COABE's Legislative Center generously sponsored by ETS HiSET
HOW TO ARRANGE AND CONDUCT A VISIT WITH A LEGISLATOR, LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT (LA), OR REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE
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.
BEFORE THE VISIT
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: August 2017
The Congress has recessed for the summer. Congress left Washington having failed to pass a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, make noticeable headway on tax reform or an infrastructure package, or pass Congressional Budget Resolutions. It is months late on the appropriations process and must resolve FY 18 spending and confront a looming crisis over the debt ceiling.
You can tell it is recess because the Members have left town and the staff that was dressed conservatively the other day is now wearing jeans. Only the advocates are wearing business attire.
There were important developments in the budget and appropriations worlds. On July 19th, the full House Appropriations Committee completed its consideration of the FY 2018 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill and sent the bill to the full House, which could vote on it after Labor Day. In reporting on the bill, Committee Members made clear that they do not support the kind of Draconian cuts assumed in the President's budget. Indeed Subcommittee Chair, Tom Cole (R-OK), talked about adding funds if Congress could reach a bi-partisan agreement on increasing spending. Note, COABE's outreach to Representative Cole (HERE).
The House Labor-HHS bill was approved on a party-line vote. Several points of note:
- Adult Education remains frozen at the FY17 level, which we believe is due in large part to the work of our many members who wrote in and called to ensure funding was not cut.
- Title I Adult and Youth programs were cut by almost 5%. Wagner-Peyser State Grants were eliminated. The Ex-Offender Activities program was reduced by more than 7%.
- Subcommittee Chairman, Tom Cole (OK), opposed virtually all amendments, but reiterated his position that he was open to revisiting issues if more money became available. This was the position he took on cuts to Title I of WIOA. Cole said he hoped the funds for his Subcommittee would eventually be increased and that this bill represented "an initial allocation."
The Full Senate Appropriations Committee revealed that it was increasing the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee's allocation by $3 billion over the FY 17 level. According to sources, this amount is intended to allow the Senate Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee approximately enough money to fund programs at the FY17 level.
The fact remains that there will be a great deal of competition for these funds when the Senate Committee meets in September, after it returns from the August recess.
On July 14th, the House passed a $696-billion defense policy bill that would exceed President Donald Trump's budget request and exceed the statutory cap on defense spending.
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its Department Of Defense (DOD) Authorization legislation last month. The full Senate has yet to take up the bill.
To fund defense at these levels, lawmakers would need to strike a deal to raise the defense cap. Many members of Congress believe that an increase in defense spending would have to be accompanied by an increase in non-defense spending.
There is pent up demand to increase defense spending. It is this demand that is fueling talk that there will ultimately be a deal that will raise the caps for both non-defense and defense spending.
Traditionally the Congress is supposed to agree on a Budget Resolution before the appropriations process begins. The Resolution tells the Appropriators how much they can spend. This year, neither House has completed work on its Resolution so the Appropriators have begun to consider bills anyway.
Congress is on recess until September 5th. Members are home-meeting constituents and visiting sites in their districts. This is an excellent opportunity to bring the Educate and Elevate campaign to their attention. You can find out whether, where, and when your elected representatives are holding Town Hall meetings by going to townhallproject.com for more information.
Last month we reported that September was likely to be busy. That now looks like something of an understatement. We need all hands on deck, with everyone reaching out to their legislators. It is especially important for our members that live in any of the following states to contact your legislators to set up a meeting with them while they are home on August recess.
- Roy Blunt, Missouri, Chair, 202-224-5721
- Thad Cochran, Mississippi, 202-224-5054, 202-224-5054
- Richard Shelby, Alabama, 202-224-5744
- Lamar Alexander, Tennessee, 202-224-4944
- Lindsay Graham, South Carolina, 202-224-5972
- Jerry Moran, Kansas, 202-224-6521
- Shelley Capito, West Virginia, 202-224-6472
- James Lankford, Oklahoma, 202-224-5754
- John Kennedy, Louisiana, 202-224-4623
- Marco Rubio, Florida, 202-224-3041
- Patty Murray, Ranking Member, Washington, 202-224-2621
- Dick Durbin, Illinois, 202-224-2152
- Jack Reed, Rhode Island, 202-224-4642
- Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire, 202-224-2841
- Jeff Merkley, Oregon, 202-224-3753
- Brian Schatz, Hawaii, 202-224-3934.
- Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin, 202-224-5653
- Christopher S. Murphy, Connecticut, 202-224-4041
- Joe Manchin, West Virginia, 202-224-3954
Be sure to review the free resources on "Working With Legislators" (HERE). After you make your meeting with your legislator, please let us know (HERE).
Congress is supposed to be in session for only 12 days before the end of the fiscal year. In those 12 days it must pass an increase in the debt ceiling, which is almost always a difficult vote that threatens shutting down the government. It is supposed to finish work on all appropriations bills, and pass other high-priority legislation that expires at the end of the fiscal year.
The senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee is likely to mark up in the first week of September.
The House and Senate must agree on a plan to fund the government by September 30, when the fiscal year expires. A likely scenario is that Congress will enact a Continuing Resolution of a few months duration to keep the government running. Any negotiations to raise spending caps would take place later in the year.
Also, Senator Alexander (R-TN), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) announced that next month the Committee would begin holding hearings on healthcare.
Senate Budget Committee Chair, Mike Enzi (R-WY), has indicated that he wants the Committee to mark up a Resolution in September.
There has been no action on Perkins Act Reauthorization.
On July 20th, Senators, Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), introduced the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act to ensure that workers are prepared with the skills needed for jobs that would be generated by a major infrastructure initiative.
The proposed legislation would leverage private sector partnerships to:
- Incentivize businesses and industry to work with the greater community to create on-the-job training programs to fill the jobs necessary to expand the country's infrastructure system
- Connect businesses and education providers to develop classroom curriculum to complement on-the-job learning
- Train managers and front-line workers to serve as mentors to people in the work-based learning programs
- Offer resources and career awareness programming to recruit and retain individuals for workforce training programs
- Provide support services to ensure workers are successful from pre-employment to placement in a full-time position
Earlier this year, the two Senators introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, legislation that would expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in short-term job training programs.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says he wants to revive bipartisan talks on immigration reform. McCain said that he raised the issue with Sen. Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority Leader. He told reporters "I think there are all kinds of deals to be made out there. I really do."
Meanwhile, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act or "RAISE Act." The bill, S. 354, would cap refugee admissions, cut total immigration in half by eliminating diversity visas and cutting family-based visas, and create a new visa system that awards points to potential immigrants based on characteristics such as speaking English and having higher education levels. The bill also includes provisions that would bar immigrants and their families from various forms of government assistance. Experts are skeptical that the Raise Act could pass the Senate.
Government Relations Update: July 2017
The full House Appropriations Committee completed its consideration of the FY 2018 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill. It reported the bill to the House without making significant changes to the bill approved earlier this week by the subcommittee. The bill was approved on a party-line vote. It is possible that the full House will vote on the bill in September after the House returns to Washington from its August recess.
Several points of note:
- Adult education funds were not cut but remain frozen at the FY 2017 level. We attribute this to the more than 15,000 legislative contacts that have been made as a part of our ongoing advocacy work. We encourage every person to do their part contacting their legislators and staff via the "Rapid Response" tool (Here).
- While Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (OK) opposed virtually all amendments, he reiterated his position that he was open to revisiting issues if more money became available. This was the position he took, for example, on cuts to job training funds in Title I of WIOA that remain in the bill. He reiterated his position that he hoped the funds that had been allocated to his subcommittee would eventually be increased and that the funds available to him represented "an initial allocation." It should be noted that COABE and NCSDAE have written a letter to Chairman Tom Cole (Here).
- Those who watched the mark up, which ran for almost 12 hours, heard subcommittee ranking member Rosa DeLauro (CT) refer to "$5 billion left on the table." She was saying that the House Appropriations Committee chose to cap nondefense discretionary spending at $5 billion below the level set in law for FY 2018. As a result, the full Committee reduced the amount of funds available for Labor-HHS-Education programs by $5 billion.
- Today, the full Senate Appropriations Committee revealed that it was increasing the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee's allocation by $3 billion over the FY 2017 level. We do know that the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee will have $8 billion more to spend than its House counterpart.
The fact remains that there will be a great deal of competition for these funds when the Senate Committee meets in September after members return from the August recess.
The next steps in the process should be as follows:
- The House votes on the Labor-HHS-Education bill.
- The Senate Subcommittee and full Committee consider the Senate version of the Labor-HHS bill.
- Bills pass each House, are "conferenced," and differences between the two bills are resolved.
- The President signs the Labor-HHS-Education bill agreed to by both Houses.
