Highlights of Federal Advocacy

COABE has been fighting hard for adult educators and adult learners throughout the nation. By being at the table and working every day for you, we help ensure that your voices are heard wherever and whenever they need to be. Advocacy to expand support for adult education is a long-term effort with successes and progress along the way. We will continue our advocacy together, but it’s important to take stock of and celebrate all that we accomplished together in 2022 and the start of 2023.

The progress detailed here is a result of our collective efforts and elevated voices. Thank you for your continuous support and advocacy! As we look back at these successes, we look forward to continuing to work with you to improve the lives of adult learners and adult educators.

Fought for Increased Funding to Adult Education Programs: 

  • (12/2022) Secured $25 Million Increase in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Appropriations: COABE is fortunate to have champions for adult education in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. COABE coordinated with Representatives Grijalva (D-AZ) and Yarmuth (D-KY, who has since retired) and Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Young (R-IN) on FY23 request letters seeking increased funding that circulated in both chambers. COABE members sent targeted appeals to members of Congress to sign these letters. As a result of our collective efforts, the final appropriations bill for FY2023, which became law on December 29th, 2022, included a $25 million boost for the Adult Education State Grant program.
  • (11/2022) Requested Support for Adult Education in the President’s FY2024 Budget: COABE sent a letter to President Biden urging that his FY2024 Budget Request increases funding for adult education. On March 9th, 2023, the President’s budget was released, proposing $715.5 million for the Adult Education State Grant program, the same funding provided in FY 2023 (which due to your advocacy was boosted by Congress by $25 million over the prior year). Additionally, the President’s budget proposes $43.7 million for Adult Education National Leadership Activities, an increase of $30 million. The President has proposed to focus this increase on (1) an initiative to support programs at correctional institutions that use Pell Grant funds to provide access to postsecondary offerings as part of an adult education program; (2) scaling up college bridge programs for low-skilled adults without a high school degree or equivalency; and (3) an initiative to help disconnected youth attain a secondary school diploma and support transitions.
  • (03/2023-04/2023) Partnered with Congressional Champions to Press for Increases in Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations: COABE, along with existing champions in the Senate, Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Todd Young (R-IN), and Representative Grijalva (D-AZ) in the House joined by new champion, Representative Dan Goldman (D-NY), are urging that the Adult Education State Grant Program be funded at $810 million for FY2024. These members circulated letters in their respective chamber with this request and thanks to your advocacy, both letters garnered additional signers this year, with a total of 32 signers in the Senate and 12 in the House. COABE also submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education to amplify this request.

Drove Policy Changes:

  • (04/2023) Working with Congressional Champions to Update and Reintroduce the Adult Education WORKS Act: COABE worked with the field to garner recommendations for the upcoming reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), with a focus on Title II, which authorizes the Federal adult education programs. All of COABE’s recommendations were included in this legislation (S.5202), with these highlights:
    • Authorizing an innovative pilot performance accountability system;
    • Providing dedicated funding for professional development;
    • Ensuring adult education representation on State and local workforce boards; and
    • Supporting the professionalization of adult educators.

Building off of the introduction of S. 5202 in 2022, COABE is working with Senators Reed and Young to reintroduce this legislation in 2023 with changes that would update indicators of performance to better capture how programs are doing in serving participants and allow states to develop interim indicators for those who are on track to obtaining a post-secondary credential or GED/HSE.

  • (04/2023) Collaborated with Senators Reed and Young to Update and Reintroduce the Strengthening Research in Adult Education Act: This legislation, which was originally introduced in 2021 (S. 1126) and was reintroduced in April 2023 by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Todd Young (R-IN), would direct the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Center on Education Research (NCER) to collect data and carry out research on successful state and local adult education and literacy activities that result in increased literacy and numeracy and educational attainment for adult learners, the characteristics and academic achievements of adult learners, and access to, and opportunity for, adult education, including digital literacy skills development; and require that at least one research center focuses on adult education and literacy activities. Updates in the reintroduced bill would sync with provisions included in the Adult Education WORKS Act.

Represented Adult Learners and Educators in Stakeholder Discussions:

