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

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 Briefsays, “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.” 

 FY19 Pres Budget Proposal Table

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.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign
New WDQC fact sheet highlights expert recommendations for stronger workforce data

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking that was established by legislation sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), proposed actions in September 2017 that are mostly consistent with WDQC’s recommendations.  These actions would change how the government uses the data it already collects, and would improve the quality of information policymakers have about federal investments. 

WDQC has produced a new fact sheet: Adopt These Expert Recommendations to Strengthen Workforce Data, which summarizes some of the Commission’s key recommendations that could bolster workforce information, including:

  • Creating a secure national data matching service,
  • Producing a single source of quarterly employment data,
  • Reconsidering bans on data collection and use; and,
  • Establishing stronger capacity for program evaluation through the creation of dedicated chief evaluation officers and increased coordination across agencies.

The House of Representatives recently passed legislation that addresses some of the first steps toward implementing the Commission’s vision, including the establishment of chief evaluation officers, chief data officers, an interagency advisory committee, and updates to privacy and security law. WDQC published a blog summarizing that legislation.

WDQC looks forward to providing additional information in the future, and working with other interested parties to make progress on this important agenda.

 

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
Advisory Group to Secretary of Labor Grapples with Opportunities for Strengthening Labor Market Information

The Workforce Information Advisory Council (WIAC), the expert group representing national, state, and local data users and producers, met recently to shape their recommendations for the Secretary of Labor. The topic of wage record data arose several times, and echoed WDQC’s administrative wage record agenda to improve information for workforce data consumers.

WIAC members have developed a number of draft recommendations that could improve workforce and labor market information. Some of these recommendations would call on the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to:

  • Maintain or fund a comprehensive resource of credentials, including certificates, degrees, industry certifications, and licenses, to ensure data quality and to promote a common understanding of what these credentials mean in the labor market;
  • Expand and more frequently update information available on occupations, including skill requirements, and the transferability of skills between occupations and industries;
  • Require or incentivize the enhancement of state quarterly Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records by including additional data elements, such as occupational title, hours worked, and work site.  

WIAC members discussed the obstacles toward enhancing wage records. Wage record enhancement would require expertise to cross-walk job titles with occupations, as well as more time upfront to clean the data after adding new fields. Adopting requisite technology would be costly and challenging for some states. Moreover, some business and state workforce agency leaders might doubt the value of enhancing wage records, and anticipate that such changes would require more time and resources from them.

Nevertheless, enhancing wage records could be beneficial in that:

  • The LMI system could gain more insight into full and part-time work and occupations, and the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program could produce a sustainable wage time series analysis – resulting in better information on the emergence, growth, and decline of occupations;
  • Students would have a better indication of which education and training programs could lead them into well-paying careers;
  • Businesses could benefit from improved analyses of retention and recruitment decisions;
  • Educators and workforce boards could see more evident career pathways and skills gaps;
  • UI agencies could eventually lower benefit pay-out as alignment of education with business needs improves. Students would have greater prospects for employment and retention as they obtain relevant knowledge and skills for in-demand occupations.

In addition to discussing what the DOL could do to improve workforce and labor market information, the WIAC discussed recommendations from the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. The Commission recommendedcreating a national service to securely match data across agencies. They also recommended creating a single federal source for quarterly wage record data.

WIAC meeting attendees considered the challenges of establishing a single source of state quarterly wage data at the federal level. They referred to the U.S. Census Bureau’s challenges in reaching and sustaining agreements with each state for the Census’ Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) program that holds data on wage records for very restrictive uses. Moreover, some WIAC members echoed the ongoing concerns of state agency representatives who felt that their agencies have been short-changed by not receiving data from the federal government, such as IRS data, in exchange for providing their state wage record information. They also expressed concern about the Commission’s proposal to group state agency representatives in the same category as external researchers when accessing the Commission’s proposed National Secure Data Service, since external researchers would be required to incur fees. State agencies thought this unfair, given that they would be providing data to the service.

On the second day of the meeting, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta briefly addressed the WIAC to convey his vision for greater emphasis on skills development and outcomes, rather than on the number of people served by the workforce system.

