins to be considered by Congress in a decade. 

The House will take up the CTE reauthorization bill, under suspension, on September 13. Using the suspension process means that a bill is non-controversial ands enjoys broad bi-partisan support (in this case, reflective of the unanimous vote in support of the bill in the Education and Workforce Committee) because it limits debate, precludes amendments, and requires two-thirds of Members present and voting to approve the bill. 

In spite of this strong support, it is not a foregone conclusion that Congress will approve a Perkins Act reauthorization this year. 

The rumor is that the Senate HELP Committee will not take up the House bill but craft its own bill and that, as of now, there was "no clear path forward." Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) does not seem to put have CTE at the top of his “to do” list.  

Alexander has been involved in a long-running dispute with the Department of Education over implementation of ESSA and there is a sense his antipathy toward the Department has spilled over into Perkins.  

We continue to work on a package of amendments that would make explicit the relationship between Perkins and Adult Ed. 

Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) and the Higher Education Act:

Both of these laws need to be reauthorized and neither will be completed in 2016. Both could have implications for Adult Education and will be on the agenda for next year.

Celebrating #AEFLWeek with a New Fact Sheet on Adult Education & Middle-Skill Jobs

September 23, 2016

It’s Adult Education and Family Literacy Week! Advocates around the country are marking this week with events and activities that celebrate the achievements of adult learners and the contributions of adult educators.

National Skills Coalition is joining in the celebration with a brand-new fact sheet highlighting the critical role of adult education in helping workers prepare for middle-skill jobs. Such jobs require more than a high school education, but not a four-year degree.

More than 24 million US workers lack key foundational skills in reading, math, or spoken English, and would benefit from adult education to help them build the skills needed to pursue occupational training and compete for these jobs. 

Adult education models such as Integrated Education and Training (IET) have a proven track record in helping adult learners acquire key skills, earn secondary and postsecondary credentials, and obtain middle-skill employment.

The fact sheet highlights four federal policies that can support the implementation of adult education program models such as IET, and provides examples of states that are capitalizing on these policies to do just that.

Among the examples highlighted is the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides support for low-income families, including through the provision of education and training to help adults find employment and move off of public benefits.

Advocates interested in how TANF can help support skill-building opportunities can review the nationally recognized Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative, which provides a broad range of support to assist low-income individuals in obtaining in-demand credentials and employment.

See more examples of support for adult learners’ skill-building activities in NSC’s Adult Education and Middle-Skill Jobs fact sheet.

Thank you to National Skills Coalition, our National Partner

COABE Government Relations Report

August 8, 2016

Since Congress is on its extended summer recess (also called District Work Week in the House and State Work Period in the Senate), we thought it would be a good idea to review how our laws get made. This information is important because it helps to inform COABE’s legislative strategy, Hill visits, and your education and advocacy activities.

Lots of people find the legislative process—how laws are proposed, passed, and funded by the U.S. Congress—arcane. With some oversimplification, this Report attempts to demystify two aspects of the process: Authorizations and Appropriations.

Congress uses the “Authorization” process to create or modify laws that authorize discretionary spending for a particular purpose, like Adult Education or Job Training. The “Appropriations” process is used to allocate real dollars to each program. Examples of Authorizing Committees are the House Education and Workforce Committee and the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committee.  Authorizing Committees have specific areas of jurisdiction and develop expertise in particular subjects. This expertise causes their colleagues to defer to them on matters of policy. You can follow their activities at edworkforce.house.gov and senate.help.gov, respectively. Both stream Committee activities like hearings and mark-ups.

The House and Senate both have an Appropriations Committee, and both operate with 12 subcommittees, each of which has responsibility for a particular portfolio of programs (these include Agriculture; Commerce, Science, Justice; Defense; Energy and Water; Financial Services; Homeland Security; Interior; Legislative Branch; Military Construction and Veterans; State; and Transportation and HUD (known as THUD).  You can track the legislative activities of each subcommittee by going to the Congress.gov website and clicking on Appropriations. You can also follow them by visiting their websites (Appropriations.senate.gov and Appropriations.house.gov)

 Committee staff develops expertise in the programs, as well, and often work closely with the Executive Branch (the Office of Management and Budget as well as the Departments and Agencies) on spending issues. These staff are extremely professional and knowledgeable.

