Why the Push for
Federal Control of the Classroom?
May 21, 1997
The same Hillary Rodham Clinton/Marc Tucker/Ira Magaziner/Robert Reich
legislation to merge the functions of the Departments of Education and Labor, which
Congress declined to pass last year, is back under a new label and rushing to a House
vote within two weeks. Now called the Employment, Training and Literacy
Enhancement Act of 1997, H.R. 1385, it is a reincarnation of what last year was called
Workforce Development in the Senate bill and CAREERS in the House bill.
The curious effort to combine the funding and functions of the Departments of
Education and Labor is part of the plan to use the schools to serve the needs of the
workforce instead of to educate children. The plan has been extensively described by
Marc Tucker and his National Center on Education and the Economy, whose letterhead
boasts Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ira Magaziner and David Rockefeller Jr.
Why a Republican Congress would want to give any control of public school
curriculum, or of federal education funds, to Labor Secretaries Robert Reich or Alexis
Herman is a mystery.
H.R. 1385 would establish Local Workforce Development Boards composed of a
"majority" of businessmen plus token representatives of schools, colleges and community
organizations. These unelected boards, controlled by the Governor under federal
regulations, would be the gatekeepers for the School-to-Work system authorized by the
1994 federal law of that name.
Each Local Workforce Development Board would submit to the Governor "a
comprehensive 3-year strategic local plan" to identify local industries, job seekers,
workers, training delivery systems, and "the roles of individual employment." The Board
would provide "a description of the steps the local board will take to work with local
educational agencies [i.e., the schools] . . . to address local employment, education, and
Spending "such sums as necessary," these Local Workforce Development Boards
are authorized to decide which training programs will qualify as "full service eligible
providers," and link training services to "occupations for which there is a demand in the
local workforce development area." The notion that a government board can determine
what jobs will be in demand in the future is the dangerous illusion of Robert Reich and
others in the Clinton Administration who admire countries where economic czars control
national industrial policy.
H.R. 1385 would finance computer inputing of students' personal data through the
Labor Market Information Programs. H.R. 1385 would give the Secretary of Labor
powers to coordinate and develop "a nationwide system of labor exchange services for
the general public, provided as part of the full service employment and training delivery
systems of the States."
H.R. 1385 would establish a National Institute for Literacy to "coordinate literacy
services" under "an interagency agreement entered into by the Secretary of Education
with the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Health and Human Services."
Literacy, as redefined by education establishment, has become the trendy jargon
word of the moment. Literacy doesn't mean being able to read your high school diploma;
H.R. 1385 defines literacy as being able "to function on the job."
While H.R. 1385 is being marketed as "job training," it proposes to spend a lot of
money "to make sustainable changes in a family." That sounds more like parent training
than job training.
H.R. 1385 would provide funds for grants and contracts for "Family Literacy
Services," defined in the bill as "training for parents on how to be the primary teacher for
their children and full partners in the education of their children." But who is the other
partner? The village? The federal government?
H.R. 1385 would create a new type of corporate welfare: taxpayer dollars for
"skills upgrading" for those already employed. This probably explains why so many
businessmen think "workforce development" is a neat idea, but there is no indication that
the taxpayers are eager to assume employers' costs of training workers for upgraded jobs.
The unions aren't objecting to this cozy relationship with business because H.R.
1385 would also hand out tax dollars to labor unions for "research and demonstration
projects." Goodies for everyone are designed to buy off all organized groups while the
feds move us toward a nationally planned economy.
Youths deemed disadvantaged would be given "employment opportunities that are
directly linked to academic, occupational, and work based learning opportunities." This
would leverage job placement right into school curriculum, under the supervision of the
Workforce Development Boards.
It's bad enough that H.R. 1385 would reauthorize billions of dollars for job
training programs that the General Accounting Office has branded a failure. But it's
downright ominous the way this bill centralizes power over education in the federal
Departments of Labor and Education, the Governors and their appointees, thereby
bypassing elected school boards and state legislators.
Where are Republican Members of Congress who will stand up and remind us that
the era of Big Government is over?