In the study, New Skills for a New Economy: Adult Education's Key Role in Sustaining Economic Growth and Expanding Opportunity, MassInc offers six suggestions for improving adult education to alleviate Massachusetts' basic work skills deficiency. Adult education programs everywhere can benefit from these suggestions:
1. Offer weekend classes-while a significant number of Adult Basic Education (ABE) class registrants indicate a preference for studying on Saturdays, less than two percent of ABE classes are currently offered on that day. There are no classes offered on Sundays, and registrants are not asked whether they would like to study on Sundays.
2. Retain experienced full-time teachers - although full-time teachers are signficant determiners of program quality, just over one-third of Massachusetts' ABE teachers work full-time. 3. Technology and distance learning - increase the availability of these flexible learning options.
4. Funding - most ABE funds are presently granted to community-based private providers who arrange classrooms and hiring on a class-by-class basis. MassINC argues that this arrangement makes the system more fragile than if the funds were directed at institutions with permanent staff and infrastructures.
5. Intensity of instruction -short, intensive classes appear to yield better results than brief periods of instruction conducted over a long period of time.
6. Link ABE to the workplace - offer classes in workplaces, with employers paying employees to attend at least half of the class
The non-partisan American think tank, MassINC, reports that over one-third of the state of Massachusetts' workers are deficient in the basic skills required to succeed in the new economy. The conclusion is drawn in a December, 2000 study entitled, New Skills for a New Economy: Adult Education's Key Role in Sustaining Economic Growth and Expanding Opportunity.
This summary focuses on the skills required by information age employers, skills held by the labor force in Massachusetts, and MassInc's six smart ways to improve adult education.
What do employers want?
In 1995, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published the results of an international adult literacy survey (IALS) in the report, "Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society." The study compared adult literacy skills in twelve countries, including the English-speaking nations of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
IALS examined three types of literacy:
Prose - the ability to understand and use information from texts such as editorials, news stories, poems and fiction.
Document - the ability to understand and use information in various formats, including job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables and graphics.
Quantitative - the ability to apply arithmetic operations in activities such as balancing a chequebook, calculating a tip or determining interest on a loan.
Survey participants were graded on a five level scale:
Level 1 - very low level literacy - may not be able to determine an appropriate dose of medication from its label.
Level 2 - low level literacy - can perform simple tasks using material that is simple and clearly laid out.
Level 3 - basic literacy - the minimum desirable level by employers in most countries.
Levels 4 and 5 - high literacy - able to integrate several sources of information and solve complex problems.
Factors such as computerization, technological change and global competition have led to greater demands upon employees. Employers increasingly demand minimum literacy levels of 3 or higher from their workers.
MassINC found that 1.1 of Massachusetts' 3.2 million working age adults lack the skills and education necessary to succeed in the new economy.
This skills deficient group can be divided into three categories:
280,000 adults lacking a high school credential - Workers lacking a high school diploma or equivalent have been the hardest hit by labor market changes in the past twenty years.
667,000 high school graduates whose literacy skills have slipped below level 3 -Studies have shown that when it comes to literacy skills, individuals must "use it or lose it." Employees who finished high school and worked for years in jobs requiring literacy levels of only 1 or 2 have now lost their ability to function at level 3 or higher.
Adult Basic Education
MassINC examined Adult Basic Education (ABE) in Massachusetts. This includes classes in basic literacy, General Educational Development (GED) preparation (high school equivalency), and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).
* ABE students increased from 14,557 in 1994 to 24,581 in 2000
* the demand for ABE classes exceeds supply, based on ABE waiting lists
* over 50% of ABE participants showed learning gains
* almost 1/3 gained more than two grade levels
Cold War Panel Turns Focus to Terrorism
By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, July 22, 2004; Page A19
The Committee on the Present Danger was relaunched this week -- the reincarnation of the 1950s and then 1970s group that lobbied for fighting Soviet communism. But this time the committee, a group of mostly Cold War warriors and neocons, is fighting global terrorism.
In full-page ads in The Washington Post and the New York Times yesterday, the committee said it "will raise a unified voice for a policy of national resolve in the War on Terrorism. We are joined together by the recognition that no accommodation can be made with terrorists and that democratic values must be affirmed to provide lasting peace."
The committee makes clear in the ads and on its Web site (www.fightingterror.org) that the terror is "inspired by radical Islamists."
