In Focus: Pathways to Reconnection
Apr 12, 2013 | Permalink »
Budget Proposal Makes Key Investments, But Still Falls Short
By Kisha Bird
On Wednesday, President Obama released his long-awaited budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014. Typically, the President's budget is released in February. This year, it was pushed back as he and Congress addressed the recent budget sequestration-arbitrary and indiscriminate cuts enacted through the Budget Control Act and the ongoing tug of war to fund the federal government. The President's budget ends sequestration, outlining proposals to increase revenues from high-income earners, but it also reduces federal funding to support low-income working families and communities. With so many already struggling, those proposed reductions have advocates concerned.
Still, the President's commitment to education, research, and infrastructure is certainly reflected in the FY 2014 budget. In addition to making unprecedented investments in early learning, the budget acknowledges investments for disadvantaged and disconnected youth. In this tough political and economic climate, the President's budget proposes:
- Includes $12.5 billion for the Pathways Back to Work Fund, including $2.5 billion for summer and year-round employment for youth and $10 billion for subsidized jobs for low-income adults. The proposed funding for the Pathways Back to Work will require Congress to act, reintroduce and pass bills previously introduced.
Apr 05, 2013 | Permalink »
Workforce Legislation Hastily Advances in House and Threatens Access to Youth Jobs
By Kisha Bird
Over the past six weeks, the House Education and Workforce Committee saw a flurry of activity related to the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and efforts to reform the nation's job training and education system. The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 has been up for reauthorization for the past ten years. There have been several attempts since 2003 to advance legislation, but efforts have been repeatedly stalled. And unfortunately, while it is good that Congress has expressed renewed interest in reauthorization, the current bill passed by the House would actually reduce access to job training and education for the nation's most vulnerable youth.
Here are the events that transpired.
In late February, Virginia Foxx, majority chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce, held a hearing,"Putting America Back to Work: Reforming the Nation's Workforce Investment System," which discussed key features of H.R. 803-theSupporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act (SKILLS Act).
A week later, the committee held its mark-up of the Skills Act. Tensions ran high, as Democrats requested more time to develop bipartisan proposals and to resolve disagreements. On March 6, dissatisfied with the mark-up process, every democratic committee member walked out in protest.. As expected, the bill passed out of committee following a party-line vote and advanced to the floor of the House. And on March 15, the SKILLS Act passed out of the full House of Representatives-again along party lines (215-202).
The Skills Act would consolidate nearly three dozen federal programs into a block grant called the Workforce Investment Fund. Like H.R. 4297, which cleared the committee in 2012, it would eliminate a separate youth funding stream, strike WIA youth provisions (including the 10 youth program elements), and establish a new set of common performance metrics without any youth-specific indicators. It would also create an option for states to consolidate additional education and training programs, such as adult education, into the block grant.
Conversely, the House Minority introduced its own reauthorization bill,H.R. 798, which would require states to streamline and coordinate the use of workforce and education programs through unified planning. It would expand the range of training options available for participants, expand priority of service for out-of-school youth and individuals with barriers to employment, take steps to improve cumbersome eligibility requirements that hinder service to youth, and modernize the adult education system to meet the postsecondary and employment needs of students. The bill would also authorize Innovation Funds to support the development and expansion of promising workforce strategies, such as career pathways, industry partnerships, and dropout recovery and re-engagement.
What does this mean for youth?
The SKILLS Act would eliminate $1 billion dedicated to youth employment and training services. This follows $1 billion in cuts already made to youth deployment and training over the last decade. This bill would be a big step backward for an already struggling economy. The unemployment rate for young people 16-24 is at an all-time high, with 6.7 million youth not in school or not working andjust 12 percent of all black male teens employed. Current WIA youth programs reach approximately 235,000 low-income young people across the nation and link them to a wide array services-including summer and year-round employment, job training, and apprenticeship programs that help them earn secondary and postsecondary credentials and advance in the labor market.
The next step in the reauthorization process is for a bill to emerge from Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). While it is not certain where this stands, we are hopeful Senate leaders will craft a bi-partisan WIA reauthorization bill that preserves dedicated youth funding and advances best practices to serve disadvantaged and disconnected youth.
Jan 04, 2013 | Permalink »
Philanthropic Effort Advances Youth Jobs
At a convening in December held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, asked a national audience of policymakers to reflect on their first job - their first pay check -- and to remember the confidence and pride those early work experiences instilled; the lessons learned on surviving in the real world; and the job and social skills, values, and expectations that were imparted. He asserted that these are values that last for a lifetime and are passed on to our own children. He reminded the audience that today, with youth employment rates at the lowest level in 60 years, so many youth, particularly youth of color, don't have access to jobs and early work experience during the important period from age 18 to 24 - exactly when they should be building the foundation for lifelong economic success.
Today, there are 6.5 million youth who are neither in school nor working and who face the prospect of chronic unemployment or underemployment throughout their adult life. With the December launch of its 2013 KIDS COUNT Report, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has joined several other major foundations in drawing attention to this youth employment challenge. The Foundation has released the report "Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity," which documents the dimensions of the challenge, provides state-by-state data on youth unemployment, and calls for the development of a national youth employment strategy that expands jobs and work opportunities and creates multiple pathways to reconnect these youth to employment. The Foundation has also released the video Opening Doors: Connecting America's Youth to Opportunity to feature young people sharing their own stories. The Annie E. Casey Foundation is adding their considerable influence to the growing number of foundations and national efforts to expand opportunity for our young people. Other important initiatives include the Robert Wood Johnson Forward Promise Initiative, OSF Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Campaign for Youth, Opportunity Nation, and the White House Council for Community Solutions.
The Casey report advances several recommendations that reinforce those from these and other groups involved in the national movement to support community-based strategies that align public, private, philanthropic, and community resources to implement comprehensive programming to address the education and labor market needs of youth outside the labor market mainstream. Hopefully, this heightened attention and advocacy will generate the public support needed to sufficiently fund strategies for addressing youth disconnection at scale.