Overall, the WIAC is giving substantial consideration to putting the nation on a path toward better workforce outcomes. In the coming months, WDQC looks forward to seeing and sharing the WIAC’s next round of draft recommendations, and providing comment.

Further reading:

  • For background documents on the WIAC convening, including subcommittee draft recommendations, visit the WIAC website and click on the tab labelled “Meetings.”
  • See this WDQC fact sheet on why having information related to occupation on wage records would be more valuable than having information only on industry-type.
Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign
Update: House Passes Evidence-Based Policymaking Bill

Bill H.R. 4174 passed the House by unanimous voice vote on November 15, 2017.

The version that passed the full House was somewhat different than the version that passed Committee. The summary below still applies, except that the Interagency Council on Evaluation Policy has been removed from Title I.
The Senate must now consider the bill. 

Original article: House Committee Passess First Bill to Impement the Recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

On November 2, the U.S. House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform passed H.R. 4174, the Foundations for Evidenced-Based Policymaking Act, by a voice vote.  H.R. 4174 is the first bill based on the recommendations of the Commission on Evidenced-Based Policymaking. The Committee acted just one day after the bill had been introduced, suggesting the high priority placed on the legislation. The bill is sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).  A Senate companion bill is sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

Speaker Ryan and Senator Murray had earlier led Congressional efforts to establish the 15-member Commission. The Commission was charged with making recommendations to strengthen the availability of data for evidence-based policymaking. Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) testified before the Commission, and submitted written recommendations in collaboration with colleague organizations. The Commission’s September 2017 report is mostly consistent with WDQC’s recommendations.

Title I of H.R. 4174 would require each federal agency to develop a plan for evidenced-based policymaking. The plan would include policy questions, and descriptions of data collection and analytical methods. Each agency head would appoint a Chief Evaluation Officer who would assess the agency’s evaluation capacities, develop the agency’s evaluation plan, and would be charged with the plan’s implementation. The Director of the Office of Management and the Budget (OMB) would coordinate the agencies’ efforts.  Each agency director would also appoint a statistical official to guide the agency’s statistical activities, and OMB would establish the Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building that would make recommendations for expanding access to and using federal data for evidence-based policymaking. In addition to federal representation, the Advisory Committee would include at least ten expert members who represent state and local governments, as well as nongovernmental stakeholders.

Title II is the Open Government Data Act. The Title would guide agencies on making federal data open and accessible to the public. Agencies would consider statistical data to be open by default, unless there are explicit restrictions that prevent access, for example, due to reasons of national security. Title II directs each agency to conduct, and make publicly available, a comprehensive inventory of the data collected or maintained by the agency. The Administrator of General Services would maintain a Federal Data Catalogue of federal data assets, including information on how the public can access the data. Finally, the head of each agency would designate a career appointee as a Chief Data Officer who would be responsible for managing the agency’s data assets. OMB would coordinate the Chief Data Officer Council which would advise agencies on best practices in data management.

Title III addresses the protection of confidential information partly through updating the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA). It would restrict the disclosure of individual information, without the consent of the individual. Title III also addresses statistical efficiency, for example by directing agencies to avoid duplication in the collection of data from businesses.

H.R. 4174 is expected to be the first of several bills that would codify the Commission’s recommendations. In 2018, additional legislation is expected to establish the National Secure Data Service that would match data sets from multiple sources to create linked data to inform evidence-based policy. An anticipated third round of legislation would, among other actions recommended by the Commission, identify a single federal source for wage records. The Commission did not recommend what that single source should be.

WDQC will continue to provide input, and monitor and share these legislative developments as they occur.

 

-This blog was updated to account for the change made between the original and new version of the legislation; removing reference to the Interagency Council on Evaluation Policy consisting of the Chief Evaluation Officers.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

USDA launches SNAP E&T data grants

  ·   By Christina Pena
USDA launches SNAP E&T data grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a new grant opportunity for states to improve their data collection and reporting systems for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAP E&T).