There are several opportunities in the legislative process for advocates at the national, state, and local level to affect legislation by working with elected officials, but the further along the process gets, the more difficult this becomes. Thinking of the process as a pyramid, the higher you climb the steeper it gets.*

How the Authorization Process Works

  1. A bill is drafted with input from advocates and constituency groups. Attorneys with substantive experience do the actual drafting. These “Legislative Counsels” work for the House and Senate and do not interact directly with the public. Bills are usually developed through a back-and-forth process in which Congressional staff and the Legislative Counsel trade drafts until the staff (the Legislative Aides on behalf of the Representatives and Senators for whom they work) is satisfied with the result. This is the FIRST opportunity to affect the content of a bill.
  2. After the bill has been drafted, the author of the bill (a senator or representative) formally “introduces” or “drops” it, and it becomes a matter of public record.
    Supporters of the bill, called original co-sponsors, often join the author. The bill is given a number (In the House the number is preceded by HR and in the Senate by S).
    Based on its subject matter, the Parliamentarian then refers it to a particular Committee (which can refer it to a subcommittee which has special expertise in the issue) for further action. If the subject matter crosses other Committees, each affected Committee gets a chance to shape the part of the bill over which it has jurisdiction.

    Because Committees and subcommittees are where substantive expertise resides, members who serve on other Committees and subcommittees tend to give considerable deference to their actions. It is unusual for the content of a bill to change significantly from the Committee’s or subcommittee’s product. More change can occur from the subcommittee to full Committee stage than is likely to occur from the full Committee stage on.
  3. Some bills are “held at the full Committee” level because of their importance or timeliness and they never go through a subcommittee. But most are referred by the full Committee to a subcommittee according to relevant areas of expertise.
  4. The subcommittee holds hearings on the bill and then has a “mark-up” session in which members of the subcommittee can offer amendments. The amendment process at the subcommittee level is the SECOND opportunity to affect the content of the bill.
  5. The subcommittee completes consideration of the bill and “reports” or sends it to the full Committee for further consideration. The full Committee schedules a “mark-up” to give those members of the Committee who are not on the relevant subcommittee the chance to amend the bill. Subcommittee members also get another chance to offer amendments. The full Committee amendment process is the THIRD opportunity to affect the content of the bill. The full Committee then reports the amended bill to the full House or Senate for further consideration.
  6. In the House, the Rules Committee sets the terms under which a bill is considered. Controlled by the Majority, it determines the amount of time the full House will devote to a bill and which amendments, if any, will be considered. In the Senate, the circumstances of how and when a bill is considered are the subject of negotiations in a Time Agreement between the Majority and the Minority.
    Each bill that goes to the Floor for consideration has a “Manager” who controls the process for the Majority and the Minority side. The rules usually permit the Committee one more opportunity to change the bill through a Manager’s Amendment that includes the results of any last minute changes. Getting your proposed changes into the Manager’s Amendment is the FOURTH opportunity to affect the bill.
  7. After the Manager’s Amendment has been considered, other Members can offer amendments pursuant either to the Rule [House] or Time Agreement [Senate]. Having a Floor amendment considered is the FIFTH opportunity to affect the bill.
  8. The amended bill passes each House. Because the House and Senate versions of a bill almost always differ in several respects, the differences are usually resolved through a Conference Committee—chosen from the Committee members by the Committee Chair—which is empowered to negotiate on behalf of the entire Committee. Conferees are usually chosen on the basis of seniority and their interest in a particular bill. Influencing the decisions of the conferees is the SIXTH opportunity to affect the bill.
  9. The differences between the bills are resolved and included in a Conference Report, which includes not only the final bill, but also an explanation of Congressional intent that provides so-called “legislative history.” Getting “report language” into the Conference Report is the SEVENTH opportunity to affect the process. Report language does not have the force of law, but it does influence how the Departments and Agencies implement the law.
  10. Each House of Congress passes the new bill, which then goes to the President for signature.

