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National experts examine future of education and workforce funding
Kirill Abbakumov   on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 8:15:00 am

2017 is shaping up as a profoundly challenging year for federal education and workforce funding, as Congress grapples with the return of strict budget caps and sequestration in FY 2018, while finalizing FY 2017 spending bills in a transformed political landscape. On February 23, the National Skills Coalition hosted a webinar to examine the impact of the federal budget and appropriations on the future of education and workforce funding.

The webinar highlighted that there is a high chance of a continuing resolution (CR) moving through this year and into 2018, with frozen funding for workforce and education program funding. Discretionary spending has decreased from $600 billion in 2010 to $503 billion in 2018, as additional cuts to these programs are adding on to historic cuts for continual erosion of funding for workforce and education programs.

Key Department of Labour and Education Department workforce programs continue to be funded at 2016 levels, with an expected cut, or at least a freeze, for 2017-2018 funding. The a possibility of CR that will continue funding at 2016 levels this year is a good sign for workforce programs, because Senate proposed a lower funding level for these programs for 2017.

Workforce, Perkings Vocational Training and Technical Education Grants, and adult education have all seen substantial cuts in the last 15 years, when adjusted for inflation. Since 2001:

  • WIA/WOIA formula grants have been cut by 40%, from $4.7 billion to $2.9 billion in FY 2016;
  • Perkins CTE has been cut by 30%, from $1.6 billion to $1.1 billion in FY 2016;
  • Adult Education has been cut by 20%, from $883 million to $581 million in FY 2016.

With a Republican majority in Congress and a large budgetary agenda before them, taxes will be the central priority going into 2018, with expected cuts across the board for discretionary spending. In addition, plans that involve the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, turning Medicaid into block grants, increasing defence spending, and balancing the budget likely means that discretionary spending will be sustaining continued cuts in the years ahead.

The slide deck and the recording of the webinar can be found here.