LDA Impacts FY 2015 Funding
Just at the final hour, the 113th Congress concluded funding for current Fiscal Year 2015 (FY 2015). Among the few wins in that large bill was the partial reinstatement of the “ability to benefit.” Individuals without a high school diploma will be eligible for federal student financial aid, but only if they are enrolled in a career pathway program at a higher education institution such as a community college. Since the provision was completely eliminated several years ago, LDA has been working with members of Congress and other interested organizations to regain eligibility for financial aid critical to helping older students and adults with specific learning disabilities get the training needed for success in the workplace.
The CRomnibus bill – “Continuing Resolution + omnibus” – provides funding for all federal agencies except one for the remainder of FY 2015, which ends on September 30, 2015. The Department of Homeland Security will operate under a continuing resolution (CR), a bill that keeps the agency operating at the previous year’s level until the end of February. Before the expiration of the CR, Congress must debate and decide how to fund that agency, which has jurisdiction over immigration policies, for the rest of the year.
The CRomnibus includes funding levels for FY 2015 for the following programs of interest to LDA members:
- Title I, Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA): $14.410 billion (+ $25 million)
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):
- Part B-State Grants: $11.498 billion (+ $25 million)
- Preschool Grants: $353.238 million (frozen at FY 2014 level)
- Part C-Infants and Toddlers: $438.556 million (+ $0.058 million)
- Part D – all programs frozen at FY 2014
- State Personnel Grants: $14.630 million
- Technical Assistance and Dissemination: $51.928 million
- Personnel Preparation: $83.700 million
- Parent Information Centers: $27.411 million
- Technology and Media Services: $28.047 million
- Adult Basic and Literacy Education State Grants: $568.955 million (+ $5 million)
- Career and Technical Education State Grants: $1.118 billion (frozen)
- Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants: $3.295 billion (+ $267.482 million)
Even as Congress was completing the FY 2015 appropriations process, the Administration had begun finalizing its budget proposal for FY 2016, which begins on October 1, 2015. The president is scheduled to release his budget proposal early in February, followed by action on a Budget Resolution in the House and the Senate. Once the Appropriations Committees learns from the Budget Committees how much they have to spend, they will begin the process of determining how much each agency will receive for FY 2016.
LDA participates actively with the Budget and Appropriations Committees to ensure LDA priority programs continue to be funded at reasonable levels. With Congress anxious to keep a solvent bottom line, maintaining program funding is primary and then a push for increases for individual programs will follow.
ESEA Reauthorization Process Energized
The current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known as No Child Left Behind, technically expired in 2007. Congress has been trying to complete the process of reauthorizing the law since that time. Reauthorization entails examining current law to see what is working and should be retained and what needs to be changed, eliminated, or added. In the 113th Congress, the House succeeded in passing its version of an ESEA bill, but the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee bill did not make it to the floor for a final vote. Now Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), incoming HELP Committee chairman, has stated his intention to move quickly in the new Congress to get a bill to the committee by February.
Senate staff is in the process of reviewing the Every Child Career and College Ready Act, introduced by Senator Alexander in 2013, which will be the basis of new draft legislation. While they are working to get this done, a final draft has not yet been produced. Staff is collecting information from interested stakeholders and will be polling the HELP Committee members to determine their priorities for the ESEA going forward. In addition, Senator Alexander has stated his intention, if possible, to produce a bipartisan bill. The senior Democrat on the HELP Committee, new ranking member Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), has a history also of working across the aisle. Her staff will be conferring with Democrats on the committee and then deliberating with the Alexander staff to see where there are areas of common interest.
Under the leadership of House Education and the Workforce Committee chairman John Kline (R-MN), the majority staff is beginning its ESEA discussions with the Student Success Act passed by the House in the 113th Congress. The House committee also has a new ranking Democratic member, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), so his staff will be engaged in developing its ideas for the reauthorization. The House committee schedule for moving a bill has not yet been announced.
LDA has a strong set of ESEA recommendations developed in 2007 and refined in 2011 and 2013 as Congress tried to reach consensus on this critical statute. The LDA Policy Committee is in the process of revisiting those recommendations and will be advocating for the organization’s priorities on Capitol Hill as soon as the new Congress is seated in January 2015. Those recommendations will be posted on the LDA website and will be reviewed in the January edition of the LDA Legislative News. We will be calling on our members to help carry these recommendations forward to their members of Congress.
Apprenticeship Grants Expand Training Opportunities
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced the availability of $100 million in grants to expand registered apprenticeship programs geared at training in high-skill, high-growth industries including healthcare, biotechnology, information technology, and advanced manufacturing. The apprenticeship model has been used extensively and successfully in other countries for many years, but the United States has lagged behind in providing these on-the-job learning opportunities. For individuals with learning disabilities who may not attend a four-year college program this represents a major step forward in preparing for successful employment.
Programs funded by this initiative will give individuals training for jobs that are projected to hire a substantial number of new workers and require 21st century skills in technology and innovation. The program targets new and emerging industries and businesses that are expected to grow or that will have a significant impact on the overall economy.
Grants will be awarded to public and private partnerships of employers, business associations, joint labor-management organizations, labor organizations, community colleges, local and state governments, and other non-profit organizations. Those partnerships will use funds to develop registered apprenticeship programs that align with other post-secondary education and create career pathways to long-term careers. The grants will also encourage greater access to apprenticeship opportunities for historically underrepresented populations including individuals with disabilities, women, young men and women of color, and veterans and transitioning service members.
Funding applications must be submitted by April 30, 2015. Information on eligibility and how to apply is available at http://www.grants.gov. Additional resources on the program can be found at http://www.dol.gov/apprenticeship/.