How the Appropriations Process Works

Once a law authorizing discretionary spending has been signed, the Appropriations Committee must decide whether to fund it and, if so, at what level. Unlike Authorizations, which are in effect for many years, or even permanently, Congress repeats the Appropriations process every year.

The President releases the Administration’s budget in late January or early February. Then the Congressional Budget Committees (each House has its own) divide the entire budget into “Functions.” (Function 500 includes all education, training, and social service programs, for example.) By the middle of April, Congress is supposed to have approved a Budget Resolution, which sets aggregate spending limits for the year, and which may also call for changes in entitlement programs to be achieved through what is known as the Reconciliation process.

The Appropriations Committees take the total amount of discretionary spending assumed in the Budget Resolution and re-allocates it to the 12 subcommittees.

Again, a great deal of deference is paid to the relevant subcommittee because that is where the expertise resides.

Appropriators hold hearings on programs and pore over funding requests from their colleagues to help them in their decision-making. They meet with advocates for programs who try to influence their thinking.
By deciding what to fund and what not to fund, these appropriators wield considerable power over agencies and programs. Appropriations subcommittee chairs are often called “Cardinals” because of their power and the lack of transparency that (still) characterizes aspects of the process.
Appropriators affect policy through the power of the purse. They also have been known to include substantive legislation called “riders” in their bills, even though the practice is frowned upon. Working the Appropriations process is the EIGHTH opportunity to affect policy.

Appropriators want to complete work on each of the twelve bills by the end of the fiscal year (which for the U.S. Government is September 30). This happens less and less frequently. Instead of shutting down the government, the Congress passes Continuing Resolutions (or “CR’s) to keep the government functioning. Appropriations bills are often packaged together into so-called Omnibus bills to facilitate their passage.
Finally, each House operates more or less independently of the other. The same opportunities available in one House are likely to be available in the other.  While there are many pressure points at which the process can be affected, the deeper into the process one gets, the more decision-making is concentrated in fewer hands and the more difficult it is to influence things.
In sum, the Authorization process affects policy, and the Appropriation process affects discretionary funding levels. Clearly, any stage of either process can be daunting. Getting a piece of legislation to the final stage of a law and then getting it funded can take months and sometimes years. The process requires great persistence and flexibility on the part of both sponsors and advocates. But, the more you know about how the process works, the more likely you can affect the outcome.

*This essay focuses on Congress, but the Administration and the major federal departments are usually operating behind the scenes.  Their representatives work with the Congressional leadership, Committees, and subcommittees to provide expertise and to make sure that Administration positions are reflected in the final product. Because the Administration can veto a particular bill, it has power even if the other party holds one, or both, Houses of Congress.

Make Your Voice Heard on Capitol Hill:
$635 million needed for adult education

COABE members have a chance to make a difference for adult education in our country.  Your voice makes a difference.

The Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations sub-Committee has scheduled the mark up of its FY 2017 bill for June 7.  This is when they recommend who gets what in terms of funding for 2017.
Members of the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations sub-Committee are listed below. If you live in one of these states, please call your Senator and urge that he/she support funding for Adult Education at $635 million, the level authorized in WIOA. 
If you do not live in one of these states, please call Senator Blunt's office and Senator Murray's office.


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


  • Patty Murray, Ranking Member, Washington, 202-224-2621 
  • Dick Durbin, Illinois, 202-224-2152 
  • Jack Reed, Rhode Island, 202-224-4642 
  • Barbara Mikulski, Maryland, 202-224-4654 
  • 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

Please contact advocacy@coabe.org with any questions.


-Tom Nash, President
-Sharon Bonney, Executive Director
-Polly Smith, Public Policy Chair

Capitol Hill Day-September 28, 2016

COABE has many new and exciting initiatives! One such initiative is COABE's hosting of second Capitol Hill Day of 2016 on September 28, 2016. COABE believes that holding two days will enable someone from each association to attend and will impact our legislators in a more meaningful way.

