President’s Budget Eliminates Key Data Grants, Proposes New Access to Wage Data

Christina Pena
February 13, 2018

The Trump Administration released its budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 on February 12. The budget eliminates two state grant programs that WDQC has supported for connecting education and workforce data. In one bright spot, however, the budget proposes expanding access to wage data for performance measurement and evidence-based policymaking.

Funding proposals related to workforce data include:

  • Eliminating the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) program. This competitive grant program funds states to match education, training, and employment data to evaluate workforce outcomes and develop consumer information tools. The President and House moved to eliminate WDQI in FY 2018. The Senate proposed keeping $5 million for the program, but the government has yet to agree on final funding for FY 2018. The DOL Budget in Brief provides no specific reason for eliminating the program in FY 2019.
  • Eliminating the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grant program that has helped states to link pre-K through postsecondary data to evaluate student outcomes over time. The elimination accounts for a part of the overall reduction in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) funding. ED’s Budget Summary states that this competitive grant program “has fulfilled its original purpose and is no longer necessary.” The Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), previously funded under the SLDS program, would continue under the Statistical program at IES. 
  • Funding the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at $609.4 million. This slight increase over the enacted FY 2017 level still falls short of accounting for inflation since 2010. WDQC previously joined other organizations in calling for at least $641 million to ensure BLS could conduct analyses of employer-provided training and other programs on a regular basis to fill data gaps.
  • Providing $3.8 billion to the Census Bureau. The significant increase accounts for the 2020 Decennial Census with major field operations beginning in 2019. On the other hand, the Commerce Department’s Budget in Brief says, “planned enhancements to data management and analytic capacity will be reduced,” although “work will continue on evidence building pilots involving veterans, manufacturing, employment, and student loans.” 

On a more positive note, which reflects WDQC’s advocacy for improved, secure access to administrative wage data, Chapter 6 of the President’s Analytical Perspectives acknowledges broad recommendations from the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and proposes a new initiative to allow wider access to the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), which maintains quarterly wage data. The access would apply “to units within Federal agencies that conduct research, statistical activities, evaluation, and/or performance measurement associated with assessing labor market outcomes.” The proposal would enable:

  • DOL and ED to use NDNH data to conduct program evaluations on employment and training programs, including for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
  • State agencies with WIOA responsibilities to match their data with NDNH for program administration, including program oversight and evaluation of WIOA and other DOL and ED employment and training programs.
  • Authorization of “data exchanges between state child support agencies, state agencies that administer workforce programs, and state agencies that administer Adult Education and Vocational Rehabilitation to improve coordination between the programs.”

Potentially holding additional implications for inter-agency use of data, in March, the Administration will release the President’s Management Agenda. The Administration hopes to improve data efficiencies and transparencies by modernizing the government’s information technology. The Administration also promises to undertake specific reviews of important agency structures and activities such as “streamlining Federal statistical functions across multiple Federal agencies.”

The President’s budget now goes to Congress. Congress had not enacted a full-year 2018 Appropriation at the time the budget was prepared, so the budget assumes accounts are operating under the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2018, which runs until March 23. As part of the Continuing Resolution (CR) passed on February 9, Sec. 306 of the CR Supplemental appropriation included Grants to States for Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments. The grant program will allow states to set aside up to 10 percent of the funds from these grants for evaluation activities, and the Secretary of Labor will later submit to Congress a report describing promising interventions used by states to provide reemployment assistance. The FY 2018 CR Supplemental also included the “Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act” which requires meeting predetermined successful outcomes before receiving payment, as well as supplemental funding for conducting Census activities required for Decennial Census preparations.

WDQC will continue to analyze the President’s FY 2019 budget and advocate for sufficient funding to enable the use of data for improving workforce development at all levels of government.

For more information on workforce programs in the FY 2019 budget, visit the National Skills Coalition’s Skills blog.