As lawmakers in Congress continue to negotiate over long-term Federal funding, America Forward and the more than 100 members of the America Forward Coalition are continuing to advocate for critical investments in the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Many priorities – including early childhood, elementary and secondary education, higher education, and workforce development – are facing potential cuts, and we are urging lawmakers to protect and advance funding for vital programs that expand educational opportunity, promote economic mobility, and move all of America forward.
In our recent letter to House and Senate appropriators, we called for greater investment in capacity-building community partnerships, evidence-based whole-learner educational approaches, and intentional support for educators – all of which are critical to closing persistent achievement gaps across the country and setting students up for success in and out of the classroom.
Further investments are also needed in gathering evidence and scaling what works. For example, amidst an ongoing educator shortage, states need flexibility to identify the most impactful ways to implement professional development programming, and to improve their recruitment, support, and retention of culturally-competent, effective educators.
In early childhood education, investments in greater capacity, high-quality partnerships, and a strong workforce are paramount to ensuring that all children have access to the supports and learning experiences they need to thrive. Families and caretakers across the country rely on early learning and childcare programs like Head Start and Early Head Start while they work to support their families; and these programs are particularly essential for under-resourced families that already face situational and financial barriers to education.
In K-12 education, in addition to greater funding for Title I, policymakers should prioritize key wraparound services – from increasing school counselors, to afterschool programming, to health and wellness services. In addition, investing in programs that focus on students with specific needs – such as the growing number of English learning students, students with disabilities, and students facing housing insecurity – is critical to making education attainable and enriching for all students.
At the higher education level, more students should have access to Pell Grants and to emergency grant assistance, so that one emergency cost doesn’t derail their educational career. And we should fully fund opportunities for work study programs that allow students to help pay for school and get a jump on post-graduation career success.
Along with investments in education, policymakers must prioritize a strong, well-rounded, and inclusive workforce. Proven workforce and sectoral training programs are key to meeting labor market demand for a skilled workforce, and we must continue to scale up what works while allowing for the development and testing of new, promising training models. The America Forward Coalition supports potentially transformative ideas like a workforce development innovation fund to improve the effectiveness of our workforce system and address longstanding barriers to success. Robust opportunities for workforce growth, like engaging under-resourced young adults, increasing community colleges’ capacity to train workers, and expanding registered apprenticeships, will also enable more workers to benefit from career and training services and advance equity and economic mobility across the country.
The Federal budget represents a vital opportunity to support policies and programs that will benefit students, educators, workers, and families across the country. To read our full list of recommendations for the FY2024 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill by clicking here.
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