Legislative Center


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Legislative Priorities: Your Input is Desired

December 14, 2018


COABE and NASDAE are working together to create a set of legislative priorities that we will encourage Congress to address when the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is re-authorized. We value your input and hope that you will click the button below to take a short survey ranking the listed priorities and also add additional areas of importance to you. This membership survey will close by 1/15/19 and will lay the groundwork for our work with Congress. 

President Trump Has Signed FY 19 Labor-HHS bill (additional $25 million for Adult Education)

September 28, 2018

Dear COABE Members,

President Trump just signed the FY 19 Labor-HHS bill which includes funding for adult education. It is first time this bill has been enacted before the end of the fiscal year on September 30th. This bill includes the additional $25 Million our field has been advocating for.

Five of the twelve appropriations bills have now been enacted. The bill signed by the President today also contains the FY 19 Defense appropriations bill and a Continuing Resolution to keep federal agencies yet to be funded open through December 7, 2018.

Congratulations to all who contacted their legislators through our Educate and Elevate campaign on behalf of Adult Education! Your hard work has paid off!

Sharon Bonney
Executive Director

Additional $25 Million for Adult Education

September 14, 2018


Dear Members,

House and Senate conferees completed negotiations on the Labor HHS appropriations bill today. The final appropriation amount for Adult Education is $641M for FY19, which represents a $25M increase over FY 18! This amount is in addition to the $35M that our field worked so hard for last year. 

The next step is a floor vote in the Senate next week, followed by a vote on the House floor the last week of September. The Labor-HHS bill is attached to the Defense Appropriations bill, which is a high priority in Congress to be enacted before the fiscal year ends on September 30th and the package will also include a Continuing Resolution to keep the remaining parts of the government open through December 7th. Hill insiders believe that the combined Labor-HHS/Defense bill will easily pass through the Senate and should also be approved in the House.

FY 19 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill

September 7, 2018


Dear COABE Members,

Our advisors met today with House Labor-HHS Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who believes the FY 19 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill will be enacted before the fiscal year expires on September 30th. DeLauro is one of the "gang of four", the key House and Senate appropriators tasked with the leading the negotiations on the Labor-HHS bill.

She indicated progress in negotiating the bill has been incremental over the last few weeks, with the largest stumbling blocks being a host of policy riders in the House version of the bill, but not included in the Senate passed bipartisan bill. However, DeLauro was pleased the conferees have chosen to utilize the Senate's higher overall funding allocation, which is roughly $2 billion more than was allotted in the House bill, as it provides more flexibility for Members' priorities in their final negotiations.

While DeLauro and her staff were initially concerned about the Labor-HHS being paired with the Defense Appropriations bill, they now view the two bills in tandem as a helpful tool to move the Labor-HHS bill to completion.

Also, in public remarks yesterday, Speaker Ryan expressed his optimism about the chances for passage of the Labor-HHS bill and conservative members of the House seem largely resigned to having the Labor-HHS bill attached to the Defense bill in order to ensure swift passage of the Defense bill, which is their top priority among the appropriations bills this year.  

The wild card for enacting the Labor-HHS bill is whether the President will follow through on his threat to shut down the government unless adequate funding is first provided for a border wall --- but there is significant momentum to completing the Labor-HHS bill in a timely manner this year, which is in marked contrast to the FY 18 Labor-HHS bill, which was not completed until six months after the end of the fiscal year in March 2018. 

 In the interim, we encourage your support for the Senate's $25 million increase for
Adult Education and Literacy programs.



August 21, 2018

For the first time in over a decade, the Senate has taken their version of the FY 19 Labor-HHS bill to the floor, with a host of amendments to be offered this week. Leadership officials expected to debate a host of floor amendments with the completion of the bill to occur sometime before Labor Day. The Labor-HHS bill has been attached to the FY 19 Defense Appropriations bill, which is the most popular of all of the appropriations bills, in order to give it additional leverage for passage.

The Senate Labor-HHS bill has been a bipartisan effort that provides $2 billion more in overall funding (just over one percent),  

It includes an overall increase for the Department of Education of $541 million and cuts the Department of Labor by $92 million. The good news is our key program priorities are either funded at current levels or would receive an increase:

  • WIOA Title II programs would receive a $25 million increase;

  • WIOA Title I formula programs for Adults and Youth are funded at current levels;

  • Career and Technical Education programs are level funded;

  • Pell Grants would be increased by $100 million.


