This week, the National Skills Coalition’s leadership council, of which SkillWorks is a part, sent a letter to key members of the Senate appropriations committee urging them to hold firm to workforce and education provisions included in their Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill, rejecting House proposals that would decimate federal funding for job training and severely restrict eligibility for the Pell Grant program.
See details after the jump, courtesy of the National Skills Coalition.
The Senate bill, which was approved by the full committee in September, largely maintains current funding levels for job training under the Department of Labor. By contrast, the House draft Labor-HHS bill released early last month would cut funding for DOL training programs by $2.2 billion in FY 2012—a reduction of 75 percent compared to FY 2011 levels—and would eliminate all funding for a range of DOL programs after December 2012. In a press release accompanying the draft, the House appropriations committee argues that the cuts reflect an effort to shift workforce funding from the current program year cycle to a fiscal year cycle; however, given other recent efforts by the House to eliminate funding for training, it seems more likely that the draft bill is designed to implement drastic short-term spending cuts while reducing future baselines for workforce appropriations.
The House draft also targets Pell Grants, proposing a range of eligibility changes that will cut $44 billion in funding for the program over the next ten years, and eliminate access to grants for more than half a million low-income students next year alone. The House bill would specifically penalize working students by rolling back income-protection allowances that allow individuals to cover living expenses for themselves and their families while attending school, and would punish low-income students by requiring them to include means-tested benefits as income when determining financial need. The measure would also completely eliminate access to Pell Grants for students attending school less than half time due to work and family obligations, and for students who do not have a high school diploma but have demonstrated an ability to succeed at the postsecondary level. The Senate bill does not include the eligibility changes proposed by the House.
While the House draft has not been marked up by the committee, it is expected to serve as the starting point for House appropriators as they negotiate a final Labor-HHS-Education bill with the Senate in the coming months. It is critically important for workforce development advocates to weigh in with their Members of Congress to educate them on the importance of job training and postsecondary education as part of our nation’s economic recovery and job creation efforts, and urge them to reject senseless and counterproductive cuts in workforce funding as part of any final FY 2012 appropriations bill.
National Skills Coalition has partnered with other workforce organizations to develop a set of talking points that advocates can use to explain how the changes proposed under the House draft will undermine efforts to make sure U.S. workers and businesses have the skills they need to compete in today’s economy.
Want to contact your legislators and ask them to reject the House recommendations? Visit the National Skills Coalition’s Action Center.