Adult education in the United States of America: A critical examination of national policy (1998-2014)


  • Marcella Milana
  • Lesley McBain



Adult Education Policy, United States of America, Workforce Investment Act, Ideologies


Under the Bill Clinton’s administration, the U.S. approved the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998; the backbone for public adult education in many states. But since its expiration (2003), and despite multiple attempts, the Act lacked reauthorized until summer 2014, when a Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act was signed into law. In this contribution we examine how broader Republican and Democrat party-values feed into the legal debate around the reauthorization of the 1998 Act, and whether the ‘great recession’ has had a detectable influence. Our findings pinpoint at a slow but steady across-party alignment in linking adult education to occupational skill training, and English-language instruction to civic learning, while tightening standards and accountability measures for states, thus conditioning curricular content, but also opening to new providers. While this still hides party differences that extend conservative vs. liberal party-sponsored ideologies to the policy debate on adult education, it is such alignment that allowed stricter conservative ideals to gather consensus.


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How to Cite

Milana, M., & McBain, L. (2014). Adult education in the United States of America: A critical examination of national policy (1998-2014). Encyclopaideia, 18(40).