Peter D. Hannaford, a legendary communications consultant who was a key adviser to Ronald Reagan's presidential campaigns, notes that the committee is bipartisan. It is chaired by R. James Woolsey, director of central intelligence in the Clinton administration. The honorary chairmen are Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).
Hannaford said the committee was resurrected after "a series of conversations I had with a variety of friends -- Republicans, Democrats and independents -- [that there] ought to be an advocacy group on fighting the war on terror."
"Like everyone else, I've thought a lot about the war on terror," Hannaford said. He noted that he has represented six Arab or Muslim nations in the Middle East and Asia, but none currently.
As of yesterday, there were 50 members, including Henry Cooper, former director of the Pentagon's Strategic Defense Initiative; Midge Decter, former director of the Committee for the Free World; Richard Fairbanks of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former special Mideast envoy; Frank J. Gaffney Jr., president of the Center for Security Policy and an aide to the late senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (D-Wash.); Max Kampelman, ambassador and head of the U.S. delegation to the negotiations with the Soviet Union on nuclear and space arms in Geneva; Jeane Kirkpatrick, former ambassador to the United Nations; Dave McCurdy, former Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee; former representative Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.); and Dov Zakheim, former undersecretary of defense.
The committee is organized as a 501 (c)(4) entity, which can lobby but not support or oppose political candidates. It will have to do some fundraising to finance its work, Hannaford said. Initial costs have been paid by a grant from two businessmen, whom he declined to identify except to say they are not defense contractors.
Under One Roof
Johnette McCrery, wife of Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), is becoming a spinmeister in Washington in an effort to bring the family under one roof on a regular basis.
She and their two young children have been living in Louisiana, where she has been a professor teaching public relations and communications at Louisiana State University at Shreveport, while he has been in Congress and commuting home.
"We decided we needed to be a family together most days of the week," she said. Her husband, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, considered retiring from Congress, she said, but she decided to find a job in Washington.
Starting the second week of August, McCrery will be a vice president of Ketchum Public Affairs. She said she will be doing PR, not lobbying.
Philip A. Musser, former aide to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson and former HUD secretary Mel Martinez, has returned to the Dutko Group Cos. He had worked for Dutko's state and local lobby firm K*N*P before joining the Bush administration. Musser most recently was part of a team that organized the G-8 Summit in Sea Island, Ga.
Speaking of HUD . . . retiring from the department after more than 30 years, Ken Markison has joined the Mortgage Bankers Association as senior director and regulatory counsel in the government affairs department. At HUD, he was assistant general counsel for government-sponsored enterprises and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.
William R. Deere has left the State Department, where he was deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs, for the U.S. Telecom Association. As vice president for government affairs, Deere will lead the group's lobbying efforts on the Hill.
At USTA, he succeeded Brad Edwards, who left this year to set up a lobby shop with lobbyist and Hill veteran Jeffery Walter -- the Walter/Edwards Group.
Furthermore . . .
David Yudin, who retired last month as chief lobbyist for the Washington office of the mayor of Chicago after 13 years, is setting up shop in the District. Yudin was succeeded by Peter Halpin, a veteran Democratic lobbyist.
The Business Software Alliance has taken on two new folks: Dexter Ingram, a staff member of the House Homeland Security Committee, as director of information security policy, and Wendy Rosen, former press secretary for Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.), as director of public relations/policy.
Updating the American League of Lobbyists' Capitol PurSuit Drive last week: The league with a lot of help on the Hill collected more than 7,000 items of clothing that will be donated to low-income job applicants.
The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled today to take up a spending bill for the Transportation and Treasury departments -- the bill that traditionally sets the annual civil service raise.
Reps. Steny H. Hoyer(D-Md.), Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) plan to propose an amendment that would provide white-collar and blue-collar federal employees with a 3.5 percent raise in January.
The pay amendment, a Hoyer aide said, reflects the view of the House, which voted 299 to 126 in March to give civil service employees the same pay raise as military personnel.
Congress is on track to provide a 3.5 percent raise next year to the military, and Congress has backed a "pay parity" policy in 19 of the past 21 years, advocates of that approach point out.
The Hoyer-Wolf-Moran amendment is similar to last year's provision, which provided a 2004 average pay increase of 4.1 percent, the aide said. In addition to giving equal pay raises for military and non-military employees, the amendment would ensure that the government's blue-collar workers keep pace with white-collar employees when locality adjustments are made.