While significant progress is being made in the Senate, it is unclear when or if the FY 19 House Labor-HHS bill will move forward. The bill is flat-funded, with no more overall funding than in FY 18 --- which resulted in a highly partisan fight over funding in the full Appropriations Committee, with the bill passing without the support of any Democrats.

Of particular interest to us, the House bill provides the Department of Education with a modest $43 million increase above current levels and the Department of Labor would be cut $82 million. 

While the Employment and Training Administration was reduced by $216 million, WIOA Title I formula programs would continue at FY 18 levels.  

Key education programs were largely funded at current levels including WIOA Title II Adult Education and Literacy programming and Pell Grants. However, the House bill does propose a $102 million increase for Career and Technical Education programs.

At this point, it is questionable whether the House Labor-HHS will pass on the floor, unless some Democrats can be convinced to vote for the bill, which will be difficult without a significant increase in overall funding --- which is highly unlikely to occur, as a number of House conservatives oppose the bill in its current form.  


Regardless of whether we see any further movement of the Labor-HHS bill in the House, at some point, there will be a conference between the House and Senate to hammer out the details of a final FY 19 Labor-HHS appropriations bill. We do not expect that these negotiations will conclude until after the November elections, but unlike last year, where we had another six-month wait after the commencement of the fiscal year to finalize the appropriations bills, the FY 19 negotiations should wrap up rather soon after the elections. In the interim, we encourage your support for the Senate's $25 million increase for Adult Education and Literacy programs.


Congress Approves Career-Technical Education Bill

July 27, 2018


Thousands of COABE members responded to our previous calls to action to support Senator Reed's CTE for All Act included in the bill, which will help working-age adults build their job skills and advance, with an emphasis on high-demand jobs. We are pleased to share that your outreach and collective voice helped bring about successful results for our field! Keep up the great work!  

Please read the press release below posted by Senator Reed's office.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Yesterday, Congress passed a bipartisan overhaul of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act that includes key provisions authored by U.S. Senator Jack Reed to help working-age Americans build their skills and strengthen states' abilities to offer more career-technical or skills-based classes. 

The bipartisan package authorizes about $1.2 billion annually in federal funding for CTE related programs and will help give students at the secondary, adult, and postsecondary levels the skills they need to further their education and find good-paying, in-demand jobs. It will also help businesses find the skilled workers they need to compete in an evolving global economy.

"There is no 'one size fits all' pathway to a successful career. But education leads to opportunity, and programs that blend basic skills and occupational training can help adult learners maximize their potential and increase their earning power," said Senator Reed, the lead author of the Career and Technical Education for Adult Learners Act (S. 3349, also known as the "CTE for ALL Act"), which was largely incorporated into the final, bipartisan package. "This bill takes a results-oriented approach to better aligning our education and workforce training initiatives with high-demand sectors. Students of all ages can benefit from career and technical education opportunities. Enhancing adult education helps American workers learn new skills and improve their lives. It can help lift individuals, communities, and businesses together because the more skilled workers who are out there earning a paycheck, the more demand there is for the goods and services our businesses offer."

Reed's provisions in the legislation will:

  • Encourage programs funded under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to align with adult education programs and industry sector partnerships authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

  • Include the state director of adult education and adult education providers in the development of the state plan for career and technical education.

  • Enable adult education providers that also offer career and technical education programs to participate in consortia that are eligible to receive funds under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

  • Expand the special populations to be served to include low-income, out-of-work, or underemployed adults.

  • Place a greater emphasis on work experiences as part of career and technical education programs.

The full U.S. Senate passed the bill yesterday and it was passed by voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives this evening. 

The bill now goes to President Trump's desk to be signed into law.


July 10, 2018


You may recall that as a field we rallied together for additional WIOA Title II funding, and received $35 million additional funding (the first increase of its kind in many years). There is an additional $25 million under consideration, but legislators need to hear from you as there are many competing priorities under consideration. If you believe your work in adult education is important, we urge you to take action today. It takes just a few minutes of your time and the increased funding will significantly impact the field. You can do so when you click the "Take Action" button. 

