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As the 2013 state legislative season comes to a close, NSC-supported coalitions and policy advocates in Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa are celebrating big policy wins for their workers and industries.
The Minnesota State Legislature has approved the first major budget appropriation for Fast TRAC, at a level of $3 million over two years (see page 9 of the committee report). Fast TRAC is an integrated learning program for low-skill adult learners to build basic skills and earn occupational certificates to move them through the educational pipeline faster and further. The House had approved $5 million for the program as part of its larger jobs and economic development bill while the Senate’s version failed to fund the program. A conference committee sorted out the differences between the two bills. Fortunately, the final bill coming out of the committee included the $3 million for Fast TRAC. Funding for Fast TRAC has been championed by a number of stakeholder groups, including the Workforce Policy Taskforce, a group of local, statewide, and regional philanthropic organizations.
The Skills2Compete-Indiana Coalition has successfully advanced an amendment to a larger education reform bill that authorizes Indiana’s education, human services, and workforce state agencies to engage in cross-agency credential measurement activities for the state. The amendment passed both the House and Senate Education Committees, and was included in the bill signed by Governor Mike Pence. The legislation requires the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), in consultation with the Commission for Higher Education, the Departments of Education, and Family and Social Services, and any other agency deemed necessary by DWD to produce an annual report on the number of credentials awarded across the state’s education and workforce programs. The report would also collect information on the number of industry certifications awarded as a result of completing publicly funded education and training programs. With the passage of this bill, Indiana now follows Colorado, Maryland, and Rhode Island in carrying out cross-agency credential measurement policies.
The Iowa Skills2Compete Coalition scored a huge victory by winning $10.5 million in new public investments in the state legislature’s final education appropriations bill. This includes $5.5 million for adult basic education and $5 million for career pathways programs, pathway navigators, and sector partnerships. Before this funding measure passed, Iowa had been one of three states to rely solely on federal funding through the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), even though it is intended to supplement state funding. Funding for career pathways and navigators compliment the new adult basic education investments by helping more low-skilled adults enroll and complete education and training programs leading to skilled credentials. The support for sector partnerships ensures meaningful employer involvement in the development and maintenance of its career pathways programs.