Morning Must Reads: Training and Education? Let Them Go To The Pittsburgh Opera

When workers lose their jobs in a recession, they have time that could be spent in training programs targeted to the needs of employers. Of course, there is a hitch: during a recession, employers are not hiring, so at the very time there are lots of people available to train, employers don't need new workers. As the economy improves (like it is now), it opens the door to training tied to the needs of businesses that are hiring. 

As the Philadelphia Daily News reports, the Corbett Administration is working hard to miss this opportunity. Funding is being cut for programs aimed at helping low-income workers obtain skills that will allow them to get jobs that pay well enough for them to become self sufficient. The administration is instead seeking to place low-income adults into the very jobs that pushed them onto public assistance in the first place: high turnover minimum wage jobs.

What was it that Marie Antoinette said, "Let them go to the Pittsburgh Opera"?

Philadelphia’s jobs programs, which provide services like literacy classes, job training and resume coaching, have lost about 50 percent of their funding due to state cuts and the loss of federal stimulus dollars. The state offers the programs to welfare recipients and other members of the public to improve their chances of finding employment.

Community Legal Services attorney Michael Froehlich said the cuts will force more people into dead-end work. He argues that people who lack training certifications or degrees are more likely to wind up in minimum-wage, unstable jobs.

If adult job seekers do go to the Pittsburgh Opera, they will likely have some local company. The Corbett administration is lowering state support for home care providers in the Southwest. 

In other training news, the Harrisburg Patriot-News profiles the new president of the Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) and the federal, state and local budget cuts he has to grapple with.

John Sygielski assumed leadership of Harrisburg Area Community College with a good intention: He would ride his bike to work.

The short commute through midtown barely taxed the avid sportsman.

Nine months into the job, the president of Pennsylvania’s oldest and second-largest community college has had to put the bike away...

This week, he prepares to submit to the Board of Trustees the proposed budget for next year — and contend with tough measures in store.

“There will be positions that won’t be filled,” Sygielski said. “There will be some layoffs and there will be some early retirements.”...

In addition to reduced funding and enrollment, HACC’s funding from its 22 sponsoring school districts has also declined. Those school districts have largely responded to their own budget cuts...

Gov. Tom Corbett cut $10 million in state aid to community colleges in his 2012-13 budget plan. The state Senate restored that aid in a budget bill it passed last week, but the outlook in the final budget isn’t certain. Corbett wants a lean budget, and the state House of Representatives still has to weigh in on the spending plan.

The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges said the void would hurt capital projects such as updating labs, equipment and classrooms. Collectively, the state’s 14 community colleges have a list of “shovel-ready” projects that exceeds $100 million, according to PCCC.

Lisa Haver has an excellent op-ed in the Philadelphia Daily News this morning on the School Reform Commission's plan to end public education in Philadelphia.

Since the onset of the privatization movement, entire school districts, including Philadelphia’s, have been placed in the hands of those with no degree or experience in education. The School Reform Commission has appointed the former head of the Philadelphia Gas Works to decide the future of Philadelphia’s schools. [Chief Recovery Officer Thomas] Knudsen may know how to send out a utility bill or shut off someone’s gas, but only a city that is abdicating its responsibility to its children would allow him to decide what is best for the education of our children.

In a similar vein, The Washington Post has reprinted a commencement speech by Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute.

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