School to Work after the School to Work Opportunities Act

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School to Work after the School to Work Opportunities Act In July 1994, Congress passed the School to Work Opportunities Act (STWOA), allocating funds to establish statewide partnerships designed to prepare students with knowledge and skills required for employment in the workplace. Recent reports show that STW has varied considerably across these partnerships, resulting in differing views on the viability of its programs. Now that federal funding from STWOA has ended, what is the aftermath? What are the chances for sustaining STW now that funding has ceased? To what extent have STW efforts been institutionalized and supported by local business? How do the perceptions and commitment of teachers, educators, students and parents influence the self-sustaining future of school to work (STW)? This Myths and Realities looks at the issues as they apply to life after STWOA. State Policies and Funding Strategies Ensure that STW Programs Are Sustained There is no doubt that state policy to advance activities started under the federal grant will be a major factor in the sustainability of STW (Miller and Fleegler 2000). Already, some states have taken the initiative for bringing higher standards to education by offering incentives for business to participate in STW programs. In Colorado, for example, the General Assembly passed a law in 1997 giving businesses a 10 percent tax credit for participating in its School-to-Career program (Eslinger 1998). In Connecticut, efforts to sustain STW have involved the hiring of an STW coordinator whose main responsibility is to focus on community outreach (Cutshall 2001c). Commitment is the key where state policy is involved. Alan Hershey, a senior fellow with Mathematica Policy Research Inc. in Princeton, New Jersey, has evaluated the progress of STW for the U.S. Department of Education. He predicted that unless states are actively committed to STW, the partnerships established through the STWOA would dissolve once federal funding ceases. States such as Michigan and Wisconsin will likely fund or find ways to use employment and training and technical education dollars to fund STW activities because they are committed to STW, as evidenced by their record (Kiser 1999). In Wisconsin, "85% of the school districts receive STW funds and 93% of high schools are involved in STW" (Hettinger 1998, p. 23). When states are as heavily committed to the tenets of STW as these two states, they are likely to find other funding sources to continue their STW programs (Hettinger 1998). Not all states, however, have been able to muster enthusiasm for STW.

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