With special thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one board member representative from each of COABE's large group members will receive one FREE all-expense paid ticket to attend this event. We hope you will plan to join us as we raise the voice of adult education!

Please make your flight reservations and contact Sharon Bonney with your arrival/departure information to ensure your hotel reservations on the COABE master account are correct. Please contact our Executive Director, Sharon Bonney (sharonbonney@coabe.org) with this information.

We will be sending out more information to let you know how you can best prepare for the Capitol Hill Days and we will also have preparatory webinars as well.

As you prepare for Capitol Hill Day, feel free to gather student success stories, letters, and/or videos that can be sent to your legislator prior to the Capitol Hill visit. Legislators also appreciate solid quantitative data, so if you have access to that information, that would be helpful as well. Click here for instructions on contacting your legislator.

We hope you or a member of your board will plan to join us!

Generously sponsored by


WDQC released an infographic about the flow of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) data, entitled “How WIOA Performance Data Works.” Click here for more information.

Join the COABE Contact Network

The COABE Contact Network is a community of people who are interested in educating decision makers – legislators, community leaders, and others – about the importance of adult education. Anyone can join.

As a member of the Network, you will receive legislative updates, advocacy resources, and action alerts designed to help you inform your federal legislators of the successes, challenges, and needs of adult education.

Additionally, you will have opportunities to:

  • Learn from other advocates, their successes and challenges
  • Share information and alerts and grow your own local network
  • Become a go-to resource for decision makers on adult education issues
  • Conduct local awareness raising activities for National Adult Education & Family Literacy Week
  • Meet amazing people from across the country who care about changing lives through literacy

You may even have the opportunity to travel to DC to visit with legislators and their staffs who work on adult education issues.  Learn more...


COABE publishes legislative updates as a service to our members and partners. Legislative updates offer the latest news on a range of federal policies–including adult basic education, workforce, and budget policy–that impact the development of a skilled workforce. This information is included in COABE's monthly membership update. Join or renew your membership today and begin receiving the latest news from Washington!

January 2016The Threat of a Constitutional Convention and Balanced Budget Amendment

A national effort is underway to pass state resolutions calling for a constitutional convention to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to sharply limit what the federal government can do to advance the nation’s priorities, invest in the country’s future, and protect the rights and opportunities of all Americans. Among the many deeply damaging Constitutional amendments that could emerge from this effort is a balanced budget amendment.  Learn more...

January 2016Presidential Survey and Response Sheet

More than 36 million adults in America struggle to read. Low adult literacy in reading, writing, and numeracy creates billions of dollars in lost revenue and increases costs for health care, corrections, welfare, and many other major social issues. According to the PIAAC study (Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies), released in 2013, the United States ranked in the bottom third of 24 surveyed countries for adult skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. 

Why literacy? Why not focus on health? Or workforce development? Or poverty relief? The answer is simple—adult literacy and numeracy intersect with all of these. We won’t solve these socioeconomic problems unless we also build a more literate adult population. Adult basic education programs bring a powerful return on investment, impacting the lives of Americans, their families, and communities. Adult basic education helps adults break cycles of intergenerational poverty and illiteracy by providing adults the skills they need to succeed as workers, parents, and citizens. Research shows that better-educated parents raise better-educated, more successful children—who are less likely to end up in poverty or prison. 

Adult education has a critical need for services. A decline in federal and state funding in the last 10 years has resulted in programs serving only a fraction of the students in need. Currently, two-thirds of programs are struggling with long student waiting lists. With present levels of public funding, less than 10 percent of adults in need are receiving services.  Learn more...

COABE Positions and Actions

March 2016—Action Request

The Reed-Blumenthal letter (HERE) relates directly to an increase in adult education funding. There is a Blumenthal-Gillibrand letter circulating that relates to workforce development and education funding as well (HERE) which we have alerted our field to as many of our members are involved with aspects of workforce development as well. For details on that alert, click here.