Literacy coalition backs NSC CIR proposal.

September 23, 2013

Last week, the National Coalition for Literacy (NCL) sent a letter to Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Representative George Miller (D-CA), ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, in support of the immigration reform recommendations released this summer by the National Skills Coalition (NSC) in the report, Comprehensive Immigration Reform: A Proposal for a Skills Strategy that Supports Economic Growth and Opportunity.

In the letter, NCL President Martin Finsterbusch writes, “[w]e strongly support the overriding principle reflected in NSC’s recommendations, which is that effective immigrant integration measures—including a strategy to improve the skills of immigrant workers—is an essential component of comprehensive immigration reform legislation. We believe the NSC recommendations are an excellent starting point for discussion as Congress considers this important legislation.”

Comprehensive immigration reform will result in far-reaching changes to the labor market that will have tremendous economic potential for individuals and the nation as a whole. There will likely be a significant increase in demand for adult education by currently undocumented immigrants, not to mention the already existing unmet need for English language, adult literacy, and skills training for U.S. citizens.

In order to address these needs, NSC proposed three new grant programs that would dramatically increase the resources available for adult literacy and skills training for all in the current reform bill without increasing the cost:

      1. $500 million for a Career Pathways Employment Fund, supported by the increase in H-1B visa fees, to support integrated or contextualized adult basic education services to help low-skilled U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents acquire the skills they need to succeed in the labor market and/or meet the requirements to become citizens.

      2. $1 billion for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Grants through an expansion of the pilot grant program proposed in the Senate bill that would be used to promote immigrant integration at the state and local level. This expansion could be funded with a portion of the existing Earnings Suspense File (ESF) at the Social Security Administration (SSA), much of which was contributed by unauthorized immigrants.

      3. $50 million annually for an Employer Skills Investment Fund, by turning the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund’s optional, $50 million grant program for integration purposes into a mandatory grant program that incentivizes employer and/or philanthropic matches for workplace ESOL.

National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with NCL to ensure these recommendations are adopted whether during legislative negotiations or during implementation.

National Coalition for Literacy is a coalition of leading national and regional organizations dedicated to advancing adult education, family literacy, and English language acquisition in the U.S.