In Focus: Federal Workplace and Adult Education Policy

Oct 4, 2016  |  PERMALINK »

Stop-Gap Continuing Resolution Passes Congress


Last Wednesday night—with about 50 hours to go until the start of federal Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) and members of Congress eager to return home to campaign—the U.S. House and Senate passed a “Continuing Resolution” (CR) that will keep the federal government funded until December 9, 2016.

After negotiations, Republicans and Democrats reached a compromise that, among other things, includes $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus and $500 million for natural disaster relief, notably in flood-stricken Louisiana. Congress also reached a bipartisan agreement to reconcile the difference between the House and Senate on the amount of federal aid for the urgently needed and long-overdue replacement of lead water pipe lines in Flint, Michigan, where many people still cannot safely drink, bathe, or cook using tap water. However the final legislation to help Flint was not included in the CR and will have to wait until Congress returns after the election. The CR also temporarily continues mandatory programs that needed extensions, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

While this stop-gap measure will keep the government running until after the general election, the CR leaves considerable unfinished business because it fails fundamentally to meet the resource needs of programs that support low-income families. By temporarily continuing the inadequate funding levels in the FY16 budget for all annually appropriated federal programs, Congress did very little to address the needs of the 13.5 percent of Americans who live in poverty, according to the latest Census report on poverty.

As the nation looks ahead to a new president and Congressional leaders plan for 2017 and beyond, policymakers must fully fund effective investments in education, employment, young children, and anti-poverty strategies that ensure all benefit from the economic recovery. After the election, Congress will enter a “lame duck session” in which some members who will not be returning in January may feel unencumbered by future elections. The consequences are grim if Congress fails in the lame duck to sharply raise funding levels as it deliberates over the FY17 budget. For example: 

  • Holding child care funding at its current levels means that fewer children will receive the stable and healthy child care they need to thrive and their parents need to succeed on the job. Recent data show that participation in child care funded through the Child Care and Development Block Grant program has fallen to a 16-year low, with just 1.4 million children being served in 2014, and spending at an 11-year low as of 2013.  
  • Fewer workers will receive the skills training and postsecondary credentials they need to move toward better jobs, since this year’s funding level for adult education  is more than 6 percent below the FY 2017 amounts authorized in 2014’s bipartisan reauthorization of the federal workforce development law. Moreover, current funding for key adult and youth employment and training is more than 3 percent lower than levels authorized for next year by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This would continue a decline in funding for these programs of more than 30 percent in real terms over the past 15 years.
  • Communities of color have been hit especially hard by federal disinvestment in key programs such as child care, workforce training, and Head Start. Youth of color, particularly out of school youth, simply don’t have the resources they need to succeed, and young children cannot get the start they need and deserve without help. With children of color soon to be half of all children—and already half of children under five—their success matters deeply to America’s future.

We can drive down the damaging prevalence of poverty and economic insecurity if the next president and Congressional leaders make a strong commitment to addressing poverty. Such a commitment should start with the enactment of an FY2017 budget that expands and invests in the crucial education, child care, safety net, and workforce development programs that help people get and keep a job, stabilize families, and promote success. In addition, the commitment must focus resources and attention on those who face the most barriers—children, youth, and families of color, immigrant families, and those whose opportunities are limited by pervasive poverty in their neighborhoods and communities.

CLASP urges Congress to pass a 2017 spending bill with additional resources to support low-income families as they seek economic security. 

Nov 6, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

In the Spotlight: CLASP’s Career Pathway Framework Highlighted in New Brief

By Manuela Ekowo

Last month, the College and Career Readiness and Success (CCRS) Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) released a new brief, Career Pathways Initiatives. A career pathway system is the cohesive combination of partnerships, resources and funding, policies, data, and shared performance measures that support the development, quality, scaling, and “dynamic sustainability” of career pathways and programs. Career pathways reorient existing education and workforce services from myriad disconnected programs into a structure that syncs employers' workforce needs with individuals' education and training needs.

CCRS’s brief highlights major national and regional career pathways initiatives and offers ideas for states on designing and implementing career pathways. CLASP’s Alliance for Quality Career Pathways (AQCP) framework, designed for community colleges and their partners, is among the frameworks highlighted. 

Members also raised questions about how to target programs to participants who were unlikely to be hired otherwise. Bloom explained that many programs are targeted to individuals with significant barriers to employment, such as criminal records or long-term unemployment.  He also noted that many programs provide job search assistance to recipients to try to connect them to unsubsidized jobs prior to considering them for subsidized placements. 

Subsidized employment is a valuable way to help disadvantaged adult and youth workers develop work skills and experience while earning money to support themselves and their families. It can be an important component of a TANF work program. President Obama’s FY 2015 budget proposal had several provisions to support subsidized employment, including a recommendation to shift $600 million from the TANF Contingency Fund to a new Pathways to Jobs program, which would support state-subsidized employment programs for low-income individuals.  The positive atmosphere at this hearing suggests potential for future bipartisan efforts to support subsidized jobs programs.  When debating further investment into these programs, Congress should listen to Sandra Collins: “They make a difference and I am living proof of it!”


Nov 2, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Department of Education Clarifies Financial Aid Provision that Helps Low-Income Students

By Lauren Walizer

On October 22, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) responded to concerns and recommendations from institutions and advocates, including CLASP, about implementing the Ability to Benefit (ATB) provision.  ATB, partially restored last year after being cut in 2011, provides an important entry point into higher education for low-skilled adults. It allows federal financial aid for students who lack a high school diploma or equivalent but can prove their ability to benefit from college by successfully completing six credits or passing an exam while enrolled in a career pathway program. However, many higher education institutions have progressed slowly in making this promise a reality for the students who need it.

ED issued a questions and answers document covering the most common questions from institutions, including several that address the initial obstacles colleges will face as they use the revised 2014 ATB provision to offer financial aid to students in an eligible career pathway program. (This document expands on guidance provided by ED on May 22.)

An eligible career pathway program must meet all the requirements listed in section 484(d)(2) of the Higher Education Act, as well as be “developed and implemented in collaboration with partners in business, workforce development, and economic development” and aligned with the needs of the local area. Institutions must document how the program meets each of these requirements.

Additionally, an eligible career pathway must offer two concurrent components—one in adult education and another in title IV-eligible postsecondary education. These components must also be contextually aligned. A student must remain enrolled in both components while in the career pathway in order to be eligible for federal title IV financial aid under ATB. However, ED explains that it’s permissible for a student to be enrolled in only one component in a payment period; for instance, if no adult education courses were offered in the summer term, the student would not lose eligibility by only enrolling in the title IV-eligible component at that time.

The program does not need to be approved by ED, the state, or an accrediting agency; however, institutions must follow any state laws or regulations around career pathways. ED does not have, and will not be developing, an approval process for career pathway programs. Significantly, the guidance notes that if ED performs a program review or audit of the career pathway program, they “will consider whether the institution made a good faith effort to comply” with these provisions.

The ED question-and-answer document also addresses more technical questions around requirements of the adult education component, remedial coursework, calculating cost of attendance, and when a student becomes eligible for the full Pell (instead of the ATB-required reduced Pell) award.

CLASP appreciates the effort by ED to respond to our call for additional resources, and we urge institutions to use this information to take immediate action in making ATB available to eligible students. This release from ED has been added to our ATB Resource page. Consider bookmarking this page, as it is periodically updated with all the latest developments and examples of action that institutions and states have taken to provide this resource to students.

To continue the discussion on how institutions can implement ATB, please consider attending our November 9 webinar with Jobs for the Future.

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