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Re-authorizing WIA
By Michael J. Chapman, Maple River Education Coalition

March 15, 2003

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA), signed by President Clinton in 1998, is due for reauthorization this year (2003). The following is my response to the testimony of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

Background
Sold to the public and Congress as a more efficient welfare-to-work system, WIA is actually one piece of a system meant to merge education, workforce planning, and economic development into, what Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), described as a "seamless system of human resource development that would literally extend from the cradle to the grave, and be the same system for everyone."

Tucker explained how government-appointed economic planning boards would be established to forecast future workforce needs, and how a restructured K-12 education system would then offer narrowly-focused "career clusters" to meet those needs. Students as young as 7th grade would apply to planning councils for approval to enroll. Modeled after the European Polytechnical System, the "human-resource supply chain" would be managed through America's "One-stop Career Center System." (See Tucker's "Dear Hillary" letter, or his book: "Creating a Labor Market System for the 21st Century" published by the NCEE)

The plan became an official goal of the federal government when Marc Tucker, and fellow planner Bill Clinton convinced officials within the Bush Administration (1990) to create The Secretaries Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), under the US Department of Labor. Once Bill Clinton became President, the agenda was broken into several parts and passed one at a time under Goals 2000;, School-to-Work;, and the Workforce Investment Act. Today, all 50 states are in various stages of implementation and system building continues today.

WIA: Management of the System
By compartmentalizing various parts of the system within different departments, the agenda has managed to escape the attention of most. In fact, one may be completely familiar with the Workforce Investment Act and yet not see how it will ultimately interact with its other two components. Even Secretary Chao may not fully understand the system, yet within her testimony are indications that she knows WIA is really part of a larger agenda. For example, she states:

"We must ANTICIPATE the changes resulting from globalization to ensure that the WORKFORCE INVESTMENT SYSTEM addresses CONTEMPORARY WORKFORCE ISSUES and contributes to economic growth." (Emphasis added)

This statement communicates three important points: 1. WIA is part of a larger workforce investment "system." 2. WIA is meant to deal with "contemporary workforce issues" and "contribute to economic growth." 3. WIA is about government "anticipating" our economic future. These aspects of WIA were NOT part of the original "publicly-understood" purpose of WIA, but they fit within the scope of Tucker's Polytechnical dream.

The Transformation Continues
It is clear from Chao's proposal that she was sold on pushing for the next phase of transformation:

"The Administration's proposal is designed, first, to CONTINUE TO TRANSFORM and FURTHER INTEGRATE the One-Stop Career Center DELIVERY SYSTEM into a cohesive workforce investment SYSTEM that can RESPOND quickly and effectively to the changing NEEDS OF BUSINESS and the NEW ECONOMY." (Emphasis added)

Notice that the One-Stop Career Center is called a "delivery system" to be "transformed and further integrated" into the larger system. What will these "one-stops" deliver? Human resources to meet the needs of businesses under a "new economy." Under the new proposal, the system will be expanded in the following 5 areas (according to Secretary Chao):

"Advancing a more effective governance system; strengthening the One-Stop Career Center System; delivering comprehensive services for adults; creating a targeted approach to serving youth; and improving performance accountability."

Advancing the Governance Structure
Secretary Chao's remarks:

"The WIA's vision for implementing a comprehensive workforce preparation and employment system hinged largely on the creation of an effective governance system. ?The Administration proposes strengthening the role of the State and Local Boards? The State Board will still be chaired and directed by business. ?Local Board membership would be streamlined to provide an increased voice for business representatives, community groups and worker advocates. These changes would make the Boards more responsive to local needs. Local Boards would focus on strategic planning?"

To understand the governance structure, one must understand "doublespeak." For example, "worker advocates" is the new PC term for "labor unions." Also, "strengthening the role of local boards" does not mean allowing more local control. Since NONE of the "represented" groups are allowed to VOTE for their own representation, all "strengthening and streamlining" means consolidation of power from the top, down.

Strengthening the One-Stop System
Secretary Chao's remarks:

"The cornerstone of WIA's workforce investment vision was the institution of the "One-Stop" delivery system?"

