As I head to Washington, D.C., for a series of meetings with a number of congressional representatives and staff, I think it is important to underscore the significant changes we are expecting in the federal education landscape.
The changes at the Department of Education—a new secretary and a number of yet-to-be-named assistant secretaries—usher in an atmosphere that will be very different from past administrations. The new leadership will be looking at the private sector, school choice, charter schools, and similar initiatives as potential solutions for how to address high drop out rates, poor school performance, and related issues.
This shift in focus means adult basic education will likely be low on the priority list for attention or support. We will again be challenged with raising the issue and showing how critical adult education is in ensuring successful high school completion and grade school success—not to mention work preparedness. We will need to diligently promote our cause with both the administration and Congress to ensure that we receive attention.
The more ominous challenge, however, is the likelihood that the efforts to support budget increases for defense, homeland security, and other areas means that there will need to be significant reductions to education and social service programs. Because many of the programs that support our efforts are relatively small, such as WIOA, Americorps, TANF, and others, they could get swept away within the larger reductions of entire appropriations.
It is going to be more critical than ever that we stand ready to make our case quickly and effectively if, and when, these reductions are suggested. This could occur during the next budget discussions, which will likely be in March, April, or even sooner if recommendations are made during the final budget reconciliation process for fiscal year 2017.
Once we determine the size and scope of possible reductions, we will need your support and assistance to make our voice heard quickly and loudly. To this end, we will try to keep you updated, and we will strive to be specific when asking for help contacting key administration and congressional representatives. Generating local support will be critical to ensure that our position is heard.
We look forward to reporting on the changes, challenges, and opportunities ahead. We will update you on this evolving situation after our first round of contacts in Washington.