In Focus: Federal Workplace and Adult Education Policy

Jun 12, 2013  |  PERMALINK »

Rubio Immigration Amendment Would Delay Path to Citizenship for Millions

By Marcie Foster and Helly Lee

Update: The Senate will continue debate and consider amendments to S. 744 throughout the next two weeks in June and a vote on final passage of the bill is expected by the July 4th congressional recess.

This week, the Senate began floor debate on their immigration reform bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744). The proposal that passed out of the Judiciary Committee is the result of months of bipartisan negotiations and includes provisions to increase border security measures and create a path to earned citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, beginning with a new Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status.

The bill includes strict English language, employment, and income requirements, in addition to background checks and fees for immigrants to enter and remain on the path to citizenship, and envisions that it will take most undocumented workers at least 13 years to transition from RPI to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status and then become citizens.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a member of the “Gang of Eight” that negotiated this bill, which represents a bipartisan compromise.  Nonetheless, this week, Rubio announced that the bill’s requirement that immigrants learn English or be enrolled in a “course of study” prior to gaining LPR status does not go far enough. Current law already requires English language proficiency when immigrants seek to naturalize and become citizens. The Senate immigration bill would take this even further by applying this requirement when RPI’s seek LPR status. Rubio has proposed an amendment that would make the requirements even more stringent by eliminating the ability of immigrants to satisfy the requirement by enrolling in a course; instead, it would require them to be fully proficient prior to earning LPR status.

Rubio’s game-changing amendment places a significant and undue burden on immigrants, lengthening their path to legalization by demanding they meet the high standard of English language proficiency prior to obtaining LPR status. English proficiency is an important part of integration; however, more stringent requirements would only create additional barriers—and significant delays—for the 11 million undocumented workers potentially seeking to become legalized residents and, ultimately, citizens.

Moreover, the underlying bill provides few additional resources to assist immigrants in fulfilling the already-existing English language requirements, despite the fact that, at present, English as a Second Language (ESL) services in the U.S. suffer from extremely limited capacity. Federal funding for adult education, the primary system that provides English language and adult literacy services, is scarce, with just $560 million appropriated annually that serves only 1.8 million adult learners--about 6 percent of the population that could benefit from such services. These programs also have waitlists in 49 states, with some longer than one year.  By contrast, analysis of a similar provision in previous immigration proposals determined that it would cost billions to assist these new learners. Rubio’s proposed amendment contains no additional resources for adult education/ESL, but increases the stringency of the language requirements, intensifying the urgency for these types of services to help immigrants meet the demands of the prospective law.

Integration services help ensure newly-legalized immigrants fully access the economic and social benefits of the U.S. and are key to successful immigration reform. However, instituting English language requirements as a prerequisite for beginning their journey to citizenship puts an undue burden on immigrant workers, delays their time to citizenship, and puts considerable stress on an already overflowing adult education system. While strict, the English language requirements found in the underlying bipartisan bill create a more fair system of earned legalization.

Jul 3, 2012  |  PERMALINK »

New Survey Shows How States are Keeping Adult Education Afloat Amid Declining Budgets and Changing Skill Demands

By Marcie Foster

At no time in recent history has the importance of adult education been greater and the funding more threatened. Despite the fact that as many as 93 million adults in the U.S. may need basic skills services to improve their economic prospects, funding for these services is stagnating at the federal level and being slashed in statehouses and state agencies across the country. Demand remains high, with waiting lists in nearly every state.

New findings from a national survey of adult education state directors, conducted jointly by CLASP and the National Council for State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE), shed light on key financing and tuition policies, including how programs are funded and how much money is propping up the system from all levels of government, local programs, and students themselves.

We find that the adult education services are funded by a patchwork of revenue sources-including local, state, and federal governments and tuition or fee payments by students-and that the state and local share of adult education funding may be far from the oft-cited three-to-one ratio of nonfederal to federal funds.

However, at least 20 states are continuing to support innovation at the local level by identifying discretionary resources and partnering with other education and training systems to gain competitive grants. These innovative efforts are part of an effort to keep programs relevant to the changing needs of the workforce despite the disappearance of dedicated funding.

In addition, our research shows that most states continue to be wary of passing on costs to students in adult education programs. And rightly so, as they are typically very low-income with multi-generational family responsibilities, who must work while they are enrolled in courses. With some important exceptions, states are striving to keep costs to students low in order to maintain access to this much-needed education.

Keeping adult education affordable is not only critical for student access, but essential to our nation's economic recovery. Though economists are predicting a future in which the vast majority of jobs will require some postsecondary education, a large proportion of the country's workers continue to suffer from basic skills deficiencies or limited English skills. Investing in these workers not only helps them achieve greater economic self-sufficiency but also establishes a greater pool of skilled workers to meet the growing demand.

Read more in Sinking or Swimming: Findings from a Survey of State Adult Education Tuition and Financing Policies >>

Feb 15, 2012  |  PERMALINK »

President Proposes New Investments in America's Workforce

By Neil Ridley and Marcie Foster

Given that low-income, low-skill workers have been hard hit by the recent recession, President Obama’s proposal to make substantial new short-term investments in education and training leading to a job is a wise investment for workers and the nation.

In his FY 2013 budget proposal released Monday, the president called for an $8 billion Community College to Career Fund to train 2 million workers for jobs in high-demand and high-growth fields. The president announced the initiative in late January during his State of the Union address and provided more details in his budget proposal. The funds would support public and private partnerships and would be jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education. States and community colleges, in partnership with businesses, could use the funding for training leading to industry-recognized credentials, registered apprenticeships, employer-based training, paid internships for low-income students, entrepreneurship training and regional or industry partnerships involving employers.

The FY 2013 budget would double funding of the Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF), which is expected to be invested in service delivery strategies and/or system-level reform efforts that improve employment and educational outcomes for workers, create efficiencies in the workforce system, and foster strong cooperation across adult education, postsecondary education, workforce training, and human services systems.

Funding for core adult education and training programs generally is maintained at current levels. The request includes $595 million for state grants under Title II of the Workforce Investment Act , which includes a $15 million contribution toward the WIF. This contribution to the WIF is not offset by an increase in formula or leadership funds as the president proposed in in previous years, resulting in an effective cut to federal adult education funding. Funding for the Workforce Investment Act Adult and Dislocated Worker programs would be slightly reduced, and the Youth program would be flat-funded.

Other proposals in this year’s budget include the development of a Pathways Back to Work Fund which would provide subsidized employment and training to help unemployed workers and youth enter the workforce and gain new skills for long-term employment. An earlier version of this Fund has been incorporated in legislation in both the House (HR 3425, introduced by Rep. Miller) and Senate (S 1861, introduced by Sen. Blumenthal).

The short-run investments in the Community College to Career Fund and the Pathways Back to Work Fund are critical to getting unemployed workers and others who have been left behind the skills they need to enter and advance in the workforce. The continued investments in the Workforce Innovation Fund and core programs are likely to deepen our understanding of what works for low-skill, low-income individuals and boost implementation of promising strategies, such as career pathways and models that blend basic skills and occupational preparation.  


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