President's Budget Focuses on Workforce Innovation

Feb 03, 2010

By Neil Ridley and Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield

The President's FY 2011 budget provides level funding for adult and dislocated worker employment and training under the Workforce Investment Act and adds $108 million in new funding to help create, in combination with other funding sources, a proposed  $321 million Workforce Innovation Fund, which will be jointly administered through the Partnership for Workforce Innovation by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor. This new Fund will be used to test and replicate innovative strategies to improve the skills and employment outcomes of individuals, particularly underserved populations.  Strategies, such as "learn and earn" models that include on-the-job training and apprenticeships, regional and sectoral partnerships, integrated basic skills and training, and other best practices to reach underserved populations will be funded.

The budget provides $612.3 million for state grants for adult education, an increase of $30 million compared to the 2009 appropriation, but a $15.9 million decrease from last year. Last year the program received an increase of $45.9 million-bringing appropriations to $628.2 million-to correct for a past accounting error which had underfunded state programs over several years.  The adult education system had hoped the state grants would be funded at the FY 2010 level or above, rather than seeing a decrease at a time of historic demand. The 2005 National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that 93 million Americans do not have sufficient literacy needed to succeed in the postsecondary education or training that will lead to decent jobs.  Yet, programs funded by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act served only 2.4 million in Program Year 2008-2009. Recent surveys show that of the states that keep waiting lists, roughly 90,000 individuals are on waiting lists for adult education services.  If President Obama's wish for all Americans to get at least one year of postsecondary education is not to ring hollow, then funding for adult education needs to increase substantially, instead of being cut.  

Funding for the Adult Education National Leadership activities increased by $30 million to $41.3 million, which reflects the Department of Education's contribution to the Workforce Innovation Fund. Vocational Rehabilitation is also contributing $30 million toward the innovation fund.   While such money is needed to incent innovation and replication of best practices, the administration should provide more flexibility so base funding can be used to provide integrated education and training and other effective approaches that lead to more robust outcomes for WIA participants.

The budget also calls for reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. A key goal for reauthorization is to overhaul the performance accountability system and remove disincentives to serve low-skill adults and others who are most in need of assistance. CLASP has recommended development of a new shared accountability system for Title I and Title II under the Workforce Investment Act and related education and training programs.

Other goals for reauthorization are streamlining service delivery, improving access to one-stop career centers, engaging with employers on a regional or sectoral basis and promoting innovation and replication of best practices. CLASP has issued a series of recommendations for reauthorization. See Recommendations to Refocus WIA Title II on Career and Postsecondary Success and Recommendations for Reauthorization of WIA Title I Adults for more information.



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