Despite strong objections from Democrats, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Republican-sponsored bill on Friday that would eliminate or consolidate several federal job-training programs, which many say are redundant or ineffective, into a single $6-billion program.
The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Learning Act (HR 803), which is known as the Skills Act, would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, a law that was designed to encourage public-private partnerships to modernize work-force-development services. The law has not been reauthorized, or renewed, since it was enacted, in 1998.
Besides consolidating programs, the Republican plan for renewing the law would give more power to state governors to consolidate other programs at the state level, require state and local leaders to use a set of common performance measures for those services, and change regulations regarding who may serve on local “workforce investment boards,” which were created under the law to develop policies and oversee the operation of centers that offer resources to job seekers. Those centers are often based at community colleges.
“At a time when 12 million Americans are unemployed and the national debt is spiraling out of control, workers and taxpayers can no longer afford the failed status quo,” said Rep. John Kline, the Minnesota Republican who is chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and a co-sponsor of the reauthorization bill. “The Skills Act will remove the bloated bureaucracy standing between job seekers and the training they need to get back to work. It is time for the Senate to act so reform can become reality,” Representative Kline said in a written statement.
But the Obama administration, Democratic lawmakers, and community-college administrators and advocates have all expressed strong opposition to the bill, which sources say is likely to fail in the Senate. <Read more.>