Federal support for adult basic education dates back to the Adult Education Act of 1966, which formed part of the Johnson Administration’s War on Poverty. The 1991 National Literacy Act expanded the scope and funding for federal adult education programs. Both laws were replaced in 1998 with passage of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), enacted in 1998 under Title II of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). AEFLA is the primary federal funding source of adult education and finances states to provide adult basic education to individuals lacking high school credentials, or lacking the basic literacy and numeracy skills necessary for employment and self-sufficiency, including but not limited to proficiency in English. The inclusion of adult basic education funding in the Workforce Investment Act reflected a growing emphasis on linking literacy, education, and employment services.

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