Federal Workplace and Adult Education Policy

CLASP advocates for improvements in and better alignment among federal adult education, job training, and higher education policies to create pathways to valued credentials, employment and career advancement for low-income, low-skilled youth and adults.

Jun 25, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

A House Labor/HHS Funding Bill That Fails to Meet the Nation’s Needs

On June 24, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee passed a bill to provide funding for discretionary programs in the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (the Labor/H budget) for fiscal year (FY) 2016. This annual appropriations bill funds a wide range of programs and services, including education, workforce, child care, and Head Start, many of which serve low-income workers and families.

Unfortunately, funding in the bill proposed for these programs is woefully inadequate. Many programs are funded at the same level as FY 2015, which represents significant reductions brought about by the sequester. Level funding puts programs in an untenable position; with budgets so lean, there’s nothing left to cut.  The overall funding targets for domestic discretionary spending in the House Labor/H budget would inflict hardship in the short term while also undermining our nation’s health and potential for years to come.  Just to give one example of many, even though Congress passed a bipartisan reauthorization of child care subsidies in 2014 that calls for increased funding to pay for higher-quality services, the Labor/H bill not only fails to add anything to help meet the new expectations but also keeps funding flat at a level that supports far fewer children than a decade ago.

Underfunding the Labor/H bill is a particular problem because it is so central to the needs of low-income children and families—and to investments in America’s future.  In her opening statement at the subcommittee markup last week, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said the bill is commonly referred to as “the People’s Bill … because it is about providing people we represent with the opportunities that they need in order to get ahead in life. The programs that we fund level the playing field for low-income children looking to learn. They help Americans learn the skills they need to find a job in a tough economy.”

To put the Labor/H budget into perspective, about a third of the federal budget is referred to as “discretionary,” meaning that Congress must make appropriations decisions each year to keep the programs operating. About half of discretionary programs are defense related. Among the sections of non-defense discretionary spending that must be appropriated, the Labor/H budget is the largest. In total, the Labor/H budget includes $153 billion in discretionary funding, which is a reduction of $3.7 billion below the FY 2015 level and $14.6 billion below President Obama’s budget request, which features thoughtful proposals for discretionary spending to create opportunity for children and youth, help struggling low-income families move into the middle class and succeed once there, and invest in America’s labor force. 

Here’s a breakdown of the House Labor/H budget for key programs that support poor and low-income people and help put them on a road to economic security:

  • Child Care Development Block Grant – level funding of $2.435 billion. In 2013, the most recent year that data is available, overall federal and state spending for child care and participation in the program was at historically low levels.
  • Head Start – increased by $192 million to a total of $8.79 billion. This includes a $150 million increase for Early Head Start–Child Care Partnerships and approximately $42 million for cost-of-living adjustments to Head Start providers.
  • Preschool Development Grants - eliminated.
  • Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)– level funding of $14.41 billion.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) Grants to States – increased by $502 million to a total of $12 billion.
  • Student Financial Assistance (including Pell Grants, Work Study, and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants) – funded at $23.828 billion, a $370 million reduction from FY 2015.
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I Adult – level funding of $776.7 million, which is 5 percent below the President’s FY 2016 request, and almost 6 percent below the authorized levels in the reauthorization that Congress passed nearly unanimously a year ago.
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I Youth – level funding of $832 million, which is 5 percent below the President’s FY 2016 request, and almost 6 percent below the authorized levels in the reauthorization that Congress passed nearly unanimously a year ago.
  • WIOA Title II Adult Education and Family Literacy – level funding of $569 million – more than 8 percent below the authorized levels in the reauthorization that Congress passed nearly unanimously a year ago, and remaining at last year’s funding levels that serve less than 5 percent of the 36 million Americans with low literacy levels.

The House Labor/H budget is simply insufficient to support poor and low-income children, families, and individuals in attaining economic security. That’s why Congress should reject it. Moreover, President Obama has indicated he would veto any appropriations bills that do not lift the sequester and its onerous, indiscriminate cuts. Given this, while the Senate Appropriations Committee is currently marking up its spending bill for these agencies, it is likely the final spending levels will not be determined until September—just in time to avert another government shutdown.  The appropriations may be included in a broader package that includes both mandatory and discretionary spending and taxes or other revenue generators.  It is critical for Congress to come to a resolution that adequately invests in the success of today’s and tomorrow’s children, youth, families, and adults.

site by Trilogy Interactive