Learning to do: An analysis of the School -to -Work Opportunities Act of 1994

Janet Linda Kroll, University of Pennsylvania


This paper presents a case study of the design, enactment and implementation of the School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STWOA). Signed into law by President Bill Clinton on May 4, 1994, the STWOA provided one-time, five-year “venture capital” grants to enable states to design, implement and sustain STW opportunities systems to provide pathways for all young people to make productive transitions from education into high skill, high wage careers. I sought to understand why and through what processes ideas about the relationship between education and the economy resulted in federal school-to-work (STW) legislation, why the potential of the STWOA to impact state education and workforce development systems was not realized, and what the implications are for federal policy design. My analysis was informed by examination of federal and state documents. As well, I interviewed individuals associated with and knowledgeable about design, enactment, and federal administration of the STWOA, including supporters and opponents. I also interviewed individuals in three states considered likely to sustain their STW systems: Maine, Oklahoma and Oregon, and in Pennsylvania, a state considered unlikely to sustain STW. I conclude that federal education reform policy is unlikely to generate state-level changes that are beyond the scope of federal legislative authority. My state-level investigations reveal a more limited, but still important, set of goals one might expect to achieve from a federal “venture capital” approach. Such legislation provides a national vision that can help to energize and motivate advocates and opponents, and provide them with a framework and a budget around which to organize, recruit, fund raise, lobby, innovate, and pilot test promising approaches. Federal legislation may raise the profile of particular issues or causes in the states, but does not appear to create state agendas. That is, states will use federal funds to solve the problems they care about, which may or may not align with the problems of import to federal policy makers. And if the federal funding in question is both short-term and limited in size, it is likely these problems at the state level will be fairly narrowly defined.

Subject Area

School administration|Public administration

Recommended Citation

Kroll, Janet Linda, "Learning to do: An analysis of the School -to -Work Opportunities Act of 1994" (2002). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3043901.