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Calif. Competitiveness Panel Issues Plan

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School choice, a longer school day and year, and mandatory English-comprehension programs are needed to help bolster California's economy and attract new industry to the state, according to a bipartisan report that recommends a host of reforms to state leaders.

The report by the Council on California Competitiveness--impaneled by Gov. Pete Wilson and chaired by Peter V. Ueberroth, the businessman who organized the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles--concludes that state legislators must consider the state's shifting economy in making policy decisions. In the past 18 months, the panel says, the largest state has lost more than 500,000 jobs while recording more than 600,000 new residents.

"People are coming, but jobs are going,'' Mr. Ueberroth said in releasing the report last month. "California has become a costly and difficult place to do business. Adopting our proposed measures will change that.''

While the state's worker's-compensation system, state regulations, and legal obstacles were among the panel's main targets, the report argues that the state is also hampered by a poor education and job-training system.

To that end, the group issued five recommendations, including stricter cost accountability, a statewide open-enrollment plan, an extra hour per school day and a 200-day school year, English-comprehension requirements for 3rd graders, and expanded career training for 11th and 12th graders.

"The state spends nearly $30 billion a year [on education] with dismal results; the problems are huge,'' the report says. The 17-member panel cites continuing troubles related to dropouts and language barriers.

The report asks businesses in California to suspend any plans to move jobs out of the state for the next year as state officials attempt to implement reforms. The group is calling for efforts to retain aircraft and aerospace firms, adopt policies that would encourage manufacturers to expand, recruit new high-technology businesses, and relax rules for small businesses.

The panel went to great lengths to underscore its warnings.

"Unless its recommendations are adopted, the council warns that the state risks bankruptcy and each Californian risks losing their current standard of living,'' the report says. "California needs to let go of the dream that companies are fighting to come to this state.''--L.H.

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