Legislative Activity

Effective Apprenticeships Rebuild National Skills (EARNS) Act

Members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce introduced two bills that seek to promote fair union elections and restore important protections for workers and employers. The first is the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (H.R. 2776), introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions. The bill seeks to protect worker freedom by addressing the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) ambush election rule and micro-union scheme. The second, introduced by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), is the Employee Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 2775), which will roll back NLRB policies that may jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families.

House Expresses Concern on Job Corps

Last week, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) sent a letter to the Department of Labor (DOL) to express concerns over challenges facing the federal Job Corps program, as well as to request detailed information on steps the Department is taking to improve the health and safety of those who participate in the program. In 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was signed into law to modernize our nation’s workforce development system. The legislation enacted several reforms to help put more Americans back to work, including provisions to improve Job Corps. However, the Committee is concerned about multiple reports, including from DOL’s Inspector General, which they say have revealed mismanagement of the program.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, June 14, the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions has scheduled a hearing to consider the following legislative reforms to the National Labor Relations Act: H.R. 2776, Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act; H.R. 2775, Employee Privacy Protection Act; and, H.R. 2723, Employee Rights Act. The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Thursday, June 15, the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development has scheduled a hearing titled “Helping Americans Get Back to Work: Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.” The witnesses will be announced.

Regulatory Activity

Secretary DeVos Testifies on Department of Education Budget

Last Tuesday, June 6, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS), about President Donald Trump’s budget request, which proposes cuts of more than 13 percent to the Department of Education. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chairman of the Subcommittee, told Secretary DeVos that the President’s proposed cuts are not likely to occur. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) expressed her frustration with the Department’s rejection of Upward Bound applications over formatting errors, and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) showed concerns over cuts to Impact Aid, which provides funds to school districts on nontaxable federal lands.

Democrats on the Committee, including Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) explained the ways their respective states will be harmed by the proposed budget cuts. Additionally, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the LHHS Subcommittee, pressed Secretary DeVos on her plans to thoroughly respond to letters requesting information. Secretary DeVos replied that the Department had sent responses to over half of the letters already, and that they would continue to respond to requests for information.

The LHHS Subcommittees in the House and Senate will markup their bills in the coming weeks, with hopes to get them done before the August recess.

Higher Ed Regulations

The Department of Education must take action before a July 1 deadline on two major Obama-era rules that affect colleges and universities, particularly for-profit schools. The first, the borrower defense to repayment package of regulations, includes new standards for debt relief for defrauded student loan borrowers, expanded powers for Department regulators, and a ban on mandatory arbitration agreements at colleges. The second, the gainful employment rule, cuts off federal funding to career colleges, mostly for-profit schools, where students end up with high student debt relative to their earnings. The administration may further delay both rules until they make a decision on whether to try rewriting them.

The California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools, a trade association for California for-profit colleges, has sued to block the entire package of borrower defense to repayment regulations. Meanwhile, a report published by the Center for American Progress and written by a former Obama administration official who helped create the rule, says the typical graduate of programs would benefit greatly from the federal government’s income-driven repayment plan, which lets students pay a percentage of their income for 20 or 25 years and then forgives the remaining debt.