O’Neill Appointed to Newly Created Commission on Impact of Globalization on Education, Training
February 20, 2006
Conference President Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill has been appointed to serve on a recently formed commission created by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) to study the implications of globalization for America’s workers and to recommend what education and training reforms are needed for them to succeed. The purpose of the commission is to chart a course for U.S. education and training systems in the light of the changes taking place in the global economy.
This is not the first time NCEE has assembled such a commission. In 1990, the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce released its report, America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages! Ray Marshall and Bill Brock – former Secretaries of Labor – co-chaired that bipartisan commission. It received a great deal of media attention, proved to be the impetus for major national education and workforce legislation in both Republican and Democratic administrations, as well as in state legislatures, and turned out to be the principal mainspring of the education standards movement in the United States.
America’s Choice pointed out that a worldwide market in low skilled labor had developed. According to the report, the only way that American low skilled workers could compete in that market was to lower their wages even further. Or, the report suggested, this country could leave much of the low skill work to others and go after the worldwide market for high value-added products and services for which America would need a much better educated and trained population. The study proposed that the United States embrace internationally benchmarked standards for student achievement and do what was necessary to make sure that U.S. students could meet those standards.
Today, NCEE finds that very large developing countries, particularly China and India, are able to field huge numbers of highly educated and trained people whose skills are comparable to those of the best U.S. students and who are willing to work for a fraction of what Americans charge for their labor. Thanks to digital networks, they can work for the world’s leading companies without leaving their countries, and live very well.
This is a competitive situation very different from the one the 1990 Commission faced. The challenges it poses for the United States are far more complex.
The study is funded by the Hewlett Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Their support has made possible a substantial research program, which is already underway. Two things are emerging from the preliminary phases of that research. First, public investment in the skills of the American student and worker is declining at almost every level of the American education system. Second, success in the future will depend not just on educating our people to much higher standards, but to different standards. Nations that combine a very high level of technical accomplishment with a deep capacity for creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and innovation (defined as the ability to take new ideas to scale) will be the most successful. America will have to combine the emphasis on raising performance of students at the bottom, which has been the focus of the last few years, in addition to a renewed emphasis on improving the performance of those in the middle and top of the distribution. However, because there is not a lot of money available to do these very expensive things, there will probably have to be fundamental changes made in the way the system works so that we can get much more for the money that is available.
Among those who have agreed to join the new commission are former Secretaries of Education Rod Paige and Richard Riley; Henry Schacht, former CEO of Lucent Technologies; Mike Dolan, Chief Financial Officer of Viacom and former CEO of Young and Rubicam; John Engler, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers; Charles Reed, Chancellor of the California State University System; Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Schools; Judy Codding, CEO of America’s Choice, Inc.; Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League; and Tom Payzant, Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. Ray Marshall, Bill Brock, Tony Carnevale, and Marc Tucker, all members of the first commission, have also agreed to serve on this one. Chuck Knapp, former president of the University of Georgia and of the Aspen Institute, will chair the panel.
The commission will meet three times and anticipates a report in October or November of 2006.