An Open Letter to U.S. Representatives

Published mar. 28, 2012

March 27, 2012

Dear Representative:

The Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce urges you in the strongest possible terms to reject House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget resolution, and ensure instead that our nation continues to make critical investments in the skills of the U.S. workforce.

More than 13 million Americans remain out of work, yet employers across the country report that they struggle to find qualified workers to fill the 3.5 million current jobs openings. Yet Chairman Ryan’s FY 2013 budget resolution appears to nearly eliminate funding for federal job training programs that help U.S. workers and employers obtain critical workforce skills—reducing budget authority for Function 500 programs by more than $16 billion (22 percent) compared to FY 2012—while also proposing major funding cuts to Pell Grants for low‐income students. These proposed cuts simply could not come at a worse time for our nation’s economic growth and competitiveness.

In his budget “blueprint,” Chairman Ryan argues for these cuts, in part, by suggesting that federal job training programs are duplicative and ineffective, citing a January 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office as proof for his assertion. But this assertion represents a fundamental misreading of that report; in fact, while the GAO found that a number of federal programs offer similar services the report clearly stated that “even when programs overlap, the services they provide and the populations they serve may differ in meaningful ways.” And, GAO recently affirmed the value of well‐designed public‐private training partnerships, noting in a January 2012 report that these initiatives have helped to meet vital employer skill needs in communities across the nation while helping jobseekers get and keep well‐paying jobs in high-growth and in‐demand industries.

Chairman Ryan also argues for deep Pell Grant cuts, suggesting that the program’s funding is on an unsustainable path. The truth is that costs for the program are projected to decline slightly in FY 2013, and grow at a stable rate over the next decade. Moreover, Congress has already agreed to $56 billion in cuts to Pell Grants over the next 10 years, and has done so primarily by making permanent changes in program eligibility that reduce or eliminate access for working adults and other non‐traditional and disadvantaged populations. With two‐thirds of all job openings between the years 2008‐2018 expected to require at least some form of postsecondary education and training, any further restrictions in Pell Grant eligibility will make it increasingly difficult for low‐ and moderate‐income individuals to access the financial assistance they need to pursue industry‐recognized degrees, certificates, and credentials demanded in the labor market.

America’s workers depend on these education and training programs. Last year, more than 9 million individuals received training and related services through the federally‐supported workforce investment system—an increase of nearly 250 percent in just two years—and more than half of these individuals found employment in a tough labor market. Another 9 million individuals relied on Pell grants to support their postsecondary education, including many who are attending school while continuing to work full‐time to support their families. And millions more received training and employment services through youth, career and technical education, adult education, vocational rehabilitation, and veterans’ programs that will help them pursue good jobs or further postsecondary education.

Chairman Ryan’s budget resolution would shut the door on these hard‐working individuals and adults seeking employment, significantly limiting their access to the skills and credentials needed to succeed in today’s labor market. In addition, it would stifle the ability of U.S. businesses to find the skilled workforce they need to take advantage of new markets and emerging economic opportunities, putting our nation at a competitive disadvantage at a time when other countries are ramping up their own investments in human capital.

While we recognize the challenging fiscal climate facing lawmakers, we simply cannot afford to make additional cuts to these important education and training programs. We urge you vote against Chairman Ryan’s budget resolution, and work instead to ensure that we maintain meaningful investments in the skills of America’s workforce.

Thank you for your consideration of these important issues.

The Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce is co‐convened by the National Skills Coalition and Jobs for the Future
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