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Letter to the Senate HELP Committee on the Workforce Investment Act

July 30, 2013

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association, we would like to share our views on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 2013 (S. 1356), scheduled for mark-up tomorrow. We are encouraged by the bipartisan approach and are eager for this bill to move forward—NEA has actively sought reauthorization for many years.

Workforce development—helping people acquire the skills to thrive and survive in the 21st century economy—is a goal we all share. With the right approach, millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans—young and old—could be equipped to advance in their careers. We like many features of the bill, including the improved alignment among WIA programs as well as the:

  • Increased focus on attaining post-secondary credentials, including the transition from adult education to post-secondary education.
  • Critical attention in vocational rehabilitation to youth with disabilities to ensure they either continue their education or pursue competitive integrated employment.
  • Inclusion of national vocational rehabilitation research with regional resources for individuals with disabilities, educators, researchers, and providers of vocational rehabilitation services. 
  • Authorization of community-based job training grants, including the role of community colleges in developing programs under such grants, and the prominence of post-secondary credential attainment. 

We would also like to suggest improvements in several areas, and look forward to ongoing dialogue regarding these issues and the broader bill. Specifically:

  • Workforce development boards. S. 1356 requires 20 percent of state boards to be composed of representatives of labor organizations, which will help ensure that One-Stop Centers meet the needs of the people they serve. While we appreciate the inclusion of institutions of higher education and the specific mention of community colleges, we are concerned that educators are not explicitly cited. State and local boards should include representatives of the faculty and staff who work directly with students—their perspective is vitally important. 
  • One-Stop Center infrastructure funding. The approach taken by S. 1356 concerns us. Funding for key programs and services could be used for other than its intended purpose—for example, to cover the cost of administering the centers where people go to seek services instead of delivering the services themselves. We have long been concerned about the use of Perkins career and technical education funds—which provide critical program support to course offerings for students seeking One-Stop Center services—for administrative rather than educational purposes. We continue to believe that the One-Stop Center infrastructure should be a separate line item supported by a separate funding stream.
  • Providers of training services. Additional certification of public institutions of higher education, including community colleges, should not be required—they are already subject to state authorization, accreditation, performance and other requirements, as well as oversight and review by other federal and state training and education programs. We believe that accredited, state-authorized providers of education and training should be automatically approved as eligible training providers under WIA.  

Over the long term, it is in America’s best interest to ensure that all potential workers have the skills and training they need to reach their full potential and contribute to a vibrant economy. We thank you for your efforts thus far and look forward to working with Congress to reauthorize WIA and achieve that goal.

Sincerely,  

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations