WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 2, 2012 -
During the State of the Union address, President Obama proposed what could be a very promising breakthrough in the effort to improve federal workforce development programs.
Today, more than 47 job trainings programs are scattered across the federal government, a bureaucratic mess that fails to adequately serve workers and wastes taxpayer dollars. To fix the problem, President Obama called on Congress to establish “one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help [job seekers] need.”
This proposal might prove to be a welcome departure from the president’s September plan to create even more job training programs, and House Republicans embrace the president’s request for consolidation. The question remains: Do House Democrats?
Past patterns indicate some might be a little skeptical.
Last year, House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans introduced three proposals that lay the foundation for a 21st century job training system. One particular proposal, Rep. Virginia Foxx’s (R-NC) Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act (H.R. 3610), consolidates more than 30 existing job training programs into 4 flexible funding streams, enhancing support for workers and promoting better use of taxpayer dollars. The legislation embodies the president’s request “to cut through the maze of confusing training programs.”
Yet moments after H.R. 3610 was introduced, House Democrats were decrying an end to job training as we know it, saying the bill would “dismantle the national commitment to the millions of Americans” seeking job assistance.
Rep. George Miller, the senior Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee, said, “During these times of economic uncertainty, our nation’s workforce programs are essential to helping out-of-work Americans find jobs.” He even suggested the legislation would result in “turning our back on the millions of Americans seeking new skills and education.”
Other Democrat leaders on the committee echoed these sentiments:
“It is unfortunate, though not surprising, that the Republican leadership of the House Education and the Workforce Committee introduced legislation so narrowly focused on the consolidation of workforce programs.” – Rep. John Tierney (D-MA)
“I am deeply disappointed by the legislation introduced by Representative Virginia Foxx today.” – Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), Ranking Member on the Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee
If House Democrats can’t support a plan to consolidate dozens of programs into four flexible, state driven programs, how can they possibly get on board with the president’s call for one program?
House Republicans are committed to improving the nation’s workforce development system. Committee leaders are encouraged by the president’s State of the Union proposal to establish “one program” for job training assistance, and have asked Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to provide more details about the plan. If the administration presents a responsible strategy that reflects the president’s latest proposal to streamline services while also effectively serving workers and employers, we look forward to working together on bipartisan reforms.
We hope House Democrats will too.