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Additionally, if you are a local program administrator, please consider joining us for a one hour special online convening on July 17, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. EST aimed at equipping local administrators with hands-on advocacy tools. Contact advocacy@coabe.org to register.  

Statement from Secretary DeVos on the Government Reform Plan

June 22, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement:

“President Trump campaigned and won with his promise to reduce the federal footprint in education and to make the federal government more efficient and effective. Today’s bold reform proposal takes a big step toward fulfilling that promise. Artificial barriers between education and workforce programs have existed for far too long. We must reform our 20th century federal agencies to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

“This proposal will make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students, workers, and schools. I urge Congress to work with the Administration to make this proposal a reality.”

Note by COABE and NAEPDC: The changes would require approval from Congress, but it isn’t clear that lawmakers have the appetite to undertake a far-reaching reorganization, especially at this point in the year. With Congress set to consider Appropriations bills, immigration, and other contentious issues, there is virtually no time left on the Congressional schedule before the November midterm elections. During the Clinton Administration, Republicans proposed merging the departments of Education and Labor, and calling the new agency the Department of Education and Employment. That proposal failed.

Government Relations Alert

June 15, 2018

educate-and-elevate-capitol 600 x 400.jpg

The House appropriations committee released information about the FY 2019 Labor-HHS-Education funding bill to be "marked up." The markup took place yesterday morning at 9:30 a.m. The markup session was webcast. You can view the session (which beings around 13:25 on the replay video).

FY 2019 Appropriations

The bill increases funding for the Department of Education very slightly (by 0.1%), or $43 million over the FY 2018 level. The bill text does not include program funding levels, so it will be awhile before we know many details. We do know that the category Career, Technical, and Adult Education is funded at $1.945 billion, an increase of $115 million over FY 2018, but we don't know how the money is allocated between adult education and CTE. The bill does specify that spending on AEFLA National Activities be frozen at $13.7 million.


Advocacy Update for June

June 1, 2018

  Ms. Kaye Sharbono COABE President

Ms. Kaye Sharbono
COABE President

Advocacy efforts have taken off! 

I am so excited to bring to you an update on the status of our adult education national campaign Educate and Elevate. WOW! We have come a very long way in a very short time, and we are not done yet by any means!  

You may ask national campaign - "Why now?" Notably, I and many of you have lived in the times when adult education had a diminished value, huge lack of understanding about what we really do, and tremendous budget issues year in and year out.  

We have all known for many years that our secret in adult education is a PROMISE to America. We prepare our students to compete in an increasingly competitive world and be as work-ready as possible. We empower individuals, families, and communities with the educational opportunities they need. We are the SOLUTION! We CAN make America more competitive, build stronger communities, and add to our tax base while containing costs. We CAN put adults on sustainable paths out of poverty and open up new avenues to financial security and the middle class. Given that, still you may ask, "Why Now?" Indeed, it's because America cannot continue to ignore millions of its residents who were never taught or never learned to read, perform simple math, use a computer, or creatively solve problems. IT'S OUR TIME FOLKS!

We have three goals that drive our actions with the campaign. They are:

  1. Create processes for a concerted, collective effort to reach local, state, and federal officials and our communities.

  2. Inform and educate officials and the general public about the relevancy of adult education through data, stories, innovations, and key message points.

  3. Make specific requests to support funding adult education.

We have had many campaign highlights that we are delighted to share with you, such as:

  1. Educate and Elevate campaign launch (April 2017)

  2. Campaign toolkit (July 2017)

  3. Webinars (5 through July and August 2017)

  4. Educate and Advocate newsletter (July-November 2017)

  5. International Acclaim (November 2017)

  6. Thirty-Five million dollar INCREASE in funding (March 2018)

  7. Ambassador Training for Adult Learners (18 pilot states - March 2018)

  8. Adult Learner membership option and strand at conference (March 2018)

  9. Hit the Hill regional events in Washington D.C. (Approximately 300+ face to face meetings with appropriators 2017-2018)

  10. Quick Fire email - 3 clicks (2017-2018)

  11. 80,000 connections made to legislators (Quick Fire - 3 clicks Fall 2017- Spring 2018)

  12. Customized messaging available for states with Quick Fire email, 3 clicks (2018)

  13. Map Locator tool - State Specific Data

  14. Success stories - Student, Program, and Workplace Innovation

  15. National meetings (Betsy DeVos, Michael Wooten, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Institute of Educational Leadership, Jobs for the Future, XPrize for Adult Education Symposium)

  16. National communications (Press Release, Article in USA Today, Success Files with Rob Lowe, Congressional letters)

Certainly, with all of this, you may ask yourself "How can I help?" We, at COABE, ask that you share the campaign on your website, share the campaign via your email lists, submit innovations and success stories, let us know about your legislative meetings, read the Educate and Advocate eblasts we send out, and send us your ideas and comments. 

