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Efforts To Implement Welfare Law Found Thwarted

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While states have taken "promising'' steps toward implementing the education components of the federal welfare-reform law, their efforts have been thwarted by inadequate funding, poor coordination of services, and uncertain goals, a new study concludes.

The study by the Southport Institute for Policy Analysis, a research organization headquartered in Washington with an office in Southport, Conn., evaluated the basic-education provisions of the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training Program, which was enacted as part of the Family Support Act of 1988 to steer welfare recipients toward education, training, and employment.

The analysis was based on literature reviews, consultations with welfare-policy and adult-education experts, and a national survey of state welfare officials. It also reflects in-depth case studies of five states--Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Indiana, and Kansas.

Recognizing that education is critical to promoting self-sufficiency, state êïâó programs have placed a strong emphasis on basic-skills instruction, the study indicates. Researchers found that more êïâó participants are enrolled in basic education than in any other êïâó activity at any given time.

'Heavy Burdens'

But a "major deficiency,'' the report states, is that goals such as self-sufficiency--and the educational steps needed to reach them--have not been defined well enough to guide policy.

The study also contends that, "rather than providing a bonanza of funding for adult education,'' a provision in the law barring the use of êïâó funds for services states and localities were providing before êïâó was enacted has imposed "heavy burdens on existing sources of funding and service systems.''

In most states, participants are placed in traditional adult-education programs that "were never designed primarily to prepare people for work and cannot accomplish this without major modifications,'' the study says.

"Solving these problems is essential, because education and training is the only way to solve the nation's welfare problem,'' said Forrest Chisman, the president of the Southport Insititute and a co-author of the report.

The report, which also highlights barriers to JOBS implementation posed by outside factors such as a lack of jobs and affordable health care, offers detailed recommendations for federal and state governments and for Congressional action on how to redefine and coordinate employment and education goals and services under JOBS.

Copies of the report, "The Promise of JOBS: Policies, Programs and Possibilities,'' are available for $17.95 each from the Southport Institute for Policy Analysis, Washington Office, 820 First St., N.E., Suite 460, Washington, D.C. 20002.

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