The House of Representatives education committee approved a bill Thursday that would officially create a federal job training program for community colleges that President Bush has heralded.
The provision creating the $250 million Community-Based Job Training Grants program was part of larger legislation adopted by the Education and the Workforce Committee Thursday, H.R. 27. The bill, which was drafted by the higher education subcommittee last week, would renew the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which provides the legal underpinning for most of the country's job training programs. The legislation provides no actual funds -- only Congressional appropriators do that -- but the authorizing language sets budget ceilings and must be in place for the programs to take effect.
The measure approved Thursday would allow appropriators to provide as much as $250 million a year in grants to community colleges to collaborate with local businesses and job training boards to train employees for fast-growing, high-skill fields that lack workers.
The education panel approved an amendment -- crafted by a leading Republican, Howard P. (Buck) McKeon of California, at the urging of community college lobbyists -- that would restrict funds in the program to two-year institutions.
Officials at some for-profit institutions had expressed interest in gaining access to the funds. And in a move that surprised community college officials, lobbyists for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, which represents four-year institutions, had made entreaties in recent days about getting a piece of the pie, too.
After it learned of the state college association's efforts, the American Association of Community Colleges sent a letter to the education committee's leaders Tuesday urging them to "oppose any amendment that seeks to make other grantees eligible for" the job training funds.
The legislation will now go to the full House for consideration, and the Senate is expected to begin work on its version of the measure soon.