All of us need to STAND united with 55,000 plus adult educators across America to educate America about the importance of adult education in advancing career and college readiness for millions of people.

COABE Testimony to address Funding Levels

May 25, 2018

The Coalition on Adult Basic Education submits this testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies to address funding levels in the Department of Education for Adult Education and Family Literacy.

The Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) appreciates the opportunity to submit testimony for the record about the funding level for adult education programs in FY 2019. COABE is a membership organization comprised of more than 55,000 educators, administrators, mentors, and guides working to improve educational outcomes for adults and build strong communities. COABE serves to promote adult education and literacy programs and other state, federal, and private programs that assist undereducated and/or disadvantaged adults to function effectively.

May/June Government Relations Report

May 22, 2018


It has been relatively quiet on the domestic front in Washington as Congress has finally closed the books on Fiscal 2018 spending and begun to turn its attention to FY 2019.

On May 22, Secretary DeVos testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee. In her prepared testimony, the Secretary repeated her challenge to all parties to "rethink school." She reported on the progress made in implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and reported that she has approved 46 plans. She also pointed to regulatory relief achieved in the K-12 space and noted that rulemaking had begun in the higher education area. She reported that work to draft new proposed regulations on sexual harassment and misconduct is well underway. She also pointed to changes being made to modernize Federal Student Aid (FSA) technology and customer service and promised further improvements in the future. She also said, "this Administration is committed to swift action to keep our nation's students and teachers safe at school," and reported that the Federal Commission on School Safety is interested in hearing from anyone "who is focused on identifying and elevating solutions."

While she did not refer specifically to adult education, she did say "We must also rethink education after high school not to be a singular destination, but a journey with a multitude of possible and valid paths to take. We must embrace that a modern economy and society demands a model of lifelong learning, where education does not end with the movement of a tassel. We must put to rest the notion that a traditional four-year degree is the only pathway to success. Students have no shortage of dreams and aspirations, and there should be no shortage of educational pathways to help them get there." 

Read the secretary's full statement here. You can view the webcast video of the full committee hearing here

FY 2019 Appropriations

FY 2019 is the second year of a bipartisan budget agreement that substantially raised the caps on both non-defense discretionary and defense spending. The agreement will doubtless make the appropriations process go more smoothly, but there will be inevitable bumps in the road.

These bumps include the fact that this is an election year for the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. Even if there is relative agreement about funding levels, there will be arguments about issues like funding Planned Parenthood and building the border wall as members seek to use the process for political advantage.

Also, we are well into Fiscal Year 2018 and Congress is just starting the process. This will make finishing the bills by the end of the Fiscal Year (September 30) virtually impossible.

The conventional wisdom is that despite its best efforts to govern according to "regular order" in which each of the 12 appropriations bills is considered by its subcommittee, then at the full committee level, and then sent to the House or Senate floor for a vote, Congress will run out of time and must pass a continuing resolution that will fund the government past the election. Then there will be a "lame duck" session in which Congress will take up spending issues again and resolve funding for FY 2019.

Further complicating matters, three current appropriations subcommittee chairs are running to be chair of the full committee (or ranking member, if the Democrats take control of the House) in the next Congress. The election takes place at the Republican Conference, whose priorities traditionally are not in the Labor-HHS bill. This contest might well influence how the committee puts its bills together and how each subcommittee chair proceeds to consider this bill.

While the Senate is likely to allocate all of the non-defense spending allowed under the budget agreement, the House may choose to spend less than the caps permit, making negotiations between the two Houses more complicated.

Finally, the President has threatened to veto appropriations bills and shut down the government if the bills are not to his liking.

House appropriations subcommittees are beginning to consider FY19 bills. Traditionally, Congress begins with the easiest bills and leaves the most difficult ones until last. The Labor-HHS-Education bill, which funds adult education, is inevitably one of the most controversial and will be among the last bills to be considered.

