Budget Proposal Aggressive on Data

by Rachel Zinn
February 2, 2015

The Obama Administration today released a proposed 2016 Budget with significant funding increases and legislative proposals designed to make better use of data to improve workforce and education policies.

Funding proposals for data improvements include:

• Nearly tripling funding for federal grants that support state longitudinal data systems. The Budget requests $70 million for state longitudinal data system (SLDS) grants awarded by the Department of Education and $37 million for Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grants overseen by the Department of Labor.

• $41 million increase for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including funding for improvements to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which provides information about labor market conditions, wages and skills of jobs created versus destroyed, and employer perception of opportunities. It also supports a supplement to the Current Population Survey to provide better data about worker flexibility and entrepreneurship.

• $20 million increase for the Workforce Information line item in the Department of Labor budget. Of this, $15 million will support research on occupational licensing requirements and state activities to promote license portability. The other $5 million is for modernization of O*NET data on occupations and skills.

• $16 million for postsecondary data improvements, which includes upgrades to the Department of Education’s student loan data system and increased frequency of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) on student demographics and experiences.

• $10 million in additional funding for the Census Bureau to build its capacity to link data from different sources and more effectively share data with researchers while protecting sensitive information. It would also fund an interagency commission to make recommendations on using administrative data, which is similar to a recent bill introduced last year by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray (H.R. 5754/S. 2952).

The Budget also calls for legislative changes that would increase access to valuable administrative data already collected by the federal government.

• Allow federal agencies greater access to the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), which contains nationwide wage records. The proposal would enable use of wage records to more accurately assess the employment outcomes of federal education and training programs. WDQC supported a similar proposal that was considered in the Senate last year.

• Eliminate the ban on a national Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) database. A federal database with information about participants in WIOA-funded workforce development programs would reduce the burden on states to track participants and help determine which programs are really helping people get sustainable employment.

• Expand access to business tax data for federal agencies, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to improve the quality of key economic information.

The Budget now goes to Congress, which will be responsible for determining government-wide funding levels for 2016. In the coming months, WDQC will work with its partners to evaluate these Budget proposals and communicate to Congress the importance of improving data that helps our nation’s human capital policies succeed.