Much can happen between now and the end of the fiscal year. For example:
- Neither bill can pass its House because Conservatives believe they spend too much and Liberals believe they spend too little.
- Contentious legislative issues called "riders" derail consideration of the bills.
- Time runs out and Congress must adopt a continuing resolution to keep the government functioning.
- There is a budget agreement that funds the nondefense discretionary part of the budget, and the bills are significantly rewritten to provide more funds.
- The President can veto the Labor-HHS-Education bill because it doesn't contain enough of his priority initiatives.
- Or, some combination of all of the above may take place.
In any event, September will be a busy month, and it is in all of our best interest to continue to reach out to legislators and their staff so that they are aware of the importance and value of adult education.
Government Relations Report: July 2017
The Congress has recessed for the July 4th holiday. It left town without having completed work on health care, far behind schedule on any tax reform proposal, and months late on the FY 2018 appropriations process.
Nobody in Washington knows how the health care issue will be resolved, and there is a growing feeling that tax reform will be every bit as difficult to accomplish. We do know that Congress must complete work on annual appropriations so the government can continue to operate.
There were important developments in the appropriations world. It now looks likely that the House budget committee will delay mark up of a budget resolution for FY 2018 because some members of the Republican majority have balked at proposals to scale back non-defense spending--- discretionary and entitlements --- as the president had proposed in his budget. The House leadership is proceeding with a topline for non-defense discretionary level that is $5 billion below the FY 2018 sequester cap, which is about $8 billion below the FY 2017 enacted level. In a sign that the votes are not there to support such a proposal, the so-called "Tuesday Group" of more moderate Republicans has come out in opposition to the budget plan and called for an increase in the non-defense discretionary cap level.
Representative Charles Dent (R-PA) has sent a letter to Speaker Ryan (R-WI) calling for an increase in the caps. According to a report in Politico, the letter stresses the need for bipartisan negotiations "to reach an agreement that sets spending levels for, at least, [FY] 2018."
The decision by the House leadership to mark up bills based on the sequester cap means, in effect, that the president's proposed $54 billion in non-defense discretionary cuts has been rejected. It also means that the annual appropriations process will do its work with less money to spend this year than last.
However, rejecting the president's budget proposal does not mean that all is well. Given the calendar, most Congress watchers believe that it is impossible for the appropriators to present all of their bills to the full Congress for votes. It is also possible that because of the tight budget caps and how available funds are allocated, bills that are marked up later in the year will be so unpopular that they cannot pass.
This has led to calls for a new budget deal that will raise the caps on both defense and non-defense discretionary spending. In addition to the Dent letter, the Democratic leadership in the Senate wrote majority leader McConnell and appropriations committee chair Cochran on June 26, "we believe that a bipartisan and bicameral agreement is needed to replace the irresponsible post-sequestration limits on defense and non-defense discretionary spending..."
The two most likely scenarios for Congress to complete FY 2018 funding this fall are either an agreement to raise the sequester caps for defense and non-defense discretionary spending or a continuing resolution because Congress will not be able to agree on bills at the current levels.
It is possible that a budget deal would enable the Congress to finish its appropriations work by September 30, the end of the fiscal year. Barring such an agreement, a continuing resolution of some length is inevitable.
It is likely that the House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee will mark up its FY 2018 bill when Congress returns from the July 4th recess.
On June 22, the House passed Perkins/CTE reauthorization by voice vote. H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act is similar to a bill that the House overwhelmingly passed last year, but which ran into a roadblock in the Senate. The reauthorization would allow for annual increases in funding of 1.38 percent per year for the next six years. The president's budget called for cuts in Perkins/CTE of 13 percent in fiscal year 2018.
You may recall that last year the House passed Perkins/CTE reauthorization by a wide margin on a bipartisan basis, but the Senate never considered CTE because of a dispute over the authority of the Secretary of Education to approve state plans. Those differences of opinion remain unresolved.
On June 28, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing titled "Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Education research While Protecting Student Privacy" to discuss the effectiveness of the current laws governing education research and student privacy protection.
In 2014, the Senate passed a bill reauthorizing the Education Sciences Reform Act, but the bill died in the House over concerns about whether research intruded on students' right to privacy. There has been no action in the last several years. A press release from subcommittee chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) said that "The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will continue to explore how Congress can strengthen our student privacy laws while also looking for new ways to utilize education research to create a better learning environment for students."
