ProLiteracy Stresses Need to Include Lowest-Level Adult Learners in New Adult Education Bill

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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act - A Bipartisan Effort

ProLiteracy applauds the bipartisan group of United States Senators and Representatives for putting forth new draft language of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, formerly the Workforce Investment Act), particularly Title II, which directly affects adult literacy and basic education.

“Reexamination of Title II is long overdue and we at ProLiteracy are eager to contribute to the bill’s passage by offering recommendations that will add emphasis on community-based organizations, which serve individuals with the lowest level of literacy,” says Kevin Morgan, president and CEO of ProLiteracy. “We support the bill as an important step toward getting Americans back to work by addressing adult literacy and basic education in the United States.”

ProLiteracy expresses two concerns regarding the current iteration of the bill:

1.    A divide seems to exist between acknowledging the need to serve low-level learners and the overall focus on career readiness and postsecondary education. ProLiteracy’s member network serves a variety of adult learners including students focused on GED preparation and workforce training, students learning English as a foreign language, and students in need of basic literacy skills. The latter group is made up of the lowest level students who struggle to read, write, do basic math and use computers above a third-grade level.

Right now, in the United States, that number stands at roughly 36 million adults. Lower-level adults require more resources and time to make advances; a higher-level adult may be able to transition from a literacy program to a community college in one year. That same transition likely takes a lower-level adult several years. WIOA underfunds and under-recognizes the specific needs of this demographic, which may potentially leave the lowest-level students behind.

2.    The current iteration of WIOA includes incremental funding increases through 2020. However, that funding may not be able to accomplish all the legislation includes. To fully make strides in solving the adult literacy deficit in the United States, significant funding needs to be available to offset the enormous need. In recent years, federal funding has only reached 3 percent of those who need services, yet ProLiteracy member programs across the nation hold waiting lists, indicating that to date federal funding has not yet reached a saturation point.

“We look forward to working with Congress to help achieve a level of funding more commensurate with the need,” says Morgan. “We will also ensure the effective and efficient implementation of WIOA across our member network.”

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