Following are excerpts from the transcript of the Jobs and Economic
Development conference committee on Monday, June 25th. 

The entire workforce restructuring bill was being passed that will
centralize all jobs placement, certification, training and employment
services of all kinds in Minnesota under one state agency.  This agency,
in turn, operates under federal directives and accountability,
essentially establishing a federal centralized workforce system.  It is
a breathtaking power grab of central government over private industry
and a free market economy, all in the name of efficiency and growth.

The final question before the committee was a prohibition against
mandatory career tracking.  The motion ultimately failed.  However,
a career tracking prohibition in the K-12 Finance conference committee
actually succeeded in passing later in the week. (More on that later.)

Representative Gerlach introduced the amendment with the following
statement: The issue really is about the role of workforce development, job
training, as it pertains and as it reaches into our K-12 schools, and
the philosophical debate about what our K-12 schools are about.  Are
they places of liberal arts education where one goes and learns things
and makes decisions about what [students] are going to do based on that,
or are our K-12 schools job training centers?

And whereas there is a lot of give and take between those, and we know
that (there is nothing wrong with some vocational training) when it
becomes a priority and the focus of our K-12 schools, that can be a
problem. 

Whereas, it's not necessarily happening right now (we've discussed this
issue), is it happening right before our eyes?  Some places you could
point to and say, maybe there's an overemphasis on vocational training
and less on academics. You could point that out.  In many cases, that's
not the case, but there is concern that as we go down this road, and as
we continue to expand job training through the Workforce Investment Act
and many other things, that this is a serious, serious concern.

In fact we have Minnesota's Workforce Investment Act Youth Program
Implementation Plan put out by the Minnesota Department of Economic
Security.  I have showed this to a few people, but haven't read it for
the record.  There are a few statements in here, but in and of itself,
it's not a big deal.  It doesn't show that it's career tracking, but it
does show that this committee through the Workforce Investment Act does
have its hands and its fingers into K-12.

[For the Workforce Investment Act, Youth Implementation Plan to which
Rep. Gerlach is referring, see:
http://www.mnworkforcecenter.org/wia/unifiedyouthplan.htm]

It says Minnesota will promote youth access to the Workforce Investment
System by establishing linkages with schools and active participation in
School-to-Work systems.  In and of itself, you could argue, what's wrong
with that?  But it does show that what we do here does have an impact
on K-12. 

It says, "Local youth programs will be aligned even more closely to local
labor market needs".  That doesn't sound necessarily like academics in
K-12.  "Young people will be provided with many opportunities for
linkages between academic and occupational learning in both secondary and
post-secondary educational levels."

Again, not a huge problem, but when you weave it together down the road,
it can be.  And that's the concern of a lot of people.  That's why I
bring forth this amendment here, and what I'm looking at is the bottom
portion...where it says "Involuntary career tracking is prohibited under
the WIA or Workforce Investment Act programs and the Job Skills
Partnership board". 

"For the purposes of this paragraph, career tracking means discouraging
or limiting individuals from receiving specific course offerings or
training programs based upon a government entity or a workforce counsel's
preference for an industry, a company, or a skill set, rather than on the
needs, abilities, and desires of the individual."

This paragraph does not prohibit state agencies, local workforce centers,
or job training providers from giving individual adult clients information
about career opportunities that may be appropriate to the individual
skills and abilities.

We've had a lot of give and take on this all through the process
throughout the House and in committee, during markup, during Ways and
Means, on the floor, and throughout this conference committee, and I
applaud your efforts and the Senate DFL efforts in helping to work
through some of these things.  However, we've come to an impasse on
the issue of K-12.  Should this apply to K-12?

We're not really concerned about the adults that are going to Workforce
Centers and about the career tracking issue.  That's never really been
the concern.  The concern is about the overlap between this and our K-12
system.  And I would agree, this is not the K-12 committee, but we do have
an impact on that.  And so this is offered. This is involuntary career
tracking, and I do not understand how anybody could be opposed to
prohibiting involuntary career tracking as it is defined in this motion.

So with that, Madam Chair, unless anybody has anything to say, I would
request a roll call on this issue and we can take a vote on it.

Senator Ellen Anderson: Thank you Rep. Gerlach.

Senator Dave Johnson:
I think it's worth, as you pointed out, the things that we have done to
try and accommodate the concerns of the House on this issue.  As
Representative Gerlach noted, we found common ground and we agreed that
the plan submitted by the Department of Economic Security had a lot of
problems in it, a lot of language in it that did not have input from all
groups, including those groups that were concerned about career tracking. 
And there is language in the bill that will allow all of those--the plan,
and the things associated with the plan, to be looked at by the
transition team, to have the plan rewritten in them, and to have the
opportunity for folks who have problems with it to get those things out. 

And I think that's a good thing to do, I think it was the right thing to
do, and I appreciate and share the concerns of you folks on that.  With
respect to the involuntary career tracking, I think it's worth saying that
we went through a number of drafts to try and accommodate the House'
position on it, even though we came into this under the circumstances that
we did.  I think we came a long way in terms of trying to draft language
that would work for everybody, but I think our fundamental concern was
this: under the circumstances, we are not comfortable passing language
that impacts the K-12 system. 

We deal in this committee on the Senate side primarily with adult job
training.  We are certainly willing, within the jurisdiction and the
comfort range of our knowledge on job training, to adopt language that
prohibited involuntary career tracking. I think that's a huge step,
considering where we started this conference committee. 

For whatever reason, that language wasn't offered, and the reality is,
we do have ...in the K-12 piece of it, because that's not where we deal
with this issue.  I don't think any of us, and it certainly has been my
experience on this conference committee, having served on it a number of
times with Representative McElroy, Representative Limmer and others,
that we don't adopt language about things that we're not relatively sure
about, about things that we're not relatively comfortable knowing what
the impacts of what we did.

One of the things we're also willing to do, we're also willing to study
this issue over the interim, like we did with a couple of the proposals
that were proposed by the Senate that were concerned with on the House. 
So on a number of different levels, we're willing to move this issue
forward, to understand it better, to get beyond the unfortunate
circumstances and rhetoric that we found in our committee, to try and
deal with the issue. 

Because you're right, I don't think that anybody on this side of the
aisle in the Senate feels that we ought to be forcing children into
careers in the K-12 system or otherwise--that's not how we operate. 
Before we start passing sweeping language like this, I think we need to
know its impacts, and I think that's how we've operated in this committee.

So, under those circumstances, I don't think that, you know, it's a good
idea for us to adopt such broad language.  And, um, maybe this is an issue
that we will deal with as time goes on.

Senator Knutson:
The only thing this language does is say, we don't want involuntary
career tracking in K-12 system.  And since there are documents that link
career tracking and this K-12 system with the Workforce Investment Act
and other things, it's certainly appropriate that we deal with this in
this committee, because the money that we use to fund and to work on the
Workforce Investment Act, that goes to help to do the involuntary career
tracking that we say we don't want. 

You've admitted that you don't want involuntary career tracking in the
K-12 system. You're admitting that you want to rewrite the Workforce
Investment Act and the Governor's Workforce Plan, and so I don't
understand why you would oppose this language.

Senator Johnson: 
I think it has been the Senate's position throughout this conference
committee that the Senate does not get into K-12 issues here.  I think we
would not appreciate it if the K-12 committee or any other committee
started passing legislation that deals with job training, that deals with
the department of commerce, that deals with all the areas the...that's
part of the argument.  I think the better argument is that isn't the
expertise of any of us, or at least that's not my expertise...we don't
know the impact of it...

Senator Knutson: 
We do know that we don't want involuntary career tracking in K-12. 
To give yourself some credit, you are versed in K-12. You understand the
implication of this kind of career tracking and don't want to see that
done to students involuntarily. 

