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School-to-Work Opportunity Act of 1994

A. Purpose of the Act
The School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 (the "School-to-Work Act")(1) is designed to facilitate the creation of a universal, high quality school-to-work transition system. The act uses federal funds as venture capital to underwrite the initial costs of planning and establishing statewide systems that will be maintained with other resources. These systems are to provide all students with opportunities to participate in programs that integrate school- and work-based learning, vocational and academic education, and secondary and postsecondary education.

B. How It Operates
The School-to-Work Act is distinct from other education reform initiatives because it does not create another separate program with federal mandates. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the law helps states and localities to build on and advance existing programs and reforms. In building on existing programs and reform efforts, school-to-work links existing program reform efforts with workforce development and economic development by engaging diverse stakeholders in designing and implementing an integrated system. School-to-work is also linked with the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, which provides a framework for state efforts to improve student academic achievement. Goals 2000 also establishes the National Skill Standards Board that is developing a system of voluntary occupational skill standards.


C. Funding
The School-to-Work Act channels funding to states and local partnerships to create school-to-work systems. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have received noncompetitive school-to-work development grants, which were used to design statewide systems and to write state plans. One-time, five-year implementation grants are awarded through a competitive process when the states present a comprehensive school-to-work plan and demonstrate the capability to implement the plan. Currently, all states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have received implementation grants.


D. What the Act Provides
Under the act, school-to-work systems must be designed to provide all students with the opportunity to participate in programs that

  • Integrate school-based learning and work-based learning
  • Integrate academic and occupational education
  • Include and effectively link secondary and postsecondary education
  • Meet the same academic standards set by the state for all students, prepare students for postsecondary education, and award skills certificates
  • Provide students with strong experience in and understanding of all aspects of the industry students are preparing to enter, including

                   - planning

                - management

                - finances

                - technical and production skills

                - underlying principles of technology - labor and community issues

                - health and safety issues, and environmental issues

  • Provide all students with equal access to the full range of program components and related activities
  • Give students flexibility to develop new career goals over time, to change career majors, and to transfer between education and training programs

E. Who Is Covered
"All students" is defined as meaning "both male and female students from a broad range of backgrounds and circumstances, including disadvantaged students, students with diverse racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, students with disabilities, students with limited-English proficiency, migrant children, school dropouts, and academically talented students."(2)

F. Flow Through
Most of the state implementation grant monies flow through to the local level. All of the funds going to the local level go to local partnerships - entities responsible for operating the programs that comprise the school-to-work system, and that consist of employers, public secondary and postsecondary educational institutions or agencies, educators, labor, and students. Two additional types of local grants have been available directly from the federal government: federal partnership grants for those in states not yet receiving implementation funds, and grants to local partnerships in high-poverty areas.

G. Federal Responsibilities
Federal responsibilities are carried out by the Secretaries of Education and of Labor, who jointly oversee the National School-to-Work Office. In addition to the approval of implementation grants, federal responsibilities include research and development; a program of experimental and demonstration projects; technical assistance; a system of performance measures for assessing state and local programs; and a national evaluation of funded programs.(3)

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