America Forward Applauds Congressional Action on Workforce Development, Short-Term Pell, and Education Research Legislation

As we approach the end of the year, Congress has lept into action – taking important steps on several pieces of legislation that are important to America Forward and the America Forward Coalition. 

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

Last week, the House Education and Workforce Committee passed a comprehensive bill to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), our nation’s central federal  statute accounting for billions in investment annually in our nation’s workforce system. 

The bill, the A Stronger Workforce for America Act, would institute long-needed, foundational improvements to make our nation’s workforce system work more effectively and equitably.

Passed out of committee by a vote of 44-1, the bill adopts many of our recommendations, as America Forward highlighted in our support letter for the bill

Key changes include: 

  • Fundamental reforms to WIOA’s performance system to focus on equitable improvement over compliance as well as innovative systems reforms to drive dollars to the most effective providers; 
  • Significant investments in workforce data infrastructure, including enabling states to leverage national administrative data on labor market outcomes; 
  • Cutting red tape for providers and participants; introducing evidence-based strategies and addressing barriers to the use of pay-for-performance contracting; and, 
  • Authorizing key programs such as the Reentry Employment Opportunities grant. 

As the reauthorization process continues, we are encouraging legislators to build on this progress and expand support for the critically needed programmatic innovation that is essential to enable our workforce system to respond effectively to a changing labor market and the emerging needs of employers, workers, and communities. In particular, we are urging legislators to consider incorporating provisions of the Workforce Development Innovation Fund (WDIF), which would  establish a tiered evidence fund to support the development and scale-up of evidence-based employment and training programs that generate demonstrated, long-term improvements for jobseekers and employers, as well as high-quality evaluations.

Short-Term Pell

Also last week, the House Education and the Workforce Committee passed the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act by a margin of 37-8. This legislation closes a gap in federal law so that means students can leverage Pell Grants when attending programs that are 8 to 15 weeks long when these programs are proven to boost students’ economic outcomes. 

America Forward engaged extensively during the drafting process, including sending a letter of support to Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (NC-05) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03), and the the bill ultimately includes a number of recommendations from America Forward and the Coalition, including:

  • Strong outcomes guardrails; 
  • Participation for online programs; and, 
  • Leveraging administrative data to reduce burden and strengthen transparency. 

Moving forward, we are calling on legislators to incorporate provisions that would enable high-impact, non-institutional providers to directly participate in Workforce Pell.

Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA)

By a bipartisan vote of 20-1, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the Advancing Research in Education Act (AREA) (S.3392) which reauthorizes the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA).  

America Forward sent a letter to Committee leaders outlining a number of provisions that align with our priorities and including some suggested language changes, and we are pleased that final bill supports several of our priorities, including:

  • Collecting evidence to support the improvement of teaching and learning; 
  • Making federal education research more responsive to students’ and teachers’ needs;
  • Emphasizing locally driven education research; and, 
  • Collecting data on teacher and school leader demographics, conditions of the education workplace, school climate, and student mental health.

As each of these important bills moves forward, America Forward will continue to work collaboratively with the Coalition and with policymakers to ensure that they reflect key priorities and language that will help ensure they work equitably and effectively in the long-term. 

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