All 53 state agencies that administer SNAP may apply for this competitive grant. USDA will select up to nine states to receive awards of $300,000 to $1 million each. Selected states may use the funds over a three-year period to accomplish one or more of the following activities:

  • Training and capacity building, including improving data quality;
  • Developing IT systems to support the collection, reporting, and analysis of data; and/or,
  • Conducting other program improvements that help participants move toward stable, good jobs.  

These activities can help states develop their data systems to meet SNAP E&T national reporting requirements that were set forth last spring. In particular, USDA aims to strengthen states’ ability to use administrative data, including quarterly wage record information, to more efficiently capture the employment and wage outcomes of SNAP E&T participants to monitor program success.

Applications are due by July 31, 2017. For complete information and application instructions, see Funding Opportunity Number SNAP-ETDATA-2017 at Grants.gov.


*Workforce Data Quality Campaign is a project of National Skills Coalition. This blog was originally posted on the WDQC website. 

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

DOL Announces 6th Round WDQI Grant Recipients

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
DOL Announces 6th Round WDQI Grant Recipients

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has awarded $11.4 million in its sixth round of Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grants. This funding helps states analyze the effectiveness of workforce and education programs, and develop consumer information tools.

The WDQI grants were awarded for two different purposes. DOL awarded six grants of about $1 million each to Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Missouri to develop or enhance workforce longitudinal data systems. DOL also awarded two $2.7 million “super grants” to Mississippi and Rhode Island to integrate case management, performance reporting, or fiscal reporting systems with their longitudinal data system. With the exception of Texas, few states have integrated operational systems with longitudinal data systems.

The funding amount is about double the available funds predicted in DOL’s request for proposals, because the grants now include both FY16 and FY17 appropriations.

DOL first offered WDQI grants in 2010, to supplement funding provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) Grant Program. The previous five rounds of WDQI funding provided approximately $45 million to help states build or expand workforce longitudinal databases.

President Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget eliminated WDQI funding. However, we will continue to advocate for increased funding of state longitudinal data systems, so that states may gather more information about their education and workforce programs.

 

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign
Federal and State Agencies Tackle WIOA Reporting

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) last week released guidance on data sources for reporting on employment outcomes under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), as state agencies continue working to fulfill the law’s performance requirements.

WIOA calls for programs to report on participants’ employment outcomes by matching their data with quarterly wage records collected by the state through Unemployment Insurance (UI) administration. The guidance explains what state and local agencies should do when wage records are unavailable, as in situations when participants:

  • Do not have a Social Security Number on file, so wage record matching is not feasible
  • Are federal or military employees, or self-employed, so wage records do not exist
  • Work in another state and wage records cannot be accessed through a multistate exchange

In these cases, DOL will allow several types of supplemental data sources, including tax documents, pay stubs, employer records, and follow-up surveys.

When calculating employment-related performance metrics, states must include all participants in the denominator, including those without wage records. So states have a clear incentive to find supplemental data whenever possible, to reduce the portion of participants counted as unemployed. National Skills Coalition — WDQC's parent organization — expressed concerns in comments to DOL about the potential burden on states and threats to data quality from widespread use of supplemental data.

DOL offers multiple resources for state and local officials to assist with WIOA performance mandates, as noted in this recent presentation. For example, this web page contains links to guidance letters, reporting templates, and individual record layouts.  

Some states are still struggling to implement WIOA reporting requirements, according to a brief survey by WDQC and the University of Chicago’s Center for Data Science and Public Policy (DSaPP).

Based on responses from about a dozen states, the biggest challenges include setting up data sharing agreements and reaching consensus on the details of data element definitions. Several states also expect to have data missing in performance reports from non-public training providers, such as for-profit career schools.

To assist states with reporting on eligible training providers, DSaPP is creating a set of open source software modules called the Training Provider Outcomes Toolkit (TPOT), and WDQC is documenting state approaches for overcoming technical and policy challenges. For more information about reporting tools, please contact Christina Sung at csung1@uchicago.edu

 

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

FY18 Budget Eliminates Workforce Data Grants

  ·   By Rachel Zinn,

The President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) calls for significant cuts to workforce and postsecondary education programs, including elimination of the $6 million Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grants.

