White House Budget Advances Biden’s Domestic Vision but Falls Short in Worker Training and Supports
At Jobs for the Future (JFF), we were encouraged to see that the budget request that the Biden administration submitted to Congress earlier this week includes funding for initiatives that would advance the exciting domestic vision President Joe Biden laid out in his March 1 State of the Union address.
Specifically, the president’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget would increase spending available to the departments of Education and Labor by 15 percent and 18 percent, respectively, to expand opportunities for high-quality education and skills development programs—and it would also reduce the national deficit. JFF applauds these increased investments in America’s learners and workers, and the explicit focus on equity included in the budget proposal. However, we would also like to see increases in funding for formula-based programs that provide critical supports to help America’s learners and workers meet their day-to-day needs.
Alignment of Education and Workforce Development
JFF is especially supportive of efforts in the budget proposal to align and enhance our nation’s education and workforce development efforts. As part of the U.S. Department of Education’s budget, the administration proposes spending $208 million to establish the Career-Connected High Schools initiative, a competitive grant program focused on reimagining high school to postsecondary transitions by encouraging partnerships across secondary education, higher education, and employers to support early enrollment in postsecondary and career-connected learning for students in grades 11 through 14.
The budget also allocates $514 million for the Education Innovation and Research program for the creation, development, implementation, and scaling of evidence-based innovations designed to improve academic achievement and attainment among students from communities that are underserved by existing education systems and programs. The president’s proposed education budget also includes important increases in the Pell Grant program—increasing the maximum Pell Grant by $2,175. It also calls for an investment of $110 million for the Retention and Completion Grant program, which would support evidence-based institutional reforms and innovative programs to improve college retention and completion.
To invest in America’s workers, the administration’s proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Labor includes funding for several new initiatives designed to offer people new opportunities to build new skills. The first is a proposed $100 million investment for the Sectoral Employment Through Career Training for Occupational Readiness (SECTOR) program, which would support partnerships between community colleges, employers, and the federal government to establish skill development initiatives in high-growth industries. The second is a $100 million investment for community colleges that work with the workforce development system to provide skill development training for workers. The administration also proposes $75 million for a new National Youth Employment Program, which would create high-quality employment opportunities for young people from underserved communities, and it’s seeking a $118 million increase in funding for Registered Apprenticeship programs.
Funding for Critical Supports and Training Fall Short
While JFF strongly supports the White House’s proposed investments in new education and skills development programs, we also believe that it’s important to increase funding for formula-based programs that provide critical supports that help America’s workers meet their day-to-day needs—including adult education and career and technical education programs, as well as programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Unfortunately, the White House’s proposed increases in funding for these programs are small—not high enough to keep up with inflation or meet the increasing needs of the populations they’re designed to serve.
To fulfill Biden’s vision for an equitable economic recovery, federal policymakers must pair efforts to bolster U.S. productivity with robust investments in the workforce. This past year, we have seen Congress pass infrastructure legislation and we anticipate enactment of a bill designed to make our country more competitive in the global economy. Both bills will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs for America’s workers. However, the federal government has not invested in training programs that will help America’s workers build the skills they will need to fill those jobs. If Washington forgoes such spending, labor shortages will persist and worsen, and newly created employment opportunities won’t be shared equitably among all workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the consequences of chronic underinvestment. Our current talent development system is unable to withstand inevitable economic shocks and help workers and employers rebound without substantial increases in funding. JFF urges Congress to work with the administration to invest in the nation’s education and workforce development efforts, so we can realize an equitable economic recovery.