Thursday, February 9, 2017

COABE Report from Washington - February 9, 2017

Here is their 2/9/17 Report from DC:

Government Relations Report:  February

Washington is trying to acclimate to the Trump Administration. The president is acting through a spate of executive orders. The Senate is slowly making its way through confirmation hearings and discussing how to consider the president's nominee for the Supreme Court. The foreign policy establishment is trying to weigh the impact of the president's remarks on our relationships with Mexico, Australia, and Israel, among other countries. Information about the budget and other administration policies has not been revealed. Like so much else with the new administration, including its views on education policy, details will be forthcoming. However, it is definitely not business as usual in the nation's capital!

Secretaries of Education and Labor Confirmation Hearings

Secretary of Education designate Betsy DeVos had her confirmation hearing on January 11. The consensus is that she did not distinguish herself. On February 7, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote and DeVos was confirmed by a vote of 51-50.  

The new Secretary responded in writing to two questions about her views on adult education:

15. Do you have any experience working with adult learners or adult basic education programs? If so, please describe this experience, what it has taught you, and how you will use that experience in your oversight of these programs.

ANSWER: Too many Americans are suffering in the current economy. President
Trump made improving the employment opportunities of these Americans a cornerstone of his campaign, and his administration will work to improve the prospects of those forgotten individuals. Reforms enacted in the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, which was reauthorized in 2014 as part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, were meant to help states and communities improve services for adult learners to better provide them the education and skills they need to obtain employment and increase self-sufficiency. If confirmed, I will work through the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education to implement these reforms to improve outcomes for adult learners. Combined with other efforts across the government, we have an opportunity to restore the American Dream for all Americans. I have had personal experience mentoring students in our local public school system. I became very well acquainted with one student's mother, and encouraged her to pursue her GED. Her experience made me realize how difficult the system made this for a single working mother. Many courses were only available during routine business hours, creating an additional hardship for her and her family. The lack of flexibility and adaptability in the system itself is all too often a barrier to success for nontraditional students.

56. As you well know, while some adults enrolled in adult education are still seeking their high school diploma or equivalent, a surprising number of American adults with a high school diploma still struggle with basic skills. Twenty percent (20%) of adults with a high school diploma have less-than-basic literacy skills and thirty-five percent (35%) of adults with a high school degree have less-than-basic numeracy skills. According to a recent study, conducted by OECD's Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), at least three million low-skilled American adults would like to enroll in adult education services, but cannot access a program. Without access, undereducated, underprepared adults cannot qualify for jobs with family sustaining incomes that require not only a high school equivalency, but also some college, preferably a one- or two-year certificate. Adults without a high school diploma or functioning below high school level have a difficult time qualifying for community college programs or access high demand occupations. If confirmed, how do you envision the department and the administration incorporating adult education into its competitiveness agenda?

ANSWER: In raising the issue of "undereducated, underprepared adults" you make a case for the need to improve education. When schools fail our students, there are long term consequences, both for individuals who are deprived of the knowledge and skills they need to be successful and our nation which is dependent on the innovative, creative, and economic contributions of it citizens. It is why we need to do more to provide parents with high quality educational options. Sadly, too many Americans are suffering from a lack of skills. President Trump made improving the employment opportunities of these Americans a cornerstone of his campaign, and his administration will work to improve the prospects of those left behind in this economy. If confirmed, I will work with the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and other relevant agencies to improve outcomes for adult learners. Combined with other efforts across the government, we have an opportunity to restore the American Dream for all Americans.

(The Committee has not yet posted a hearing date for Secretary of Labor designate Andrew Puzder.)


We are awaiting more details on funding proposals. The normal process is for the president to present his budget the second week of February.

However, as you may recall, Congress passed and the president signed a continuing resolution for FY 2017 that is in effect until April 28. According to staff, by the beginning of March, Congress will have to decide how it wants to close the books on 2017 as it works on funding for FY 2018. Thus far, the focus has been on health-related entitlements. Staff expects the administration to send Capitol Hill a budget document that provides some guidance about how it intends to proceed.

There has been a great deal of attention paid to the Heritage Foundation publication Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017 because of press reports that it forms the basis for the budget the administration will release at the end of this month. To summarize, the rumored Trump budget would include about $10 trillion or more in savings. The vast majority of these cuts would be in the non-defense portion of the budget, and according to the Blueprint would include the elimination of all job-training programs administered by the Department of Labor, because according to Heritage, "The Department of Labor has a history of operating ineffective job-training programs. The evidence from every multi-site experimental evaluation of federal job-training programs published since 1990 strongly indicates that these programs are ineffective. Based on these scientifically rigorous evaluations using the 'gold standard' of random assignment, these studies consistently find failure. Federal job-training programs targeting youth and young adults have been found to be extraordinarily ineffective."

A few points to keep in mind:

1. Even if these proposals are ultimately put forth as part of the president's budget, Congress will ultimately have to act on them.
2. Ultimate decision-making authority remains with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. That is why we are focusing our Hill Days on the appropriators, starting with the members of the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittees (See Senate Membership below).
3. The state directors and COABE are working together to expand our reach to "grass roots and grass tops" so that, if necessary, we can launch a campaign capable of generating thousands of messages to Congress.
4. The January webinar we cosponsored had 1000 listeners and 1500 sign-ups. The webinar is available for viewing on the COABE website.
5. We are preparing materials for Hill Day and the campaign that focus on a pro business, pro growth message.
6.  The state directors' Hill Days are scheduled for March 21 & 22 and will focus on states with members on the Appropriations Committees (see the list below).
7. COABE's Hill Day is planned for April 26 and will focus on bringing in state association leaders to advocate with members of the Appropriations Committees as well as legislators in all 50 states. More details will be forthcoming shortly!  

Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee

Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
James Lankford (R-OK)
John Kennedy (R-LA)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)

The House has not yet completed its assignments.

REQUEST:  Now more than ever, it is important to keep your member of Congress apprised of the need, success, and impact of your program. Many decisions are going to be made in the coming months and we would prefer them to be informed decisions.

Here are some things you can do:

1. From your home phone, call the offices of your Congressperson and Senators, identify yourself as a constituent, and ask for the name and contact information of the staff person who is responsible for education issues.

2. Email that person from your home with information about the need (how many undereducated adults are in the district or state and how many you are able to serve, pointing out the gap), the success you are having with those you can reach, examples of the impact you are having on constituents' lives, and invite the member or staff to come visit your program.

If we do not speak up for our students and ourselves, no one will.


Less than a week later, on January 26th, COABE and NAEPDC co-hosted an advocacy webinar, generously sponsored by ETS HiSET, to provide our field with tools and resources for raising awareness and visibility, along with new advocacy skills for use during this new administration. More than 1,500 members registered for the webinar, which received a rating of 4.8 out 5 stars. To view the webinar and resources, click HERE. Contact to add your name to our contact network. #adultedtrump #adultedunited 

COABE's Legislative Center is generously sponsored by ETS HiSET.

Coalition on Adult Basic Education, PO Box 620, Syracuse, NY 13026
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