Senate Panel Approves Job-Training Measure
Washington--Members of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Productivity agreed late last week on the provisions of a bill to create a program to replace the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (ceta), which is scheduled to expire this September.
The Senate subcommittee members left open, however, the question of how much money to authorize for the new job-training program.
Earlier versions of the bill placed a $3.9-billion price tag on the program for fiscal 1983, a figure considerably higher than the $2.4 billion requested for federal job-training initiatives by the Reagan Administration.
Senator Dan Quayle, Republican of Indiana and chairman of the Senate employment subcommittee, explained that the committee members' decision not to authorize a firm dollar amount for the program was made "in view of the current uncertainties surrounding the budget."
"This seems to me to be the responsible way to proceed," said Senator Quayle, who co-sponsored the bill along with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. "We cannot determine in the authorization process the appropriate level of funding for a single program until we have some understanding of the overall budgetary picture."
The Quayle-Kennedy job-training bill has drawn strong support from the nation's business leaders because it turns over to them a substantial amount of authority to determine how federal dollars will be spent at the local level. Educators, however, have been less than supportive of the measure because they claim that it does not go far enough toward involving them in setting standards for and delivering the program's educational and vocational-training components.
Both Senators Quayle and Kennedy, however, promised at the subcommittee meeting that they were in the process of negotiating amendments to the bill in order to meet those objectives.
"I want to emphasize my conviction that the education system must be a full partner in any job-training program," Senator Quayle said. "I am confident that we can reach a broad consensus on such amendments, which will be presented when the bill is considered in full committee."
"For too long, youth unemployment has been blamed on our schools," echoed Senator Kennedy. "We must and will make education a part of the solution."
Education officials who have followed the job-training bill through Congress said that the Senate education amendments would closely match those in similar legislation that was approved by the House Subcommittee on Employment Opportunities earlier this month.
Those amendments were drafted and offered jointly by education organizations, including the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the National School Boards Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The recommendations, in part, suggest that educators be given an expanded role in the state and local job-training advisory councils created by the bills; that schools be given primary responsibility for delivery of the program's basic-skills and remedial-education components; and that the proposals should recognize state and local standards for ed-ucation programs. Most of those recommendations were included in the House version of the bill, which had been scheduled to be debated by the full House Education and Labor committee last Thursday. That session was postponed, however, and discussion of the $6-billion job-training proposal was rescheduled for yesterday.
The Senate version of the bill creates state job-training programs with allocations to states weighted in favor of areas displaying a high unemployment rate and a large number of disadvantaged workers in its labor force. Eligibility in the program would be limited to those persons who meet the federal government's definition of "economically disadvantaged." States would be authorized to spend their federal allocations on basic and remedial education, on-the-job training, employment counseling, preparation for work, and job referral and placement under the Senate bill.
Local sponsors of the program would be required to spend at least 50 percent of their federal funds for persons 25 years old or younger. Recipients of Aid To Families With Dependent Children benefits and school dropouts would be served in proportion to their percentage of the eligible population in the area.
Federal funds could also be used to train the handicapped, limited-English-proficient workers, displaced homemakers, ex-offenders, alcoholics or addicts, teen-age parents, dropouts, veterans, and older workers who do not meet the federal government's criteria for programs for the "economically disadvantaged."
The Senate bill also maintains the Job Corps program for disadvantaged youth as an independent entity funded at its current level of $585 million.