Despite focus from the administration, budget falls short on much needed investment in workforce and education programs

By Katie Spiker, March 12, 2019

In the Presidential Budget Request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, a portion of which was released yesterday, the administration calls for level funding for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I formula grants, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, and work-based learning programs, and proposes to expand Pell to short-term programs consistent with the bipartisan JOBS Act and NSC priorities. The budget also proposes large cuts to adult basic education programs and elimination of many WIOA national programs.

In a proposal that cuts overall Nondefense Discretionary funding by 5 percent from last year’s levels, Department of Labor and the Department of Education bear disproportionate cuts at 10 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Level funding for workforce programs may look like a win in that context. But many of these programs have been drastically underfunded for decades. As we enter the final year of authorized funding levels in WIOA, level funding for critical programs isn’t enough – it’s time for serious investments.

We can’t compete if we cut. Check out our funding cuts fact sheet.

The administration has made workforce and education a high-profile issue, with last week’s inaugural meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, the administration’s Pledge to America’s Workers, support from Senior Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump, for last year’s passage of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act and their focus on creating a new Industry-Recognized apprenticeship system.

Throughout these efforts, the administration has expressed laudable goals that are consistent with NSC’s 2019 Skills for Good Jobs Agenda.

  • At last week’s inaugural advisory board meeting, Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump focused on the importance of increasing workforce participation and connecting workers to good paying jobs.
  • At the same meeting, the president recognized the link between business growth and workers’ success, “…we want to have the companies grow. And the only way they’re going to grow is if we give them the workers.”
  • At a meeting with the President and Cabinet-level Secretaries last year, Ivanka Trump described the workforce as “our country’s greatest national asset”

But, the administration’s enthusiasm for skills training and workforce development isn’t matched with the kind of robust investments our economy requires. Instead of investing, the administration has proposed consolidating and eliminating programs. After nearly two decades of disinvestment, workers and businesses need significant new investment in skills and retention supports today to support the workforce of tomorrow.

Today’s budget recommends level funding or cuts for some important programs at a time when increases are crucial to rectifying past cuts and when 93% of voters support increased public investment in skills training.

If we’re really going to help workers make ends meet and businesses grow – it’s time to walk the talk.


A Deeper Dive

As expected, President Trump’s budget requests funding for Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) programs at Budget Control Act (BCA) levels, about 5 percent lower than FY2019 spending. While Congress will likely, as in previous years, reject the harsh cuts President Trump proposes, members are likely to take note of his priorities: CTE, work-based learning and a repeated message around consolidating vital programs.

In recent years, Congress has reached two-year budget agreements setting top-line spending levels above those established in the BCA and is likely to do so again, later this year.

In the meantime, the House will move forward with their appropriations process, followed later by the Senate. With House Democrats in leadership for the first time in eight years, they’re likely to move forward with spending levels higher than the final budget agreement will enable. Their process, and the programs that receive the highest level of investment, however, offers insight into those they see as priorities in later bicameral negotiations.

Department of Labor

President Trump’s budget recommended a cut of 9.7 percent to DOL’s budget, stating that their highest priority is, “eliminating programs that are duplicative, unnecessary, unproven, or ineffective.”

Programs should be aligned, not eliminated. This continued focus on consolidating workforce programs is detrimental to workers, businesses, and communities.

WIOA: The president’s budget requests level funding for WIOA Title I state formula grants and Wagner-Peyser Employment Service under Title III, a departure from the president’s initial request in FY2019 to cut programs by 40 percent. FY2020 is the final year for which the law includes authorized funding levels. Congress has never appropriated funding at those levels, and funding levels in FY2019 are 40 percent lower than funding in FY2001. A strong Congressional investment in WIOA in FY 2020 will be critical to continued innovation in states and local areas, especially as reauthorization conversations ramp up.

Despite the level formula funding request, the budget would cut or eliminate most of the national programs under Employment and Training Administration’s jurisdiction, except for apprenticeship grants. The proposal would cut $86 million from National Dislocated Worker national grants, $15 million from Reentry employment opportunities and $5 million from YouthBuild. It would eliminate funding for Indian and Native American Programs, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Programs and Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants.

Apprenticeship: The request proposes $160 million investment in apprenticeship, consistent with enacted FY2019 levels. The budget, however, asks for the funding to support the expansion of industry-recognized apprenticeship, a new system DOL is in the process of implementing. The administration also proposes a doubling of the fees associated with H-1B visas, a portion of which go to DOL to administer job training programs to train workers for industries that currently use H-1B visas. The new funds would be targeted to expanding the administration’s new Industry-Recognized apprenticeship system, with 15 percent of funds going to career and technical education programs administered by the Department of Education.

DOL has solicited grant proposals from partnerships between educational systems and businesses to expand IRAP, which would be funded by previous years’ H-1B visa fees, but has yet to award these grants. The call to use these funds to support local, industry-driven partnerships expanding work-based learning is consistent with the bipartisan PARTNERS Act.

Department of Education

The president’s budget recommends cutting 12 percent of Department of Education’s budget.

Pell Grants: The President’s budget calls for funding necessary to support a maximum Pell grant of $6,195 and repeats a call in their original budget request from last year to cancel $2 billion unobligated balances in the Pell Grant program. It also includes a proposal to modernize the Pell grant program to meet the needs of working students, a concept that has been supported by Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and is consistent with the bipartisan JOBS Act. NSC is encouraged by the push to make postsecondary education more accessible for all students—especially considering that 86 percent of voters support making federal financial aid available for skills training.

Federal Work Study: The budget proposes to cut the Federal Work Study program by over 50 percent from current funding levels (from $1.1 billion to $500 million). The request justifies this substantial decrease by proposing to dramatically reform the FWS to support workforce and career-oriented training opportunities—including subsidized employment and paid internships—for low-income undergraduate students. This provision is consistent with the reforms made to the FWS program in the House proposed PROSPER Act. The PROSPER Act, however, contained a $6 million increase for the FWS program to support this change.

CTE: Today’s budget recommended level funding for CTE state grants and a $20 million increase for CTE national programs. The budget, as discussed above, also includes a proposal to target 15% of their proposed increases in H-1B visa fees to Department of Education to allocate through formula grants to states and support career and technical education components of industry-recognized apprenticeship programs.

Adult Education: Today’s budget recommends a cut of $150 million to the Adult Education and Family Literacy state grants, coupled with a $60 million increase in funding for national leadership activities. The administration would direct the leadership activities funds to support pre-apprenticeship programs to broaden the pipeline of workers with access to apprenticeship programs.

The proposed cuts to state grants outweigh the increase to national programs, seeming to undermine the administration’s goal of upskilling and reskilling the millions of Americans with basic skill needs.

The budget also proposes cutting the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program (SEOG), which supports low-income postsecondary students, and canceling the State Longitudinal data Systems grants that support state investments in educational data alignment.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

The President’s budget requests a 12 percent cut to the HHS budget and continues calls to expand work requirements for recipients of Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. While work requirements are relatively new to Medicaid programs, they have not been effective at connecting people to family-supporting jobs or lifting them out of poverty as used in TANF. They can be counterproductive, since they encourage workers to take low-wage jobs rather than building skills and credentials that can help them compete in today’s economy. There’s also no evidence that work requirements help meet employers’ need for skilled workers.

The budget request does connect access to child care to workers’ ability to get a job or further education or job training, consistent with the bipartisan BUILDS Act and NSC priorities. The budget requests funding for a new $1 billion fund to support TANF recipient’s access to support for child care costs, however, appears to be created from savings associated with proposals to cut funding to TANF and the Emergency Contingency Fund and would not actually be additional funding to support child care costs.

Department of Agriculture

The budget proposes a 15 percent cut to the Department of Agriculture’s budget from FY2019 levels. The administration proposes expanded work requirements, something that was rejected by Congress during the recent Farm Bill reauthorization. As discussed above, NSC strongly opposes work requirements as they restrict recipients’ ability to access education and training necessary to move in to good jobs.

The proposal would cut overall funding to SNAP by more than $45 billion over 10 years if the proposal was enacted.


FY 2020 – Authorized Levels Current Levels – FY 2019 FY 2020 President’s Budget Request Change FY 2019-2020 Budget Request
Department of Labor
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants $2,789,832,000 $2,789,832,000
WIOA Adult $899,987,000 $845,556,000 $845,556,000
WIOA Dislocated Worker $1,436,137,000 $1,040,860,000 $1,040,860,000
WIOA Youth $963,837,000 $903,416,000 $903,416,000
Wagner-Peyser/Employment Service Grants NA


$663,052,000 $663,052,000


Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants NA $6,000,000 $0 -$6,000,000
Apprenticeship Grants NA $160,000,000 $160,000,000
DW National Reserve NA $220,859,000 $134,717,000 -$86,142,000
Native American Programs $54,137,000 $54,500,000 0 -$54,500,000
Ex-Offender Activities NA $93,079,000 $78,324,000 -$14,755,000
Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers $96,211,000 $88,896,000 0 -$88,896,000
Youth Build $91,087,000 $89,534,000 $84,534,000 -$5,000,000
Senior Community Service Employment Program NA $400,000,000 0 -$400,000,000
JobCorps $1,983,236,000 $1,718,655,000 $1,015,583,000 -$703,072,000
Trade Adjustment Assistance $450,000,000 $450,000,000 $450,000,000
Department of Education
Career and Technical Education State Grants NA $1,262,598,000 $1,262,598,000
Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants $678,640,000 $641,955,000 $485,800,00 -$156,200,000