This is not over broad. It is very understandable and limited enough to
prohibit something that I don't think anybody wants.  It's become a real
sore point, I know, and it has become bigger than it needs to be, but I
sure would appreciate some Senate support on this issue. 

I think it's the right thing to do, and I think you have come part way by
offering to relook at the plan...

Representative McElroy:
This is an issue that we've spent a fair amount of time on.  I'm going to
vote for the amendment.  I think the amendment is reasonable.
particularly because it says it's prohibited under the Workforce
Investment Act program and Job Skills Partnership board programs.  If we
believe that involuntary career tracking is not good public policy, then
I'm a little surprised at the resistance Senator Johnson stated. 

But it's late.  We have an amendment before us...this issue will not go
away...I do appreciate the fact that we are going to rewrite the plan,
and the advocates will be right there with us, and those of us who
participate will have to be sensitive to this, but I think we should go
ahead and take the vote.

Chair:
Just one final comment.  When Representative McElroy presented our
recommendations to the conference committee of the working group we did
make a commitment on the Senate side that we would compromise on this
issue. And the one piece that we said was absolutely critical for us to
be willing to agree to some career tracking language was to not include
language that would affect the K-12 system. 

Because I was told in no uncertain terms by the education committee,
that THAT WOULD UNDERMINE, THEY WOULD BE VERY OPPOSED TO THAT.
[Emphasis added, editor.]

That they felt it didn't belong in this committee, and I tend to agree
with them. That those are issues that they spend a lot of time on and
that we don't really in this committee the full implications of what is
going on in the K-12 system in terms of voluntary career tracking.  I
just want to make sure, as Senator Johnson said, we had a number of
proposals that back and forth all evening and I think we are very close
to a compromise, so I do want to let folks know that we tried to reach
an agreement. 

We are not unreasonable about this issue, but we certainly don't want to
be opening the door to things that we don't fully have enough information
on.  For example we could spend hours, if we wanted to, really delving
into this report and finding exactly what is going on, if there is
anything that resembles career tracking going on funded under our
Workforce Investment Act.  We don't have any evidence of that, based on
our Senate hearings.  All we had was a bunch of inflammatory rhetoric in
our Senate hearing, in our view, and so it's difficult for us to accept
on faith that this is a problem that needs to be solved.

Representative Lindner:
Based upon what you said about when we first started this evening several
hours ago, it was my impression that why we were taking all this stuff
that we normally wouldn't support was because you were going to vote for
this.  I'm a little disappointed myself that here at the last hour, the
last minute, or maybe the first hour in the morning, you guys are backing
out on your part of the deal on this.

Chair: 
Well, Representative Lindner, as I said, when Representative McElroy and
I sat down and talked about this, I said...that we would agree to
compromise on career tracking language, but we have to remove K-12 from
that.  That was the prerequisite for us to agree, and I made that clear.

Representative Lindner:
That was the whole purpose of, the whole discussion has been about
following these kids from age eight on and making dishwashers out of
them and whatever.  Lord only knows what I would have become if I would
have been in school when I first started.

Chair: Reasonable minds can differ about this particular issue, but I
want to make it very clear for the record that there was an agreement and
we tried in our very best good faith efforts to reach that agreement.  As
a matter of fact, the Senate had an amendment that we could offer if
you'd like that meets the terms of our agreement, but we weren't able to
get all the parties to agree to it.  And that's why Representative
Gerlach feels that this is his only option at this point.  He wasn't
willing to accept the Senate language.  We weren't willing to accept the
House language.  We tried our very best. 

Representative Gerlach:
At some point, you're right, reasonable people can disagree,
philosophical divide. We feel the crux about it is K-12, you feel it
can't be in there, and so, therefore, at that point you come, you vote,
and that's all you can do.

Vote on the amendment:
McElroy--Yes
Gunther--Yes
Gerlach--Yes
Lindner--Yes
Clark--No
Anderson--No
Cohen--No
Johnson--No
Knutson--Yes

The motion failed, because passage requires a majority of votes among
both the House and the Senate conferees