Saturday, 6 of February of 2016

Action Needed on Senate Dear Colleague as Secretary Duncan Defends Education During Hearing

—By Washington Partners with Jackie Taylor


Adult education advocates now push for Senators to sign the Webb Dear Colleague letter in support of adult education funding. (This letter is the Senate counterpart to the Roe-Hinojosa Letter circulated in the House.) However, time is of the essence, as Senators have only 2 1/2 days to sign on. Advocates who already have a relationship with their Senators’ offices should place calls immediately, requesting that their Senators sign on. Details can be found here.

Last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made his first appearance on Capitol Hill to defend the President’s FY 2013 budget request.  Arriving only hours after the House Budget Committee concluded a marathon mark-up of Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) controversial FY 2013 budget resolution, Duncan was greeted by a somewhat hostile Subcommittee Chairman in Denny Rehberg (R-MT).  Rehberg made his disdain for the Administration’s proposed 3.4% increase in funding for education clear from the start.  He expressed similar sentiments for its emphasis on funding new “unauthorized and untested” programs at the expense of “tried and true” formula grants, such as the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) and Title I that have the support of the Congress.

A second equally ill-tempered Member, Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID), called the Secretary’s testimony “riveting”, and not in a good way, challenged his assumption that the Ryan budget would decimate funding for education programs.  Duncan was unconvinced, saying that such deep cuts in discretionary spending would undoubtedly impact his agency.

Clearly anticipating attempts from Duncan and Subcommittee Democrats to highlight Ryan’s proposal to cut 22 % of funding for the education, training and social service programs that fall into the so-called “function 500” bucket of the federal budget  in FY 2013 alone, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) attended the hearing and questioned the Secretary about the wisdom of setting up new programs that would be paid for with mandatory funds, putting them out of reach of congressional oversight.

Not to be out done, Ranking Member on the full Appropriations Committee, Norm Dicks (D-WA), was also in attendance.  Though he was considerably friendlier towards the Secretary, he too had concerns about the Administration’s proposal.  At the end of the day it was a stand-off, with the Secretary defending the new initiatives as necessary to incentivize districts and universities to change the way they do business and Subcommittee Members urging increased funding for the programs states, students and colleges rely on the most.

While the Congress argued about how much or how little to spend on education in the coming year, a new report issued by a bi-partisan commission chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City Chancellor Joel Klein made strengthening public education an imperative to the nation’s security and economic prosperity.  One startling fact contained in the report is that 30 percent of high school graduates do not do well enough on aptitude tests to serve in the military.  Add this to those graduates with criminal records or physical shortcomings and it rises to 75 percent.  While the report did not directly call for increased spending, it is hard to see how its recommendations could be met without additional federal, state and local investments in schools, including adult education, a pipeline to catch those who miss their education in younger years.

Secretary Duncan will return to Capitol Hill at the end of April to defend his budget before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Democrats Release WIA Reauthorization Bill in the House

Last week, U.S. Representatives Tierney, Hinojosa, and Miller introduced a House Democrat WIA reauthorization bill. Next week, NCL will provide a more comprehensive update as to what we like and what we’d like to see included as WIA reauthorization moves forward. You can find a copy of the press release here and a summary here.

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