  • Advocated for the Needs of Adult Education during Adult Education and Family Literacy Week: During National Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFL) Week, which takes place during the third week of September, COABE held a week-long event filled with a live stream podcast, which included guests including U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical and Adult Education Dr. Amy Loyd, seminars, training sessions, award ceremonies and advocacy meetings. Advocates set up almost 40 meetings with Federal legislators, amplifying adult education’s voice in Washington, DC.
  • Helped Kick-off the new Senate Adult Literacy Caucus: With partners the Barbara Bush Foundation (BBF), ENGAGE and the National Coalition for Literacy, Dr. Meghan McBride, Alumni Advisor to the COABE Board, joined co-chairs Senators Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in announcing the formation of this caucus to bring attention to the needs of adult learners and build bipartisan support for adult education. In addition to the co-chairs Senators Bill Cassidy (LA), Ben Ray Luján (NM), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Alejandro Padilla (CA), Tina Smith (MN) and Todd Young (IN) will serve as founding members of the caucus.
  • Advocated for Adult Education during COABE’s 2023 National Conference
    • State Advocates for Adult Education Fellowship – This Preconference event session will welcome our 2023 COABE State Advocates for Adult Education (SAAEF) Fellows. This fellowship focuses on the development of leadership, advocacy skills, and helps build a robust network of leaders and advocates focused on the advancement of adult education across the country.
    • State Association Leadership Institute – Join state leaders from around the country to discuss strategic planning best practices. Receive tips, tools, and resources to ensure your association continues to grow during this post pandemic era.
    • Increasing Adult Education Access Through Advocacy – Until 2014, Colorado was the only state that didn’t allocate state funding for adult education. Currently, Colorado does not provide a cash match for the federal Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) funding and its regular adult education program was funded at under $1 million annually until FY2020, serving just 900 individuals. Advocacy efforts have expanded the scope of adult education programs in the state and increased the budget by over 500% through 2024.
    • Adult English Language Learner Projects to Build Leadership & Advocacy Skills – In this presentation, participants will see how English language learners can participate in representational leadership projects to spread awareness about adult education programs. Participants will gain insights into the types of projects that students can do that not only teach them to advocate for themselves and others, but also gain valuable skills that will help them succeed in their future educational or career goals.

Commenting on Regulatory Guidance: 

  • Provided public comment and a template for the field to use in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA’s) request for comment on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) Implementation: COABE and its field urged NTIA to include representatives of adult education programs and adult learners in the development of State Digital Equity Plans, commit to transparency throughout the process of developing the Plans and implement a public comment process during the development of Plans and include public comments in the final Plans to the extent that is practical.
  • Responded to NTIA’s request for comment on the Digital Equity Act of 2021: In a formal response to NTIA’s request for comment, COABE advocated for NTIA to include representatives of adult education programs and adult learners in all aspects of the design and implementation of the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant and the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program at both the federal and state level.
  • Shared public comment in response to the Institute of Education Sciences’ (IES’) request for comment on the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) Cycle II 2022 Main Study: COABE stated that it was pleased to see that IES was pursuing this study and urged IES to make sure the study is focused on the needs of adult learners and designed to capture data that can improve outcomes for learners.
  • Provided public comment in response to IES’ request for comment on the Connecting Adults to Success: Career Navigator Training Study: COABE stated that it was pleased to see that IES was pursuing this study and urged IES to make sure the study is focused on the needs of adult learners and designed to capture data that can improve outcomes for learners.
  • Responded to the Employment Training Administration’s (ETA’s) and the Department of Education’s (ED’s) Comment Request on Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Effectiveness in Serving Employers Performance Indicator: In COABE’s response, COABE requested that ED and ETA extend the period of the pilot for another two years to allow for continued innovation, and that States be encouraged to propose new, innovative indicators during this time that better capture the vision of an education and workforce training system that prepares workers for in-demand, well-paying careers.
  • Provided public comment in response to ETA’s Request for Information on Digital Literacy and Resilience: COABE urged ETA to consider that 1) access to devices and the internet are the biggest barriers to digital literacy training as adult education programs do not have sufficient resources to provide this access to all learners; 2) information literacy training must be provided concurrently with digital literacy training in order for the learner to know how to access, utilize and discern information; 3) digital literacy and information skill gains must be measured in Federal data reporting, and can be done by allowing these metrics to be counted as measurable skill gains (MSGs); and 4) partnerships with local and State organizations can help in increasing access to digital literacy and information literacy training, but Federal supports, including doubling funding for the Adult Education State Grant program, are necessary to ensure access to all eligible populations.
  • Shared public comment in response to IES’ Request for Information on Request for Information on Topics To Address via the National Center for Education Research’s R&D Centers: COABE provided IES with several research questions related to adult education to consider and urged IES to assign one to focus on adult literacy to guide the development and implementation of effective policy solutions.

Recognized Adult Education Champions:

Awarded Our Legislative Champions: COABE presented its “Champion of Adult Education Leadership Award” to several local, State and Federal legislators who have championed adult education issues throughout their legislative careers. The following legislators received the Champion of Adult Education Leadership Award for 2022.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Senator Todd Young (R-IN) Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL)
Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY) Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (D-TX)
Senator Terry Rice (R-AR) Senator Cristina Castro (D-IL) Senator John Crane (R-IN)
Senator Ronnie Sabb (D-SC) Senator Ann Millner (R-UT) Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-CA)
Representative Amy Elik (R-IL) Representative Theresa Mah (D-IL) Representative Michelle Davis (R-IN)
Representative Ben Frederick (R-MI) Representative Carl Anderson (D-SC) Governor JB Pritzker (D-IL)
Governor Andy Beshear (D-KY) Governor Janet Mills (D-ME) Governor Michael Parson (R-MO)
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) Mayor Regina Romero (D-AZ)
Mayor Karen Goh (R-CA) Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D-IL) Mayor Joe Hogsett (D-IN)
Mayor Quinton Lucas (D-MO) Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez of 25th Ward (D-IL) Clerk Anna Valencia (IL)
Cabinet Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez (NM)    


These successes could not have been accomplished without your efforts and advocacy. We look forward to continuing to advocate for adult learners and educators moving forward.

These Legislative Updates are brought to you in part by generous support provided by Essential Education.