Education and Employment Issues: Issue Area Plan for Fiscal Year 1997-99

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-05-01.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States General Accounting Office

GAO             Health, Education, and Human Services

May 1997
                Education and
                Employment Issues

                Issue Area Plan for Fiscal
                Year 1997-99


               As the investigative arm of the Congress and the nation’s auditor, the
               General Accounting Office is charged with following the federal dollar
               wherever it goes. Reflecting stringent standards for objectivity and
               independence, GAO’s audits, evaluations, and investigations promote a
               more efficient and cost-effective government; expose waste, fraud, abuse,
               and mismanagement in federal programs; help the Congress target budget
               reductions; assess financial and information management; and alert the
               Congress to developing trends that may have significant fiscal or
               budgetary consequences. In fulfilling its responsibilities, GAO performs
               original research and uses hundreds of databases or creates its own
               databases when information is unavailable elsewhere.

               To ensure that GAO’s resources are directed toward the most important
               issues facing the Congress, each of GAO’s 32 issue areas develops a
               strategic plan that describes the significance of the issues it addresses, its
               objectives, and the focus of its work. Each issue area relies heavily on
               input from congressional committees, agency officials, and subject-matter
               experts in developing its strategic plan.

               The work of the Education and Employment issue area focuses on the
               education provided in early childhood and elementary and secondary
               education programs, youths’ and adults’ access to higher education and
               employment training, employers’ efforts to locate qualified job candidates,
               and the quality of the nation’s workplaces. The principal issues are

           •   using federal resources to support and encourage state and local efforts to
               provide education programs that will enable all youths to obtain skilled
               jobs and become informed citizens;
           •   ensuring that eligible students have access to quality higher education
               while encouraging cost-containment for education programs and
               protection of federal education funds from fraud and abuse;
           •   helping individuals acquire the skills needed to become productively
               employed and helping employers locate qualified job candidates; and
           •   improving protection for workers while reducing the burden for employers
               in complying with workplace regulations.

               In the pages that follow, we describe our key planned work on these
               important issues.

               Page 1                                                            GAO/IAP-97-10

Because events may significantly affect even the best of plans, our
planning process allows for updating and has the flexibility to respond
quickly to emerging issues. If you have any questions or suggestions about
this plan, please call me at (202) 512-7014.

Carlotta C. Joyner
Director, Education and
  Employment Issues

Page 2                                                        GAO/IAP-97-10

Table I: Key Issues
Table II: Planned
Major Work
Table III: GAO

                      Page 3   GAO/IAP-97-10
Table I: Key Issues

Issue                                                        Significance
Preparatory education:                                       In school year 1996-97, the nation will spend over $300 billion on
Is the federal government using its education resources      elementary and secondary education. Although the federal contribution is
effectively to support and encourage state and local         only about 7 percent of this amount, the federal spending leverages much
efforts to provide education programs that will enable all   of the state and local spending. Total spending is up, but per-pupil
youths to obtain skilled jobs in the economy of the 21st     spending has leveled off since 1989. At the same time, the proportion of
century and to become informed citizens?                     poor school-aged children has steadily increased. The administration has
                                                             made education its highest priority issue. The Congress also is now
                                                             supporting an increased federal role in quality education initiatives. This
                                                             interest responds to significant public concern about the quality of
                                                             American education.

Higher education:                                            The Department of Education is concurrently operating the direct and
How can the federal government’s goal of ensuring that       guaranteed student loan programs. It faces the challenge of efficiently
eligible students have access to quality higher education    and effectively managing both programs along with other student aid
be met while encouraging cost-containment and                programs. We have identified the student aid programs as a high-risk area
preventing fraud and abuse with respect to federal           because the programs’ structure and weaknesses in departmental
resources?                                                   management place millions of dollars in student aid funds at risk for abuse
                                                             and mismanagement. Also, the demand for federal financial aid resources
                                                             has grown as increased tuition at both public and private schools has
                                                             placed a greater financial burden on students and their families. Between
                                                             1980 and 1995, the cost to attend a 4-year public college or university
                                                             rose by 234 percent, nearly three times the 82-percent increase in the
                                                             median household income.

