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Letter to the House Education and the Workforce Committee on the Workforce Investment Act Mark-up

June 07, 2012

Dear Representative: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association, we would like to share our views on the evolving Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 (H.R. 4297). We appreciate that the manager’s substitute makes some important changes, but we remain concerned about key over-arching issues.  

We appreciate that recent changes to the bill add critical focus to assisting at-risk and out-of-school youth, including requiring state and local workforce boards to detail strategies and services for at-risk and out-of-school youth in workforce development programs.  We also support expanding Statewide Adults with Barriers to Employment Grants to include at-risk youth.  In addition, we believe the restored focus on Job Corps and enhanced accountability will help ensure that every center is managed by high-quality operators experienced in serving disadvantaged youth.   

We also commend you for recognizing that the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 should remain separate.  We also are encouraged that there is movement on retaining Job Corps.  We hope, as this process moves forward, that further thought will be given to the need to retain the funding and targeted services provided by WIA programs rather than this bill’s efforts to consolidate them. 

There are some troubling issues in this legislation that we hope will be further examined.  For example: 

  • We are concerned that the proposed consolidation of categorical programs and their funding streams will lead to a reduction of funds and a lack of appropriate targeting of those funds to those who most need these services.   While a unified statewide plan, allowed under the current law, can encourage collaboration among programs, it still maintains programmatic focus and funding.  Alternatively, consolidation, as proposed in HR 4297, could lead to a loss of funds and the targeting associated with programs that provide job training and other essential services for the most vulnerable. For that reason, we strongly oppose the consolidation approach broadly, and specifically oppose inclusion of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act in the consolidated fund. The current system serves less than two million, yet 30 million cannot read well enough to complete a job application.
  • We also strongly urge you to ensure that the presence and voices of educators and labor are a mandatory inclusion in the WIA system.  As stated in the labor community’s April 16, 2012, letter to Committee leaders, we are deeply concerned about the role of labor in the Workforce Investment System. Labor unions have been a critical voice in American history to ensure that policies impacting workers are fair, prudent, and beneficial to both the nation and the workers themselves. It is simply not democratic to create policy-making bodies that impact workers, such as WIA boards, and not ensure that workers’ voices are represented in those discussions.  As such, we must ensure representation for educators who provide training and services for community college students, at-risk youth, and adult education students.  Yet, H.R. 4297 does not ensure this critical partnership with labor.  Further, community colleges must be specifically included in the membership of state and local workforce boards, and their role should include consultation with community college faculty and staff who provide education and job training services through WIA.  
  • In addition, we urge dedicated provisions to build the infrastructure of the One Stop System.  As we have stated consistently over the years, we are concerned about the funding of One Stop Centers.  The current framework lacks the clarity that a separate funding stream would bring, leaving key workforce and education programs to suffer funding losses in order to support the one-stops.  The funds for these programs are intended for programs and services, not the administration of the centers where people go to seek them.  We urge you to include a separate line-item to fund the infrastructure needs of the One Stop System.  

Despite some positive steps taken in the manager’s substitute, we continue to have concerns that prevent us from supporting H.R. 4297.  As this legislation moves forward, we encourage a bipartisan approach to strengthening our nation’s economy by equipping the unemployed and underemployed—young and old—to advance in their careers. We look forward to working with you to achieve that vitally important goal.  

Sincerely, 

Kim Anderson
Director, Center for Advocacy 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations