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Letter to House Education and the Workforce Committee on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

March 05, 2013

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 2013 (H.R. 803).  

On the one hand, we appreciate that this legislation adds critical focus to assisting at-risk and out-of-school youth by:

  • Requiring state and local workforce boards to detail strategies and services for at-risk and out-of-school youth in workforce development programs.
  • Expanding Statewide Adults with Barriers to Employment Grants to include at-risk youth.
  • Reforming the Job Corps program to enhance accountability and ensure that every center is managed by high-quality operators experienced in serving disadvantaged youth.

On the other hand, we have serious concerns that prevent us from supporting H.R. 803 in its present form. These concerns include the:

  • Proposed consolidation of categorical programs and their funding streams. Unified statewide plans, which are allowed under current law, encourage collaboration while maintaining programmatic focus and funding. In contrast, the proposed consolidation could lead to reduced funding for targeted programs that provide job training and other essential services for the most vulnerable. We strongly oppose the bill’s overall approach to consolidation and specifically oppose inclusion of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act in the fund.
  • Failure to require the input of educators and labor unions to the Workforce Investment System. Throughout U.S. history, labor unions have ensured that policies impacting workers are fair, prudent, and benefit the nation and workers themselves. It is undemocratic to create policymaking bodies that impact workers, such as WIA boards, without ensuring that those workers have a voice—in this case, the educators who provide training and services for community college students, at-risk youth, and adult education students. Community colleges should also be specifically included in state and local workforce boards; their role should include consultation with the faculty and staff who provide education and job training services through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
  • Approach to funding the One Stop System. The current framework lacks the clarity that a separate funding stream would bring. As a result, funding for key workforce and education programs and services could be used for other than their intended purpose—for example, to cover the cost of administering the centers where people go to seek services. Infrastructure funding for the One Stop System should be a separate line item.  

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, 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations