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At Confirmation Hearing, Reich Pledges New Investment in Education, Training

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WASHINGTON--Transition activities continued to move at a fast pace last week as confirmation hearings on President-elect Bill Clinton's Cabinet nominees began and Mr. Clinton received reports on pending education-policy issues.

At his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Labor, Robert B. Reich told members of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee that one of his top priorities would be to create a pathway to good jobs for the 75 percent of young people who do not complete four years of college.

He also suggested that the nation consider some type of certification system for technical workers without college degrees, a proposal that has received wide backing in the business and education communities.

Mr. Reich, a lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, emphasized that America's economy will be defined in the future by the "skills and the capacity'' of its people.

He pledged to make the Labor Department the "department of the American workforce--a center of America's strategy for economic growth.''

The appointment of the 46-year-old lawyer, one of Mr. Clinton's closest friends and economic advisers, is widely viewed as a means to elevate the status of the department.

Interagency Cooperation

Mr. Reich also told panel members that revised estimates regarding the ballooning federal deficit, released last week, would not deter the incoming Administration from its long-term commitment to invest in education and training, even as it works to reduce the debt.

Mr. Reich pledged to work with the Education Department, other federal agencies, and the states on a number of job-training issues, including the creation of school-to-work transition programs and the conversion of military jobs to peacetime employment.

He also stressed the need to integrate the more than 100 federal job-training programs into a comprehensive system of "one-stop shopping'' for prospective workers.

But he said the problems of displaced workers and the noncollege-bound are "so large'' that attempts to review and coordinate existing programs should not delay the creation of new initiatives on their behalf.

Finally, Mr. Reich said that "national service is an idea whose time, in my opinion, has come.''

And he denied press reports that he is rethinking his commitment to impose a 1.5 percent payroll tax on employers to support worker training.

Mr. Clinton's choice for Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley, has also promised cooperation on issues that cut across federal agencies. (See story, page 1.)

Shalala to H.H.S.

Another Cabinet post with implications for education policy, Secretary of Health and Human Services, will be filled by Donna E. Shalala, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin.

Ms. Shalala, a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton, had been most frequently mentioned as a candidate for the Education Secretary's post. Most of her academic work has focused on school finance, governmental organization, and urban-development issues.

She succeeded Ms. Clinton as the chairwoman of the advocacy group Children's Defense Fund, and is also the chairwoman of the research-and-development advisory committee of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

She has held the chancellor's post since 1988, and was previously the president of Hunter College in New York City. She also served as an assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Carter Administration.

Her confirmation hearings may prove more contentious than those for Mr. Reich and Mr. Riley.

Ms. Shalala, who has been tagged with the nickname "the high priestess of political correctness,'' is widely considered to be the most liberal of Mr. Clinton's Cabinet appointments.

Observers say Ms. Shalala has most recently earned her reputation for her efforts at the University of Wisconsin to increase minority representation, introduce a more multicultural curriculum, and establish a speech code.

The agency Ms. Shalala is to head is one of the government's largest. It manages early-childhood-education programs, including Head Start, welfare initiatives, and child-nutrition and -vaccination efforts.

Mr. Clinton's choice for Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders, is another potentially controversial appointment. As director of the Arkansas Health Department, Ms. Elders has been a strong supporter of school-based clinics that distribute contraceptives.

Transition News

In other transition developments:

  • Mr. Clinton has received reports from teams charged with recommending legislative policies and strategies in the areas of education and training, child welfare, and student aid.

The latter paper focuses on the President-elect's promise to allow all students to borrow for college and pay back the money through community service or payroll deductions. (See story, page 1.)

A transition aide said the education and training report recommends which programs Mr. Clinton should try to enact early in his Presidency and includes suggestions for implementing his campaign pledge to establish a national apprenticeship program.

Aides have said Mr. Clinton may opt to propose quick passage of legislation similar to S 2, a bill that died at the end of the last Congress. It included provisions establishing a federal role in developing national standards and testing and a grant program to support the development of state and local reform plans. (See Education Week, Dec. 9, 1992.)

Aides said, however, that Mr. Clinton has made no decisions on education policy issues yet.

  • With Cabinet officers selected, the job of filling sub-Cabinet posts--a task that is headed by Mr. Riley--has begun in earnest.

Transition officials said that no education posts had been filled as of late last week, but that some of those selections could be made as early as this week.

  • The "cluster groups,'' charged with studying the structure of individual agencies and pending issues new Cabinet members will need to address, completed their work last month.

The team studying the Education Department under the direction of Johnnetta B. Cole, the president of Spelman College, met informally with representatives of education groups before completing its mission. Participants said the upcoming reauthorization of elementary and secondary education programs was the main topic.

Transition aides said Mr. Riley and Mr. Clinton are considering suggestions for altering the Education Department's administrative structure.

  • At his economic summit last month, Mr. Clinton heard from the presidents of the nation's two largest teachers' unions--Keith B. Geiger of the National Education Association and Albert Shanker of the American Federation of Teachers. Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the C.D.F., also testified.

Other participants echoed their calls for increased spending on education and child-welfare programs.


Senior Editor Lynn Olson contributed to this story.

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