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4 States Have School-to-Work Laws Like Clinton Proposal

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WASHINGTON--Only four states have already passed laws requiring the kind of comprehensive school-to-work system proposed by President Clinton, according to a report by the General Accounting Office.

The study, released last week, cites Florida, Oregon, Tennessee, and Wisconsin for adopting legislation during 1991 and 1992 that requires the delineation of academic and occupational competencies for students, career education and development, extensive links between schools and employers, and meaningful workplace experiences.

But even in those states, the researchers found, "implementation progress has been limited,'' and the efforts are still in their infancy.

For example, Florida and Wisconsin each began training their first 20 youth apprentices in the 1992-93 school year. Oregon and Tennessee will pilot their first youth apprenticeships this year.

The study, conducted between November 1992 and May 1993, was based on a telephone survey of all 50 states and on site visits to one district in each of the states that has passed a comprehensive school-to-work policy.

Officials in nine other states--Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, California, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, Arkansas, and New Jersey--reported that they are considering adopting comprehensive school-to-work strategies.

Roadblocks Cited

State and local officials cited a number of obstacles to the creation of such programs. These include a lack of information on what others have done, employers' reluctantance to provide workplace experiences, parental aversion to enrolling their children in school-to-work programs, and educators' belief that the targeting provisions in some federal programs limit the use of those funds for school-to-work initiatives.

The federal government could help, the G.A.O. suggests, by disseminating information on the lessons learned from state and local school-to-work initiatives. The government could also provide advice on how schools might use existing categorical monies in school-to-work programs, perhaps through waivers.

President Clinton's proposed "school-to-work opportunities act,'' sent to Congress last month, would allow states to apply for waivers from some federal regulations.

To maximize any federal investment in school-to-work programs, the G.A.O. suggests funding only comprehensive proposals and evaluating whether they produce "meaningful outcomes,'' such as better employment and earning patterns.

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