FY18 House Budget on Data

The Budget, released yesterday, fills in program-level details for the "skinny budget" agency toplines published in March.

It maintains funding at $34 million for the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, but zeroes out the companion WDQI program at the U.S. Department of Labor, which helps states to upgrade data for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting and conduct research to improve multiple workforce programs. Budget documents acknowledge that WDQI grants support data systems that "have provided valuable information to consumers, practitioners, policymakers, researchers and evaluators about the performance of education and workforce development programs," and justifies their elimination only by saying that "the Budget shifts responsibility to States" for these systems.

Other programs that produce critical data on workers and the economy are generally level-funded. The Budget maintains funding at $68 million for the Department of Labor's line item for workforce information and electronic tools, and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) funding stays about the same at $608 million. Even though funding is maintained, the agency's Budget In Brief notes that "BLS may need to implement programmatic reductions that may temporarily affect the quality and quantity of select BLS products."

The Budget shifts resources within the $1.5 billion Census Bureau request to increase funding for the 2020 Census by $128 million. It cuts allocations for current surveys and the American Community Survey.

Although the Budget includes a chapter about the importance of data and evidence, WDQC is concerned that requested funding levels do not adequately support the development of high-quality workforce data. We will help educate members of Congress about data-related programs as they consider the President's Budget and determine FY18 appropriations. 

For information on proposed Budget reductions for job training grants, career and technical education, and other programs, read this blog from National Skills Coalition.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Congress Releases FY17 Appropriations Bill

  ·   By Rachel Zinn,
Congress Releases FY17 Appropriations Bill

Update: The FY17 omnibus appropriations bill became law on May 5, 2017.

Congress is expected to vote later this week on an "omnibus" appropriations bill to fund federal government operations for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), which runs through September 30, 2017. The proposed legislation, released Sunday night, largely maintains current spending levels for workforce data.

In the proposal, funding for the Department of Labor's Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grant remains at $6 million, but the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education get a haircut, decreasing by $2 million to a level of $33 million. The SLDS grants are administered by the Institute of Education Sciences, which overall receives $605 million, a reduction of $13 million. 

Bureau of Labor Statistics funding holds steady at $609 million, and the proposal maintains funding at $68 million for the Department of Labor's line item for labor market information and electronic tools. These levels do not include requested increases to modernize data on occupations and skills, research license portability, and create a technology platform to display customer satisfaction with federally-funded workforce services.

The Census Bureau receives a $100 million increase to assist with preparations for the 2020 census, but the omnibus funding of $1.47 billion does not include requested increases for current surveys that provide critical information about workers and the economy.

An explanatory statement contains detailed funding levels for the Departments of Labor and Education, and for the Department of Commerce, which includes the Census Bureau. 

In February, WDQC worked with several partner organizations to send a letter urging Congressional appropriators to maintain or increase funding for critical line items supporting postsecondary and workforce data.

For information on proposed appropriations for major workforce programs, read this blog from our parent organization, National Skills Coalition.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

DOL Announces New Round of Data Grants

  ·   By Christina Pena,
DOL Announces New Round of Data Grants

The U.S. Department of Labor invites State Workforce Agencies to apply for a new round of Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grants, including a new “super grant” that will allow one state to integrate case management, performance reporting, and/or fiscal reporting systems with the state’s longitudinal data system.

DOL’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) plans to award about three grants with a ceiling of $1 million each for states to use over a three-year period. Agencies may use funding to create and enhance longitudinal data systems that help analyze the performance of education and employment training programs, and produce user-friendly information for workforce customers. 

In addition, ETA will award a new “super grant” of up to $2.7 million. This effort aligns with language in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that requires states to operate fiscal and performance management systems, but would leverage the significant federal and state investments in longitudinal data systems.

Few states have connected their longitudinal data systems with operational functions like case management and performance reporting, instead using the systems for research and analysis. One exception includes Texas, which has an integrated case management system for many of its workforce programs.

This is the sixth round of WDQI grants, which DOL launched in 2010. WDQC has called on Congress and the administration to increase funding for the program.

The deadline for applications is May 4, 2017.

Further information:

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign
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