The amendment would leave it to the Bush administration to determine how much of the pay raise should be allocated to across-the-board increases and how much to locality adjustments, the aide said.
Hoyer, Wolf and Moran hope to win the support of Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) for the higher raise. Young has supported the parity approach in past years.
Last week, eight Washington area House members, including Reps. Thomas M. Davis III(R-Va.) and Jo Ann S. Davis (R-Va.), who oversee federal workforce issues, wrote Young to urge his support for the higher civil service raise.
The pay amendment may prompt some debate in the committee. The Bush administration recommended a 1.5 percent raise as part of the president's fiscal 2005 budget, an increase that Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.) has called "more than fair." Increasing the raise by 2 percentage points will cost agencies $2.2 billion, according to Istook.
Supporters of parity raises counter that federal policy calls for providing raises comparable to those in the private sector, as measured by a Labor Department index of wages and salaries.
Hoyer also will propose that the Appropriations Committee go on record to reaffirm support for the hiring of disabled people at federal agencies, the aide said.
A recent report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that from fiscal 1993 to fiscal 2002, the percentage of people with disabilities decreased in the federal workforce at a much faster rate than in the general workforce.
Hoyer's proposal would direct the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management "to assess the causes of the negative findings discovered by the EEOC report, and within 90 days develop and report to Congress a plan of action to reverse these troubling trends."
This week, Hoyer wrote White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. to "express my great concern" about the EEOC data, which showed the proportion of disabled workers in the government had dropped by 12.49 percent. Hoyer, who was the chief House sponsor of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, urged Card to direct agencies to find out why the hiring of the disabled has declined.
In Other Legislation . . .
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee yesterday approved, by voice vote, a bill that would set up a program to provide supplemental dental and vision benefits to federal employees and retirees at group rates. Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the bill's chief sponsor.
The committee also approved a bill, sponsored by Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Collins, that would strengthen protections for federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse. The bill would clarify definitions and standards used in court proceedings.
In the House, the Government Reform Committee approved, by voice vote, a bill that would eliminate "open seasons" in the Thrift Savings Plan. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Tom Davis and Jo Ann Davis. Last week, the Senate approved its version of the legislation.
FOR EVIDENCE that votes are bought and sold in Congress, look no further than Tuesday's House vote on accounting rules for stock options. Fully 312 members supported a bill that makes no policy sense whatsoever but that was supported by a coalition of free-spending lobbyists representing venture capitalists and high-tech firms. Fresh from that victory, the lobbyists are descending on the Senate. It is vital that Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), the majority leader, support Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), the banking committee chairman, in his stated intention of blocking this legislation. Otherwise, other special interests will want to purchase special accounting rules for their own variously special purposes. Ordinary investors will suffer, and so will the fair and transparent capital markets on which prosperity depends.
The House bill's purpose is to squash an accounting rule proposed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which would require that employee stock options be treated like any other form of compensation: as an expense reported in corporate income statements. The accounting experts at the FASB have deliberated long and hard about how this expense ought to be calculated, they have heard from outside companies and financiers, and their recommendations closely resemble accounting methods that have been embraced in Canada and Europe. Already 120 out of America's top 500 companies have adopted the FASB's recommendation before being required to, belying suggestions that it is somehow impractical. And yet a majority of the House (that well-known repository of accounting expertise) has voted to block the FASB rule.
In place of the FASB rule, the House offers something that would be comical if the stakes were not so serious. First, it lays down that companies should account for the cost of options given to the top five executives only; this is like saying companies should account only for the top five salaries (all other employees' pay being somehow costless). Second, the House proposes that options should be valued according to a formula that presumes stock prices aren't volatile, a hypothesis you won't find in many finance textbooks. And in the first three years after a company goes public, there would need be no accounting for any employee stock options at all. This would pump up young firms' apparent profits, assisting the venture capitalists who take them public and then sell their own stakes. But what is the accounting principle implied here? That business costs somehow evaporate and then materialize according to how long a firm has been publicly owned?
The point of accounting rules is to give investors accurate information about the state of a firm's finances. If the rules permit expenses to be concealed, investors won't know how to value corporations; they won't allocate savings to the firms most likely to use them productively, and economic growth will slow. The idea of Congress overturning an expert attempt to forge sound accounting rules is inimical to American capitalism. Unfortunately, it is not inimical to the spirit of American politics.