                                               Page 4                                                                     GAO/IAP-97-10
                                               Table I: Key Issues

Objectives                                                                    Focus of work
1.Assess how well federal, state, and local management practices              •Management practices and internal controls of federal
contribute to the effective use of federal education funds.                   education programs
                                                                              •Education achievement and accountability
2.Identify ways various federal education funding formulas and state          •Targeting in federal and state school funding formulas
school finance systems could better target resources to special-needs         •Technology needs of educational institutions
students.                                                                     •Alternative school management and parental choice
                                                                              options, such as charter schools
3.Identify ways to encourage effective use of classroom technology that       •Promising public/private partnerships in the delivery of
supports the achievement of high academic standards for all students.         education services
                                                                              •Consolidation of federal education programs serving
4.Identify and describe issues associated with various methods for            children and youths
achieving equity in financing and providing elementary and secondary
education services consistent with federal goals.

5.Identify ways to consolidate overlapping programs, functions, and
units to eliminate duplication and unnecessary costs.

1.Identify ways the government can more effectively deliver student            •Operation of student aid programs
financial aid.                                                                 •Student aid data systems
                                                                               • Efforts to collect student loans and prevent defaults
2.Evaluate the adequacy of the government’s processes for determining • Better targeting of financial aid
schools’ eligibility to participate in federal student financial aid programs. • Escalating costs of higher education
                                                                               • Reauthorization of Higher Education Act
3.Assess how financial and management information systems can better
support student aid programs and minimize potential abuse and

4.Assist the Congress in identifying ways to minimize the cost of college
to students while ensuring needy students access to appropriate
postsecondary education.

5.Provide information and analytical support to the 105th Congress
during its deliberations in reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.


                                               Page 5                                                                         GAO/IAP-97-10
                                             Table I: Key Issues

Issue                                                       Significance
Workforce skills and jobs:                                  A strong, internationally competitive economy depends, in part, on
How can the United States better assist workers in          effectively preparing workers to compete in the workforce and efficiently
acquiring the skills needed to become productively          helping employers locate qualified job candidates. The federal
employed and help employers locate qualified job            government has invested considerable effort and resources towards this
candidates?                                                 end, spending about $20 billion in fiscal year 1995 supporting
                                                            employment and training programs spread across 15 different agencies.
                                                            However, rather than a coherent workforce development system, a
                                                            patchwork of federal programs continues to exist with similar goals,
                                                            conflicting requirements, overlapping target populations, and
                                                            questionable outcomes. Legislation has been considered, but not
                                                            enacted, to simplify and streamline this complex array of programs. In
                                                            addition, recently passed welfare reform legislation, with its emphasis on
                                                            work, is likely to affect the nation’s job training system.

Worker protection:                                          Technological and organizational change, the globalization of the
What changes in work place regulatory strategies would      economy, and reduced federal resources are calling into question the
improve the level of worker protection while minimizing     strategies many federal agencies use to regulate the work place.
employers’ compliance burden?                               Strategies are needed that effectively combine basic worker protections
                                                            with autonomous employee participation and enhanced employer
                                                            flexibility. In addition, changes in household and workforce demographics
                                                            are signaling the growing necessity of a regulatory framework that strikes
                                                            a healthy balance between work, family, and community activities without
                                                            compromising national economic competitiveness. Ensuring the rights of
                                                            workers, while minimizing the regulatory burden on employers, is a
                                                            subject of considerable congressional interest.

