Highlights of COABE’s Advocacy: The Voice of Adult Education

Dear COABE Members,
COABE has been working to advocate on behalf of adult learners across the country. The following are highlights of some of the key advocacy activities where COABE is working for you!

U.S. Department of Education

Priorities for Adult Education Submitted to Education Secretary
Read the letter that Sharon Bonney, CEO of COABE, submitted to the U.S. Department of Education (ED). This letter recommended additions to the proposed priorities to ensure that adult learners, educators and programs are fully acknowledged and supported in ED’s approach to competitive grant-making.

Higher Education Negotiated Rulemaking on Ability to Benefit (ATB)
Sharon Bonney, CEO of COABE, submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) commenting on the critical importance of ATB for adult learners and how to strengthen the program. Read the letter here
President-elect Regina Suitt provided online testimony advocating for maintaining and strengthening ATB for adult learners. Read her letter regarding Ability to Benefit (ATB) here.
OCTAE and Adult Education Advocacy Groups Listening Session 
COABE participated in a listening session with ED officials and adult education advocacy groups. In the meeting, Sharon Bonney, on behalf of COABE, stressed the importance of safely reopening adult education programs and asked that adult education programs receive more funding to address the needs of their students. Sharon sent a letter with recommendations for OCTAE, which can be found here.
OCTAE Partnership Building and Call for Flexibility
COABE members had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Acting Assistant Secretary Amy Loyd of OCTAE, Director Cheryl Keenan of the Division of Adult Education and Literacy, and Special Assistant Emily Lamont of OCTAE. We would like to thank members Meghan McBride (GA)Stephenie Rittberger (SD)Laurie Kierstead-Joseph (AZ), and John Werner (CA) who advocated on behalf of adult education learners, educators, and programs! OCTAE was extremely receptive to our asks and is looking forward to continuing discussions with COABE.
In our follow-up letter to OCTAE, which can be found here, we asked that ED extend flexibilities offered to adult education programs during the pandemic through Program Year 21, provide guidance about not meeting negotiated performance targets as part of these flexibilities, and that ED proactively reach out to state and local providers to ensure that they are aware that they may negotiate the cap on non-instructional costs.
OCTAE Broadens Definition of Measurable Skill Gain (MSG) and Revises Table 4

In response to OCTAE’s comment request on the National Reporting System for Adult Education (NRS), COABE provided public input on OCTAE’s proposed changes. Specifically, COABE advocated for all MSGs for Integrated Education and Training (IET) students to be reported. COABE also advocated for Table 4 of the NRS to be streamlined so submitting data on adult education programs is easier. As a result of our advocacy and others, OCTAE revised Table 4. The letter to OCTAE can be found here.  

Office of Management and Budget

Adult Learners and Equity

Sharon Bonney sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in response to OMB’s request for information regarding methods and leading practices for advancing equity and support for underserved communities through government. COABE recommended that OMB prioritize adult learners, educators, and programs in its push to promote equity in agency policies and actions.
In the letter, which can be found here, COABE asked that flexibilities for adult education programs be extended through Program Year 21. We also asked that ED pilot new assessment and accountability systems to advance equity, in conjunction with partnerships between ED, Labor, Justice, HHS, and other agencies that can support adult learners and their families, particularly through communication and awareness of ATB. Additionally, we asked that adult learners, educators, and national organizations such as COABE be included in agency and White House led conversations, as well as state and local decision-making tables.


Requests for Funding Increases
Senate: Earlier this year, our champions in the Senate, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN), circulated a letter (found here) requesting that the Adult Education State Grant Program be funded at $810 million for FY 22 and be doubled in five years. In total, we had 28 Senators sign in support of this goal. The Senate has not moved forward with their appropriations bill.
House: Our champions in the House of Representatives, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), have been fighting for increases in federal funding to adult education programs. We are appreciative of their efforts and advocacy on behalf of adult learners and educators.
On Sunday, July 11th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies released the bill text for its FY 22 appropriations bill. Included in the bill text is a $63 millionincrease for Adult Education State Grants, from $674.9 million to $738.7 million.
COABE Hosts Legislative Briefing With Congressional Members 
In February, COABE hosted a legislative briefing titled “Adult Education: A Catalyst for American Recovery and Growth.” COABE was joined by honorary co-hosts Senator Reed (D-RI), Senator Young (R-IN), Representative Yarmuth (D-KY), and Representative Grijalva (D-AZ). A special thank you to Oogie LaMar (MI), Shakita Boyd (CT), Meghan McBride (GA), and Don Finn (VA) for speaking on behalf of adult learners and educators. The one-pager with COABE’s recommendations can be found here.
Adult Education Research Bill
In April, Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Strengthening Research in Adult Education Act (S.1126), a summary and the bill text can be found here. The Act would allow the Institute for Education Sciences and the National Center for Education Statistics to collect and disseminate data on best practices for state and local adult education programs. Additionally, it would ensure that adult educators have a seat at the table when the Institute for Education Sciences develops policies and priorities. It would also require that at least one research center be focused on adult education.

COABE will continue its efforts on developing, advocating for, and implementing federal policies that benefit adult education programs, learners, and educators. As we continue to serve you, we will keep you updated about funding increases