Thursday, 30 of October of 2014

Advocates Push for FY2013 Adult Education Funding; WIA Reauthorization Moves Forward

By Washington Partners with Jackie Taylor

Budget and Appropriations

The Congress has an uncanny way of exhausting itself and every advocate in town just before a district or state work period.  Last week was no exception.  Capitol Hill was crawling with citizens deeply committed to either keeping or tossing the Affordable Healthcare Act.  They surrounded the Supreme Court building that was hosting an unprecedented three-day proceeding at which the Justices were hearing arguments both for and against the constitutionality of certain provisions of the law.  There were also crowds protesting the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, the young man shot to death by an armed community watch volunteer.  They took over hearing rooms, and one Member of Congress took to the House floor in a “hoodie” to express his support for the Martin family.

Commotions ruled the day outside the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings, and things were not much calmer inside.  On Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made his second trip to the Hill to defend the President’s FY2013 budget request for his Department.  This time his audience was the House Education and the Workforce Committee.  Starkly different views on the budget were as obvious here as they were last week before the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Chairman John Kline (R-MN) came out swinging, hammering the Secretary for ignoring the views of the Congress and its preference for formula grants versus competitive funding and for implementing the waiver policy that offers states relief from current education law. Further, Kline’s indignation about the lack of proposed new investments in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title I was shared by Members on both sides of the aisle, but Republicans and Democrats agreed about little else when it came to the spending plan.  Ranking Member George Miller’s (D-CA) praise for the plan was as strong as the Chairman’s criticism.

Secretary Duncan held his ground and displayed his remarkable ability to thank Members for their most egregious and arguably insulting comments while sticking to his talking points.  More irritating to Chairman Kline than the President’s budget was the Democrats’ and Secretary Duncan’s constant reference to the disastrous impact the Ryan budget proposal would have on education spending this year and in the future.  Kline insisted that no one knows where cuts would be made.  Miller and Duncan both said the overall cuts were so large they would have to eliminate at least 20 percent of funding for education programs.  That particular debate ended in a standoff.

The House spent last Thursday debating the Ryan budget proposal.  The debate was contentious, with both sides claiming the sky was about to fall.  Republicans expressed fear that the growing debt would leave the nation in economic ruin.  Democrats claimed that if adopted, the Ryan budget would have the same effect.  Following a long and testy debate, the budget passed on a partisan vote of 228-191 on Thursday afternoon.  By Friday it was indeed time for a vacation—for all of us.

Senators Sign Webb Dear Colleague Letter in Support of Level Funding Adult Education

Meanwhile, adult education advocates pushed to preserve funding for adult education in FY2013 by getting behind Senator Webb’s Dear Colleague Letter in support of adult education funding. With only a 3 business-day turnaround, several Senators’ offices were able to process the request in time for their bosses to sign on. The following Senators signed in support:

  • Jim Webb (VA)
  • Patrick Leahy (VT)
  • Jack Reed (RI)
  • Mark Begich (AK)
  • Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
  • Charles Schumer (NY)
  • Jeff Bingaman (NM)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)

The Webb Dear Colleague Letter is the first letter in the Senate to be circulated solely for adult education funding since the Cantwell-Snowe Dear Colleague Letter in 2006. We greatly appreciate Senator Webb’s leadership on this initiative and his staff for organizing the sign on letter at the National Coalition for Literacy’s request.

If your Senator is listed above, please call his or her office today to thank the Senator for signing the Webb Dear Colleague Letter in support of adult education funding.

Republicans Introduce WIA Reauthorization Bill–the “Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012″ (H.R. 4297)

On Friday, March 29, House Republicans introduced a comprehensive version to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Title II of WIA provides for adult education and literacy programs. The National Coalition for Literacy has formed a task force to review the bill and provide key recommendations to Committee leaders before the bill’s markup. The Committee’s press release can be found here, along with these materials:

NCL’s feedback on both the Democrat and Republican versions will be posted here on the NCL Advocacy Blog this month.

To see what’s happening in Washington DC this week on education, check out This Week in Washington, by Washington Partners.

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