Supporters of adult education worked with members of Congress to successfully include language that made explicit the need to conduct research in successful adult education and literacy activities that result in increased numeracy and educational attainment for adult learners as well as other changes to ESRA. Since Congress did not take up the bill, that effort came to naught. Hopefully, this hearing will breathe life into ESRA and give us another opportunity.
Educate & Elevate
The Congress is scheduled to be on recess between July 28 and September 5. Members will be home meeting constituents and visiting sites in their districts. This is an excellent opportunity to bring the Educate & Elevate campaign to their attention. You can find out if, when, and where your elected representatives are holding town hall meetings by going to townhallproject.com for more information. You can also review the list of Educate and Elevate webinars that are taking place here: http://educateandelevate.org/webinars/.
Critical Investment in Adult Education
National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE) and the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) have joined in a public awareness campaign to highlight the value of adult education. Below is a joint statement regarding funding levels for adult education, developed in consultation with Gene Sofer, Government Relations/Public Policy Consultant for both organizations.
The statement summarizes the rationale for adopting a recommendation that emerged during a "Thought Leaders" conversation that took place at the COABE Conference in Orlando, April 2017. This recommendation was that the strongest and most effective message regarding funding levels is that adult education should be funded at the full authorized level. Thought Leaders in attendance represented the following organizations: Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), World Ed, Office of Career Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE), Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), ProLiteracy, National Council of State Directors of Adult Education, Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE), National Coalition for Literacy (NCL), Literacy Action Network (LAN), National College Transitions Network (NCTN), Adult Literacy Resource Center (ALRC), Association for Adult Literacy Professional Developers (AALPD), National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), and Core Civic.
We believe that investing in adult education at the authorized level of $649.3 million is important for the following reasons:
1. The recently circulated Reed-Blumenthal letter (here) asks for that level. That means that 16 Senators think the request is a reasonable one.
2. The State Directors and COABE have endorsed the $649 million level in testimony that they submitted to Congress.
3. The group of "thought leaders" that COABE convened in Orlando endorsed the $649 million level. Abandoning it would undercut their position.
4. The State Directors and COABE have conducted recent visits to Capitol Hill, including meetings on behalf of COABE (and the State Directors) where we asked for the funding at the authorized level and were met with no resistance from Hill staff. The Hill understands that in this process we all have a role to play. As advocates, our role is to push the Hill to do the right thing. The Hill's role is to tell us whether it is feasible to do the right thing.
5. Asking for the authorized level is not unique to us.
6. The Campaign to Invest in America's Workforce which represents Titles I, III, and IV of WIOA and includes other education advocates, supports the authorized level for WIOA.
Finally, we no longer need to be concerned that the Hill will misunderstand our position if our message changes from "no cuts" to "Adult Education: Invest in America's Future." Congress has completed work on the FY 2017 appropriation. FY 2018 is a new chapter, and nobody on the Hill will be confused by our advocating for the authorized level.
Read our "Return on Investment" fact sheet (here) and watch our short video (here) which describes the role of adult education. Click the "Take Action" button below to contact your legislator to ask them to fund adult education at the authorized level.
The Washington Post reports it has a copy of a "near-final" version of the President's request for the Department of Education (ED) budget for fiscal year 2018, with a total cut to education programs that basically matches what was in the President's "skinny budget" released in March (CEF's table shows the relatively few specified cuts and additions here). The Post reports gross cuts of $10.6 billion for ED for next year, with a net cut of $9.2 billion below the 2017 level (note that CEF's table compared the 2018 request to the 2016 enacted level, showing a net cut of $9.3 billion).
The Post article includes some specifics that were not in the skinny budget, including two large cuts. The first cut is eliminating the new student support and academic enrichment (Title IV-A) block grant created by the Every Student Succeeds Act to replace a host of categorical grants. It was authorized at $1.65 billion for fiscal year 2017, but funded at only $400 million in its first year. The second large cut is to Work Study (the skinny budget said it would be cut significantly), which is cut by $490 million (54%).
The Post article details the following cuts that are in addition to those described in the skinny budget:
Elementary and secondary education
- Student support and academic enrichment grants - eliminated ($400 million)
- Career and technical education - cut $196 million
- Arts in education - eliminated ($27 million)
- Native Hawaiian education - eliminated ($33 million)
- Alaska Native education - eliminated ($32 million)
- Promise neighborhoods - cut $13 million
- Javits gifted and talented students - eliminated ($12 million)
- Special Olympics education programs - eliminated ($12 million)
- Work Study - cut $490 million
- Perkins Loans - let the program end
- Student loan forgiveness for public servants - eliminated
- Subsidized student loans for needy undergraduates - "take the first step toward ending" this
- International education and foreign language studies - eliminated ($72 million)
- Child care access means parents in school - eliminated ($15 million)
- Adult education - cut $96 million
- Office of Civil Rights - cut $1.7 million
The article also describes some of the changes in funding for Title I - making $1 billion "portable" to follow children to other public schools beyond their neighborhood, among others. We will, of course, provide a detailed description and table once we actually see the budget.