Historically, the appropriations committees publish the 12 subcommittee allocations at the beginning of the process. These allocations are effectively ceilings on what each subcommittee can spend.

You may recall that as a result of the budget agreement, the cap on non-defense discretionary spending increases by $18 billion above the FY 2018 level. But, because of some anomalies, there will be less than $18 billion more to spend. For example, the FY 2019 appropriation for Veterans health care has already been decided, meaning that there is $4.5 billion less to spend. Also, other policy changes have cost $2-3 billion. Thus, the effective cap is only about $11 or $12 billion above the FY 2018 cap. Also, we need to note that funding for the National Institutes of Health has increased by about $7 billion over the last three fiscal years and it is commonly assumed that this year's Labor-HHS bill will include a similar increase.

The House has indicated that the FY 2019 allocation to the Labor-HHS subcommittee will be $177 billion, the same as in FY 2018. Senator Blunt has indicated that the Senate subcommittee allocation will be $2 billion above the FY 2018 level.

Appropriations staff is tamping down expectations for increases and are instead talking about the committees' desires to maintain funding at current levels and to have "targeted increases."

We will need to continue to build on the progress we made to secure increased funding for adult education. Our Educate and Elevate campaign to reach elected officials had 77,000 contacts at last count.

Our goal for funding adult education is $664.5 million, the level authorized in WIOA for FY 2019. Please use the Ignite software at COABE.org to write your Senator or Member of Congress to urge that adult education be funded at $664.5 million, the level authorized for FY 2019 in WIOA.

It now appears that both the House and Senate subcommittees will meet to consider (or "mark-up") their bills next month. The Senate mark-up is scheduled for the week of June 25. The House date has not been announced.

Prospects for Funding Increases

We have been meeting with Senate and House staff to discuss adult education funding issues. It is interesting how many staff report hearing from constituents in the private sector about labor shortages in their states or districts and who see adult education as part of the solution to this problem. Virtually everyone has asked for success stories to help bolster the case for increased funding. Please send success stories to your Senators and Representatives.

Rescission Package

You may have read that the President signed and criticized the omnibus appropriations bill, vowing never to sign another such bill.

Earlier this week, the Administration proposed a so-called "rescission" package of about $15 billion to capture funds that had been previously appropriated but have not yet been spent. None of the funds proposed for recapture are part of the FY 2018 appropriations package. All are from FY 2017 or earlier.

About half the funds come from the Children's Health Insurance Program. Other funds are from transportation accounts and AmeriCorps, among other programs. These accounts are frozen, pending Congressional consideration of the package.

This rather arcane process is intended to prevent Presidents from "impounding" money that Congress appropriated by having Congress vote on the proposals within 45 legislative days. If Congress does not approve, the funding is again available to be spent.

What is unusual about this package is its size. Press reports suggest that the proposal is likely to pass the House but not the Senate (where passage requires only 51 votes). Leadership in the Senate, as well as House appropriators, does not support the idea. 

There are persistent rumors that the Administration will send up additional rescission packages in the future, which would have the effect of freezing spending on those accounts, at least temporarily.

Other Legislation

There are rumors that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chair of the Senate HELP Committee and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the Committee's Ranking Democrat have begun to discuss a CTE reauthorization. You may recall that a CTE bill passed the House but has been stuck in the Senate because Murray and Alexander disagreed about how much authority the Secretary of Education should have.

While Congress is capable of acting quickly when it decides to, it is beginning to look like such potentially controversial bills as the Higher Education Act reauthorization will not get done this year.

Finally, on Friday, May 18, the House failed to pass the Agriculture Committee's version of the Farm bill. This is relevant to us because the Farm bill funds the SNAP program and the bill proposed significant new work requirements for SNAP recipients. It is possible that the House Republican leadership will attempt to bring the Farm bill back next week for another vote. Experts believe that the House bill cannot pass the Senate and are awaiting a Senate bill.

Legislative Talking Points

  • Legislator Talking Points to use in presentations, customized letters, and on your website

  • Campaign Fact Sheets you can send or bring to meetings with reporters or elected officials

  • A one-page Fact Sheet with details on who we are, who we champion, who we lead, and who we equip


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.