Marc Tucker also called the "one-stop center system" the cornerstone of his plan. The "delivery system" is where the rubber meets the road. The one-stop system was sold to Congress as an efficient way to provide and streamline several welfare services under one roof. Unfortunately, nobody told Congress there were to be over 1,200 roofs. (There are 53 in Minnesota alone.) Furthermore, the programs are being expanded to benefit ALL PEOPLE ? not simply unemployed adults. The expansion includes everyone from children as young as 14 through WORKING adults who simply want a new career.

"Strengthening" means "increasing funding" to "sustain" the new purpose of the "One-stops." The expanded scope and purpose of these centers will require huge expenditures and likely turn an otherwise worthy goal of helping the unemployed into an expensive boondoggle.

Delivering Comprehensive Services for Adults
Secretary Chao's remarks:

"...the current system faces several barriers to preparing a truly competitive labor force capable of meeting the needs of the nation's employers. The Administration's proposal would...combine the WIA Adult, WIA Dislocated Worker and Wagner Peyser funding streams into a single formula program. This change would...reduce the current complexities of management...giving complete flexibility within the one, new comprehensive program."

Funneling all funding streams into a single "comprehensive program" controlled by fewer people may sound "efficient," but keep in mind, in these terms, "dictatorship" is the most efficient form of government known. The "barriers" are allowing free-market forces to prevail. One barrier, was allowing some "training providers" to opt out of the system:

"Many [eligible training providers] consider the system created under WIA burdensome and have opted out. The Administration's proposal would provide Governors with greater authority to determine what standards, information and data would be required for the eligible training providers in their state. This change would...ensure the continuation....[and make] it easier for training providers to participate in the system."

Let me translate: The Federal Labor Department will "provide" Governors with greater authority to make it more difficult for training providers to opt out! If providers want students, they'll be forced to join the only game in town. It's difficult for free-enterprise providers to compete with government managed and subsidized providers - especially when government sets the standards and requirements they all must meet.

Creating a Targeted Approach to Serving Youth
Secretary Chao's remarks:

"Currently, funds for WIA Youth programs are spread too thinly across the country due to...[a] lack of strategic focus. ... Under our reform proposal, the Department would also award grants on a discretionary basis to high-quality programs that provide activities in a non-school setting that lead to high academic achievement."

Tucker's school-to-work plan includes using the workforce center system to "make connections" between school children and businesses. Children, in a "non-school setting," will take precious time away from their studies to work during the school day. Even though Secretary Chao doesn't mention it here, it is clear that her proposals would allow that scheme to strengthen. Keep in mind, WIA applies to youth as young as 14 (8th grade).

The Department of Labor contracted a study entitled, "Jobs for the Future; Evaluation of the Transition to Comprehensive Youth Services Under the WIA." The report highlights several states which have successfully merged School-to-Work and WIA programs. For example, in Massachusetts, ( according to the report): "More than 13,000 students are using the Work-Based Learning Plan...and school-to-career initiatives...are also strongly committed to it... The One-Stop Centers manage the Center for Youth Internships and Employment and are the point of entry for both out-of-school and in-school youth, ages 14-21.", p.67-68.)

Improving Performance Accountability
Secretary Chao's remarks:

"As part of the Administration's new common performance measures initiative for employment and job training programs, these [WIA, title I] indicators would cut across federal job training programs and would have a common set of definitions and data sets. This would help to integrate service delivery through the One-Stop Career Centers at the local level. Governors would have the authority to add measures for use within their states."

In the language of doublespeak, "accountability" means "conformity" to the federal plan. The federal government will establish a "best practices" set of indicators that will be required of each state. Governors could continue to push the envelope as they are able.

Bottom Line:
Eventually, through the reauthorization and strengthening of WIA, coupled with the continuation of STW and Goals 2000 under "No Child Left Behind," the radical transformation of American Education, Workforce Training, and Economic Planning will be completed.

According to "A Governor's Guide to Creating a 21st Century Workforce" published by the National Governors' Association in 2002:

"The next generation of workforce development policies must engage the private sector and then entire public-private enterprise of training and education, starting in elementary and secondary school and continuing through college and working life. In this vision, workforce policies...are customized to the needs of individuals and employers and are linked closely to the economic priorities of states and communities."

Welcome to America's version of the failed Polytechnical Economic Planning System.

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