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1/19/2011

Inside D.C.—The 112th Congress Officially Convenes

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Inside D.C.—Updated January 5th, 2011

As the 112th Congress officially convenes this week for the formal oaths of office and the first votes of the session, we want to update you on a few key issues.

FY 2011 Appropriations

In December, we noted that the budget for fiscal year (FY) 2011 would not be finalized until the next session of Congress. The Continuing Resolution (CR) passed as expected during the closing days of the 111th session. This bill retains funding for all federal programs at current levels through March 4th. The new members of Congress who were sworn in this week will now be tasked with making the final decisions on the FY 2011 budget before this CR expires in March.

Again, while we continue to believe that federal FY 2011 spending levels for adult education will probably remain relatively stable, the potential for slightly less funding than was requested by the President last year remains a possibility. We will be working with you in the weeks and months ahead to make sure that new members of Congress in particular are aware of the value of federally funded adult education programs as they finalize the FY 2011 budget and begin the FY 2012 appropriations process.

DREAM Act

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (the DREAM Act) is a piece of immigration reform legislation that offers an opportunity for permanent residency (and eventually citizenship) to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children—provided that they have lived here for at least five years, earned a high school diploma or its equivalent, and attended college or served in the military. The Senate made a last attempt to pass this bill on December 18th, but fell five votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.

Although it's impossible to know with certainty the impact this legislation would have on the demand for adult education services, the Migration Policy Institute had estimated that as many as 421,000 individuals who might potentially gain citizenship through this Act would need to obtain a GED in order to do so. Migration Policy Institute: DREAM Act Estimates, December 2010 (pdf)

However, because the bill failed to get through Congress last session with Democratic majorities in both chambers, it's unlikely that the bill, even if reintroduced, would pass during the 112th session in a GOP-controlled House.

Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Reauthorization

Neither the House nor the Senate passed a WIA reauthorization bill during the 111th Congress, but a substantial amount of work was completed in the Senate on a draft bill that might be introduced early this year. On the House side, the incoming Republican majority may likely want to draft its own WIA reauthorization bill. We expect, therefore, that the Senate draft bill will appear first, but probably not until February.

Congressional Committees

The Republican takeover of the House of Representatives also means that House committee and subcommittee chairs and membership configurations will all be changing. Republicans will now chair all House committees and will hold the majority of seats on all of them.

The key subcommittee for our field in terms of WIA reauthorization is the House Education Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness. On January 4th, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) was named to chair this subcommittee by the incoming chair of the Education and Labor Committee (which will be renamed the Committee on Education and the Workforce), Rep. John Kline (R-MN). Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), the former subcommittee chair, is expected to serve as the ranking Democratic member.

As of this writing, a new chair for the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, the subcommittee within the House Appropriations Committee responsible for federal adult literacy funding, has yet to be named.

In addition, as of this writing, members have yet to be assigned to either of these two key subcommittees. Once these announcements are made we will follow up with another update. We plan to work with all of you—especially those located in the districts of key subcommittee members—to ensure that all subcommittee members are informed about our field.

If you have any questions, please contact Jeff Carter, director of policy and government affairs, at (202) 577-3638 or jcarter@proliteracy.org.

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