Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

The Obameter

Promote lifelong retraining


"Will reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, and increase resources for community colleges and lifelong learning initiatives to ensure our citizens can continue to gain new skills throughout their lifetimes. ... Will also modernize and expand the existing system of trade adjustment assistance to include workers hurt by changing trade patterns. They will also create flexible education accounts that workers can use to retrain. And they will expand and fully fund apprenticeship programs to help workers get credentials and skills in crafts that reward that investment with a middle class income and benefits."


Updates

Mixed record for implementing a five-part promise

In our previous update, we gave a Promise Kept to two pieces of this promise -- increasing resources for community colleges, and modifying Trade Adjustment Assistance provisions. So here we will focus on the remaining three parts of Obama's pledge.

Reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act. Several bills introduced in the current Congress would have reauthorized or made significant changes in portions of the 1998 act -- including one bill from Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., one from Rep. "Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., and one from Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. -- but none advanced to a vote. This part is a Promise Broken.

Create flexible education accounts. We still find no mention of this proposal in online searches. We rate it a Promise Broken.

Expand and fully fund apprenticeship programs. The Obama administration maintained steady funding for the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Apprenticeship in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 -- $27.7 million -- and has requested the same for 2013. The office administers the Fitzgerald Act, a 1937 law that established regulated and registered apprenticeship programs.

However, Obama's 2013 budget requests no further funding for a program called Women in Apprenticeship in Non-Traditional Occupations. The budget says the program's goals can be through existing programs. This program received roughly $1 million in funding in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

Taking both of these actions into account, we rate this portion a Compromise.

So, putting it all together, this five-part promise included two parts that rated Promise Kept, two rated Promise Broken and one rated Compromise. On balance, then, we rate it Compromise.

Sources:

Department of Labor, "Budget in Brief,” fiscal year 2013

Some worker training measures advance, others don't

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama made a five-part promise broadly addressing worker retraining.

The administration, he said, "will reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, and increase resources for community colleges and lifelong learning initiatives to ensure our citizens can continue to gain new skills throughout their lifetimes. ... Will also modernize and expand the existing system of trade adjustment assistance to include workers hurt by changing trade patterns. They will also create flexible education accounts that workers can use to retrain. And they will expand and fully fund apprenticeship programs to help workers get credentials and skills in crafts that reward that investment with a middle class income and benefits."

If we were rating the first part separately, we'd call it Stalled. The Workforce Investment Act, which passed in 1998 and guides federal worker-training programs, has been up for reauthorization for several years but has not advanced beyond the hearing stage. No comprehensive reauthorization bill has been introduced in either chamber.

The second part -- increasing resources for community colleges -- would be a Promise Kept. The economic stimulus bill passed in February 2009 included $90 million for 2009 and 2010 for a Community College and Career Training Grant Program, with grants awarded for projects that "improve educational or career training programs." More funds for this purpose could be on the way. A separate bill -- the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (H.R. 3221) -- passed the House on Sept. 17, 2009, and now awaits action by the Senate. It authorizes an even larger sum of grant money for community colleges -- $730 million for each of the fiscal years 2010 through 2013, and $680 million for each of the fiscal years 2014 through 2019.

The third part, on Trade Adjustment Assistance, also rates the designation Promise Kept. Extensive provisions to modify TAA -- which aids workers hit by job losses caused by foreign competition -- were included in the stimulus bill.

The fourth part, on flexible education accounts, appears to be Stalled. We could find no mention of it on the Whitehouse.gov or in a Google search.

Finally, on apprenticeships, the stimulus bill has been funding some apprenticeship programs, such as $3 million for apprenticeships on work to repair federal buildings, but it's not clear that these qualify as "full funding," in the administration's words. We'd rate this part In the Works.

All told, this grab-bag of promises earns a collective rating of In the Works.

Sources:

THOMAS, Text of Title V. of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (H.R.3221), accessed Jan. 5, 2010

Text of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Association for Career and Technical Education, web page on the Workforce Investment Act

Interview with Steve DeWitt, senior director of public policy with the Association for Career and Technical Education, Jan. 5, 2010

Interview with Sabrina Kidwai, spokeswoman for the Association for Career and Technical Education, Jan. 5, 2010

Interview with David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, Jan. 4, 2010