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Education Reporter
Michigan Model Of School-to-Work

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The following speech was given at a conference entitled "What Goals 2000 Means to the States" on Feb. 12 on Capitol Hill.

by Rep. Harold J. Voorhees

A defining moment is before us. Will our schools educate, meaning, to instruct in such a way as to develop the mental, moral, and physical powers of our children, or will schools train, which is defined as causing a person or animal to be efficient in some activity by responding to discipline, instruction, and repeated practice? What will be the future of education in Michigan and in America?

I was in a Senate hearing room when one of Michigan's leading business people turned to me and said, "There comes a time when somebody must say to this child 'you go to college' and to that child 'you go to work.'" My concern is: who is going to play God with the future of our children? What business person, educrat, bureaucrat, or politician will decide what will be the career path, the life calling of our children?

In 1993, the state of Michigan, by legislative action, renounced a state-mandated standard curriculum. Decisions on standards and mandates were left with the locally elected school boards as a local control issue. Likewise, we must not impose on our educators a federally mandated curriculum or standard. Federal agencies and bureaucracies are too cumbersome for an ever-changing and evolving labor market. The marketplace, not a select elitist group either in Washington or in Lansing, should determine the type and quality of education required. We need to have autonomy in order to have diversity.

In a presentation entitled "Educating Our Children; The Challenge of Freedom," Mr. Lloyd Reuss, former president of General Motors Corporation, said: "A third barrier to quality education is centralized regulation and planning which is a failing profession. Central planners on every continent have demonstrated, beyond doubt, that they cannot acquire and manage the enormous volume of information incident to a modern economy, and they cannot begin to comprehend the impressive diversity of the wants and needs of people. This continuing centralization of control and planning over our school systems should be a matter of concern to all of us. Directionally, it is 180 degrees off."

Lloyd Reuss has seen, and we should realize historically, that planned economies and their partner, planned education, are a failure the world around. America was built on the principle that, when we are empowered with the freedom to choose direction for our lives, the result will be a productive society - a greater economic benefit for all people.

I am here today to show you the Michigan Model of School-to-Work, an initiative that is planned education for a planned economy. This plan is destined to fail. This plan is known as the Michigan School-to-Work Initiative, a Federal Implementation Grant Application. This application, and the commitments that were made in this agreement, were never under legislative oversight. Never did it go through an Education Committee in either the Senate or the House. This was a bureaucracy-to-bureaucracy agreement. If we in this country desire to maintain control of our government, we cannot let this happen. We must make sure that, in all our legislation, we have oversight by elected entities.

On May 21, 1996, in a debate on school aid appropriations, an amendment was offered to reject all Goals 2000 and STW money in the state of Michigan. Forty-five members in the Michigan House of Representatives voted to reject all Goals 2000 and STW dollars. In addition, at the Michigan Republican Convention held on May 18, 1996, delegates voted 1375 to 36 in favor of a resolution that states: "Michigan Republicans shall support local school board control over curriculum and standards as opposed to federal mandates as required by the Goals 2000 program."

For an example of why those members voted to reject Goals 2000, let's look at this: In a report entitled "Driving America's Renaissance," the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute states what the Big Three Automakers think of STW. One focus group expressed degrees of cynicism about the STW initiative, labeling it as a "new buzzword that appears to be overworked." This group claimed that there is "lack of clarity about what STW means" and that it is being used to "cover anything that seems at all related to work." What does the Big Three auto industry want? They want workers who have a strong work ethic, punctuality, and reliability - those things that should be a basic part of education.

On page 25 of the Michigan STW Initiative, it says, "students work without pay for two to three hours each day" and "students are able to perform what might otherwise be hazardous order work." Are not both of these statements contradictions of child labor laws in this nation? One could perceive these ideas as a regression in the American labor movement.

As a child proceeds through the Michigan Model STW, page 43 of the Initiative states that "data will be reported in a STW report card which will be shared with state STW partnership network and local labor market areas." We know that proposed amendments to the Wagner-Peyser Act would have established a federal labor market information system. Furthermore, under the proposed federal plan, a federal database would have kept all the information on our children. We must be concerned about the invasion of privacy of our children. How long into the future will the mistake of a particular child haunt him and influence what others think?

Another area of concern is found on page 13 where it states that, "The state initiative will utilize the national industry-recognized skill certificates when developed." This certificate is what I consider to be the control mechanism of the whole plan, whether a child is educated in a public/charter school, a non-public school, or home school. The control mechanism is known as a CIM - Certificate of Initial Mastery. This is a government-controlled passport to work. Our concern is that, with full implementation, a child would not be employed without this Certificate.

Moving along in the Michigan STW Initiative, pages 36 and 37, it outlines the Michigan Comprehensive Career Guidance Program which begins in kindergarten. This program complements the curriculum that is set out in the STW Initiative. As you look at the curriculum, it is not just academic or skill based. In every area, be it elementary, middle, or high school, this following sentence is consistent. It says that "getting along with others and being able to work together, often with individuals of diverse heritage and lifestyles," is an integral part of the program. We know that this intrusion goes beyond academics or skill, to the point of thought and acceptance of lifestyles. This borders on values clarification.

Last year I was here in Washington and met with Congressmen Vern Ehlers and Peter Hoekstra, their staffs, staff members from Congressman Henry Hyde's office, and those who were working on the Careers bill (H.R. 1617 and S. 143). They informed me that what they were working on was not an education bill, but a consolidation of Job Partnership Training grants. I commend you in your efforts to consolidate all of these grants, but I caution you that we must not let job training move into the arena of public education and direct public school curriculum. As you and I work to uphold the Constitution, we realize that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does it say that the federal government should be involved in educating our children. The Tenth Amendment says that the responsibility should remain "to the states and to the people."

I respectfully request that, if you proceed in this endeavor, you strictly adhere to the areas of job training consolidation for adults and that you not, in any way, support the establishment of federal standards for schools. I respectfully request that you consider the resolution that was adopted on Job Training Block Grants by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. We stated in the model resolution, that "federal legislation should be limited to job training issues and should not include education provisions, and that such block grants should not give power to the governors or other government officials to implement such training programs without going through normal state legislative process."

We ask that you not fund the STW program - get the federal government out of the education of our children. In closing, I leave you with a poem written by Judy Howe, an 8-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan:

Yes, I'm little,
And in grade two,
But I've got big plans,
That may surprise you!

I could be an astronaut,
And travel in space,
Or a famous detective
With a dangerous case.

I'll probably play baseball
For a major team,
Or work in a dairy,
Making chocolate ice cream!

I may be a missionary,
Sharing God's Word,
With thousands of people,
Who never have heard.

Yes, I'm little,
And in grade two,
But I know many jobs
That I want to do.

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