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Deal Reached for Bipartisan WIA Reauthorization

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May 22, 2014

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Deal Reached for Bipartisan WIA Reauthorization

Yesterday, Senate and House Democrats and Republicans reached a long-overdue deal to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). WIA was enacted in 1998 in an effort to streamline and improve the federal job training system. Yesterday’s reauthorization deal is the first bipartisan, bicameral deal since the law was due for reauthorization in 2003.

The deal reached, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), is a combination of separate reauthorization bills from the House, the Strengthening Knowledge and Improving Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act (H.R.803), and Senate, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S.1356).

House and Senate negotiators started their negotiations for the deal from the already bipartisan Senate WIA bill, S. 1356, but the final WIOA deal worked through several controversial provisions included in the SKILLS Act, a partisan reauthorization bill.

Several positive provisions that were included in the separate bills made there way into the compromise WIOA deal, including the elimination of the “sequence of services” and direct contracting with community colleges to offer training programs. The deal also includes an emphasis on career pathways for WIA participants and a revision of accountability standards which will help to reduce burden on training providers and better accounts for WIA participants who continue into postsecondary education.

The final deal did eliminate several programs, some of which have not received funding for several years, including 14 workforce programs and one higher education program. The state and local workforce investment boards (WIB) were also streamlined in an effort to reduce overall size and increase efficiency. While the business majority was maintained as in current law, unfortunately a CTE representative is no longer a required member of the state board (although is still an optional member). On the local WIBs, required higher education representation was eliminated under the separate Senate and House bills, but has been reinstated under the WIOA deal.

The WIOA deal also worked to address concerns ACTE had on changes to one-stop center infrastructure funding, which would have negatively impacted Perkins funding. While the deal maintains the alternative funding mechanism from S. 1356, local WIBs are now directed to attempt a voluntary agreement, as done under current law, before the new funding mechanism goes into effect. The partner contribution is still limited to 1.5% of total grant funds available, and must come from administrative expenses. Additionally several alterations were made to the mechanism itself:

  • One-stop partner contributions are based on proportionate use of the one-stop system.
  • Statutory requirements of partner programs must be considered when determining contribution amount.
  • If state statute places authority of partner program funding outside of the governor’s office, then the determination of contribution amount is made by the eligible entity or official with that authority.
  • Only local areas without a voluntary agreement are affected by the mechanism.

Because the deal between the House and Senate was reached before a WIA reauthorization bill has made it through the full Senate in this Congress, the process toward reauthorization will be a little unusual, but negotiators hope that it will move swiftly following next week’s recess. To stay up to date on the latest WIA movement check out the CTE Policy Watch Blog.

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