                                             Page 6                                                                      GAO/IAP-97-10
                                               Table I: Key Issues

Objectives                                                                 Focus of work
1.Identify ways to move toward a comprehensive workforce                   •State efforts to consolidate programs
development system.
                                                                           •Response of job training programs to welfare reform
2.Identify ways to improve the effectiveness of employment training
programs for economically disadvantaged youths and adults,                 •Job training services to target populations
veterans, dislocated workers, and the disabled population.
                                                                           •State and private sector involvement in job training
3.Assess the quality and access to local labor market information by
program operators, employers, and the unemployed.                          •Use of local labor market information

1.Describe and evaluate current and alternative work place regulatory      •Implementation of alternative regulatory strategies
activities and broader strategies.
                                                                           •Changes in applicability of existing regulatory protections
2.Identify the implications for regulation of emerging trends in private   to current work place conditions
sector work place practices and organization.
                                                                           •Issues related to balancing productive work practices
3.Assess the consequences for work place regulation of recent              with family needs
developments in workforce and family demographics.

                                               Page 7                                                                     GAO/IAP-97-10
Table II: Planned Major Work

Issue                        Planned major job starts
Preparatory education        • Assess how well Head Start, child care, and prekindergarten programs collaborate to
                             meet the needs of children under welfare reform.
                             • Review the implementation and effectiveness of Title I programs.
                             • Evaluate the burden of federal education regulations and the success of regulatory
                             flexibility in easing that burden.
                             • Describe the impact of illegal immigrants on school systems.
                             • Assess how much of the federal education dollar gets to the student.
                             • Describe current state and local commitments to fund school construction.
                             • Assess how federal funds flow to charter schools.
                             • Assess selected management issues at the Department of Education.

Higher education             • Determine whether students are receiving financial aid in excess of their cost of
                             • Assess the appropriateness of administrative costs for the direct loan program.
                             • Examine opportunities for more cost-efficient operation of guaranty agencies in
                             Federal Family Education Loan Program.
                             • Assess the Department of Education’s efforts to integrate the separate student aid
                             data systems.
                             • Evaluate the effectiveness, accuracy, and security of the Department of Education’s
                             National Student Loan Data System.
                             • Assess schools’ use of the National Student Loan Data System to determine
                             students’ eligibility and to improve the accessibility of financial aid data.
                             • Describe Department of Education’s efforts to reduce loan defaults at Historically
                             Black Colleges and Universities and other colleges.
                             • Assess the equity of how campus-based funds are awarded to colleges.
                             • Identify ways the needs analysis formula might be adjusted to better target aid.
                             • Assess how student debt burden changes borrowers’ behavior after leaving college.

Workforce skills and jobs    •Evaluate the response of state employment training systems to welfare reform.
                             •Assess state efforts to develop one-stop career centers to help streamline employment
                             training assistance.
                             •Assess the quality and use of local labor market information by employers, the
                             unemployed, and state employment training service providers.
                             •Evaluate Job Corps’ management information and performance management systems.

Worker protection            •Assess the flexibility of Labor’s H-2A Agricultural Guestworker Program to respond to
                             employer demands for additional foreign workers while maintaining protections for
                             domestic farmworkers.
                             •Assess the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s implementation of
                             partnership initiatives as an alternative regulatory strategy.
                             •Evaluate the effectiveness of Labor’s efforts to ensure the accuracy and reliability of its
                             Davis-Bacon wage determinations.
                             •Analyze trends in workforce coverage of key federal work place statutes, including the
                             Fair Labor Standards Act and the National Labor Relations Act.
                             •Examine private and public employers’ experiences in the substitution of
                             compensatory time for overtime pay.

                            Page 8                                                                        GAO/IAP-97-10
Table III: GAO Contacts

                      Carlotta C. Joyner     (202) 512-7014
                      Cornelia M. Blanchette (202) 512-8403
Associate Director
                      Catherine Baltzell
Assistant Directors   Joseph Eglin, Jr.
                      Harriet C. Ganson
                      Lawrence Horinko
                      Charles A. Jeszeck
                      Eleanor L. Johnson
                      Sigurd R. Nilsen
                      Wayne Upshaw

                      Page 9                                  GAO/IAP-97-10
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