The U.S. Conference of Mayors


WHEREAS, sweeping changes are posing new challenges to the upward mobility of workers into the middle class, as well as to American prosperity more generally; and

WHEREAS, more that 37 million people in the U.S. are officially poor today despite the fact that one-half of poor families are now working; and

WHEREAS, to successfully boost economic opportunity and grow the middle class, the U.S. must broaden investments in poverty policy from their focus on helping yesterday's workers to boosting the prospects of more of tomorrow's workers; and

WHEREAS, this approach gives lower income Americans the tools to help themselves, positions the government to achieve long-term savings as the need for today's poverty-related programs declines, and - most importantly - takes advantage of some of the key opportunities to reduce poverty that have been created by the sweeping changes of our time; and

WHEREAS, globalizing trade and commerce has spurred demand for highly skilled labor and accountability in our educational system; and

WHEREAS, U.S. employers place a much higher premium on educational attainment and high-value job skills than in the past; and

WHEREAS, already, more than 60 percent of human resource managers express concern about the availability of skilled workers, reflected in part by the fact that the average time needed to fill a vacant position has increased from 37 to 51 days; and

WHEREAS, our nation faces the prospect of acute skills shortages; and

WHEREAS, three-quarters of new job growth will require some training and education beyond high school; and

WHEREAS, between 2000 and 2020, the number of workers with at least some college education is projected to increase by just four percent, while by contrast, between 1980 and 2000, this number rose by nearly 20 percent; and

WHEREAS, statistics like these have labor market experts very concerned that we are facing the prospect of a "skills gap" in the U.S. workforce demonstrated by an estimate of a U.S. shortfall of 14 million workers for skilled jobs by 2020, as job demands continue to rise but the education level of the workforce remains static; and

WHEREAS, the nation's current tools to address these shortages are too ineffective and inefficient to address this critical need and chief among these shortcomings, a college education is increasingly unaffordable to a large portion of the public; and

WHEREAS, since 1980, the inflation-adjusted cost of tuition at a four-year public college has increased by more than 190 percent; during that same time, median family income increased by only about 18 percent; and

WHEREAS, the result is a class bias in educational attainment: as of 2005, only 19 percent of working-age adults with incomes below the median income had earned a college credential compared with more than 46 percent of higher income adults; and

WHEREAS, high school graduates trying to pay for college currently turn to an array of credit and subsidies provided by the federal and state governments and private institutions, and while aid from these sources has increased, borrowing to pay for college is not a viable long-term solution because the debt payments will eventually be cost-prohibitive for many graduates; and

WHEREAS, already students from lower income families are finding they cannot afford college because costs have increased so much faster than the caps for federal subsidies such as Pell Grants; and

WHEREAS, only one-half of lower income children even begin college, compared with more than 75 percent of higher income children; and

WHEREAS, the more success a child achieves in school, the less likely he or she is to live in poverty as an adult. The poverty rate of high-school dropouts, for instance, is three times that of those who graduate; and

WHEREAS, one of every four American children drops out of high school before graduating; and

WHEREAS, this adds up to millions of young Americans who reach adulthood with dramatically lower chances for economic success; and

WHEREAS, the overwhelming majority of those who drop out spend much of their lives on the margins of the economy; and

WHEREAS, educational attainment is the best predictor of economic success as an adult; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has previously adopted resolutions supporting increased access to secondary education and adult skills training,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors urges the federal government to open a savings account for every child born in this country, depositing up to $500 at the child's birth and providing an annual income-indexed match of up to $500 for deposits made by family and third parties, until the child's 18th birthday; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in order to create a powerful new incentive to complete high school, account holders will not be able to access these accounts until they graduate, thereby helping to lower the dropout rate, which is higher than 50 percent in some cities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, funds can be used only for higher education or career training; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, funds withdrawn from this account should not be taxed.

2007 The U.S. Conference of Mayors
Tom Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. 202.293.7330 ~ Fax 202.293.2352