Government Relations Report: May 2017
Eight months into the fiscal year, Congress completed work on the omnibus bill FY 2017 Appropriations Act. The bill passed in the House on May 2 by a 309 to 118 vote and in the Senate on May 3 by a vote of 79 to 18. After writing that the country "needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix [a] mess," the president signed the bill on May 4.
The bill froze funding for adult education at the FY 2016 level. Other Titles of WIOA were basically frozen, as well.
The FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill provides $68.2 billion for the Department of Education, but once the $1.3 billion rescission from the Pell Grant reserve is included in the calculation, the funding level drops to $66.9 billion, a net cut of $1.1 billion compared with the 2016 level.
The bill does not make the major cuts suggested last month by the Trump administration, with most existing programs receiving about what they did last year.
The bill reinstates year round Pell Grants, allowing an estimated 1 million students to receive a third grant during a given year to attend the summer semester, in addition to two other academic sessions.
Now the focus is on FY 2018. Remember that the skinny budget proposed to cut $54 billion in non-defense funds and spend the money on defense. Many programs across the non-defense budget were targeted for elimination. Others would have to receive a cut on the order of 14 percent to make the numbers work in the skinny budget. While the skinny budget was silent on adult education, Hill staff warned that we could expect a substantial cut.
Rumors say that the administration will release its 2018 budget on Monday, May 22, although that hasn't been confirmed, and some slippage is possible.
You may recall that the president's budget is usually published in February. Each branch of Congress prepares a budget resolution (which does not need the president's signature) and resolves the differences between the two. This is supposed to be done by April 15. The budget resolutions set overall spending levels for the appropriators. These aggregates are then divided among the different appropriations subcommittees and act as caps on what each subcommittee can spend. If there is no budget resolution in place, the House and Senate can enact targets so the appropriators can start their work. That is likely to be the case this year.
The full budget is expected during the week on May 22, but it could slip.
KEY POINTS ABOUT FY 2018:
- There is no bi-partisan budget agreement in place that undoes the sequester levels. There is no parity between defense and non-defense spending.
- FY 2018 will be below FY 2017 without any action. Non-defense discretionary appropriations in the aggregate will be below the level in FY 2014. The administration will put pressure on Congress for funding for the wall, for choice, etc., leaving less money to fund existing programs.
- The allocation to the Labor-HHS subcommittee is particularly important. Traditionally, it tends to get only modest increases (if any at all).
- Over the next several months, the administration and Congressional leadership will have to figure out how to avoid a default on the national debt and avert a government shutdown.
- New appropriations bills should be enacted by the end of September, but Congress is already behind schedule on producing a budget because FY 2017 dragged on for so long and because the administration has not released its budget.
- The debt ceiling will likely need to be raised in the fall to enable the government to pay its obligations. This will likely create a crisis situation in which both sides will jockey for advantageous position.
COABE HILL DAY
Forty adult education advocates participated in COABE's third Hill Day on April 26. More than 88 meetings with legislators and staff took place, and participants shared the feeling that our collective efforts are starting to have an impact. Members of Congress and their staffs showed growing recognition that the economy demands higher skills, that rural areas as well as urban ones are facing a shortage of skilled labor, and that we are lagging behind our competitors. The successful Capitol Hill Day was capped with a meeting with Betsy DeVos by COABE and NCSDAE leadership.
REED-BLUMENTHAL FUNDING LETTER
Senators Reed (D-RI) and Blumenthal (D-CT) are circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter advocating for more funding for adult education in FY 2018. If you are able, please urge your Senators to sign the letter.
Click here to send an email or make a phone call supporting adult education. If your legislator is interested, they should contact Senator Reed's office. The deadline for signatures is May 19.
The bipartisan Perkins CTE legislation was introduced on May 4. Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) introduced HR 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The proposal is similar to legislation that passed the House in September 2016 by a vote of 405 to 5. The committee is expected to consider the legislation in the coming weeks, however the Senate is moving more slowly.