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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Senate Approves Major Workforce Overhaul

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June 25, 2014

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Senate Approves Major Workforce Overhaul

Today the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved (95-3) a bipartisan, bicameral reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. The newly titled Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), H.R. 803, makes a long overdue and significant overhaul to the nation’s job training system through a compromise between a bipartisan Senate bill and the House passed SKILLS Act.

ACTE previously reported on a breakdown of provisions included in WIOA, which can be found here.

Because the WIOA compromise between the House and Senate was reached before a reauthorization bill had moved through the Senate, the compromise had an unusual path to passage. Instead being a stand-alone bill, the language was drafted as an amendment in the nature of a substitute to the House passed SKILLS Act, H.R. 803, essentially allowing the bill to become a “vehicle” to move WIOA swiftly through the Senate and back to the House.

In order to ensure the compromise would pass through the Senate, negotiators worked to address the concerns of individual senators before the bill came to the floor, which cut down on the number of amendments offered and avoided controversial amendments that could have derailed passage.

Three amendments to WIOA did make it to the floor for a vote, two of which, offered by Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Mike Lee (R-UT), did not make it into the final bill. Sen. Flake’s amendment would have allowed governors to restructure workforce boards if a local area missed its performance targets for just one year. Under WIOA, governors are allowed to restructure the boards only after three years of missed performance targets.

Sen. Lee’s amendment would have reduced funding to the U.S. Department of Labor by five percent if the evaluations required under WIOA are submitted after their statutory deadline. While the evaluations are supported by Members of Congress and the workforce community, concern over the difficult and time consuming nature of compiling the necessary data often causes evaluations to be routinely overdue. A loss of funding then would result in a loss of job training initiatives carried out by the department.

The third amendment, which was adopted, consisted of a host of non-controversial technical changes to the original compromise language. One of the larger provisions in this amendment is the inclusion of a study on using data to improve the outcomes of the workforce system, which was proposed by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). 

Throughout the reauthorization process, ACTE has provided input to congressional leaders on how to better serve job seekers through CTE programs, and we support the WIOA agreed to today in the Senate. We look forward to this bill moving swiftly through the House before making its way to the president’s desk.

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