Tag Archives: questions

State’s Job Training Program Questioned

The effectiveness of the state’s $52 million job training program has been called into question after auditors found regional job training centers across the state were inflating their numbers to hit strict performance measures and keep their federal funding, reports the Tennessean.
Since the recession began in 2008, the state’s 13 local workforce training centers have been faced with a major challenge: Federal performance measures continue to rise, but high unemployment has led many dispirited workers to give up on job searches and leave their training programs voluntarily.
State auditors say the training centers — which provide training and other assistance to out-of-work adults, displaced workers and youths looking for jobs — responded to this challenge by padding their statistics.
According to an audit by the state comptroller released last month, the training centers failed to remove people who didn’t find jobs in a timely manner or continue their training. By doing so, the training centers, which are operated by either nonprofit groups or local government agencies, kept their statistics up and avoided the prospect of losing their federal funding.
.,,,The audit found that 29 percent of the randomly selected participants were not removed from the system. Some participants lingered in the program for as long as five years.
“Based on our inquiries, LWIAs (local workforce investment areas) kept participants who did not successfully complete the program in the (database) for years to show that these participants were still active in the program and thereby to avoid reporting those participants as unsuccessful exits from the program,” the audit stated.
“The program director at one LWIA told us that this has been the practice of LWIAs due to strict and unachievable performance measures.”
The audit did not specify which of the 13 training centers was engaged in the practice of manipulating its performance numbers. Brian Clark, executive director for the Nashville Career Advancement Center, which is the regional training program for Davidson, Rutherford, Wilson and Trousdale counties, said the training centers face a tough predicament.
The Nashville Career Advancement Center has regularly been achieving its own performance measures for job placement, retention and average annual salary, but Clark acknowledged the poor job climate has made its work more difficult. Clark said the challenge is to keep an out-of-work person engaged in the training program at a time when jobs are scarce.
The training program primarily focuses on low-earning, low-skilled workers. For instance, the 13 regional programs must help those they successfully place in jobs maintain cumulative average annual earnings of $13,700. Last year, 28,088 people used the state’s workforce development program.

Suggested State Laws: Banning Microwave Biscuits and Sex with Guns

Frank Cagle has a list of questions that could be asked to legislative candidates, as they campaign this summer, about what should be the law of Tennessee. A sample:
–It should be illegal to microwave a biscuit. What you do in your own home is your business and if you microwave a biscuit that’s between you and the memory of your grandmaw. If you think she would be okay with it, go ahead. But there is no excuse for a restaurant to serve a microwaved biscuit. They should be fresh. They should be crispy on the top and bottom and light on the inside. A soggy biscuit is a betrayal of Southern culture and we have to stop it. The bill should allow for a citizen’s arrest should you observe this activity.
–No place that sells cigarettes should have the right to ban smoking. If a restaurant or a convenience store sells cigarettes, then you should be able to light up. They can’t enable people to annoy others with cigarette smoke and not be annoyed themselves. If you sell chewing tobacco or snuff (excuse me, smokeless tobacco) then provide spittoons. Any place that sells tobacco products should be required to carry nicotine gum. You don’t have to go to the drug store to get cigarettes.
–It should be illegal to have sex with a pistol. This is not an infringement of the Second Amendment. You would still be able to sleep with your Nine Mil, it would just be illegal to have sex with it, regardless of your particular fetish. It’s disgusting.

Commissioner Faces Questioning Over Taft Closing

(Note: Updates, expands and replaces earlier post)
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s call for providing the most efficient services at the lowest cost ran into a wall of criticism Wednesday from members of his own party over his plans to shut down Taft Youth Development Center. Andy Sher reports:
A bipartisan group of Government Operations Committee members focused their ire on Children’s Services Commissioner Kathryn O’Day, forcing her to defend her recommendations to Haslam for an hour.
Watching was an overflow crowd of Taft employees and top officials from Bledsoe County, where Taft is located, and Cumberland County.
O’Day maintained Taft deserves closure because it is the most costly of the five state prisons for young criminals.
She said closing Taft will result in an $8.5 million annual reduction in “unnecessary overhead we’re carrying.” That translates into about $4.4 million in actual savings because the money will be spent elsewhere within the department.
“The system on its best day today operates at 69 percent occupancy,” O’Day said. “In my previous career I was a private provider and residential services, and I can tell you that with a 69 percent occupancy rate I would have been out of business in very short order.”
Overall occupancy rates would improve by closing the 96-bed Taft to 87 percent, she said. She said she still couldn’t have operated on such an occupancy rate. O’Day also pointed out Taft is the oldest center.
Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, in whose district Taft sits, disputed cost savings. Taft and its estimated 169 employees guard over some of the oldest, most dangerous teen criminals, including gang members, Sexton said.
“With the closing of Taft there is concerns about putting these 17 1/2-year-old kids in with kids in another facility who are 14 and 15, and what’s going to happen to them?” Sexton said. “And what’s going to have to happen is the department is going to have to be held accountable.”
O’Day said the younger offenders would be separated in the three other male centers.

Fed Report Cites High Rate of ‘Improper Payments’ in TN Unemployment Benefits

A U.S. Department of Labor report questions how well the state is looking after taxpayer and business dollars supporting unemployment payments to an estimated 120,000 people, according to Action Andy Sher.
The report shows Tennessee has one of the highest “improper payment” rates among all 50 states. Tennessee’s rate was pegged at 14.47 percent, meaning it overpaid an estimated $310.7 million over a three-year period. Tennessee tied with Mississippi for 11th-worst in the nation.
State Employment Security Administrator Don Ingram said some aspects of the report are “misleading.” He blamed most problems on a “huge influx” of jobless Tennesseans during the Great Recession and its aftermath that overwhelmed the state’s 40-year-old mainframe computer.
Tennessee unemployment soared from 4.6 percent in March 2007 to a high of 10.8 percent in July 2009. The October rate of 9.6 percent is above the national rate of 9 percent. Last year, 418,000 Tennesseans filed claims for unemployment benefits.
“It’s not necessarily fraud, and it’s not necessarily an overpayment,” Ingram said. “We did not meet all of the requirements that the U.S. Department of Labor expects so far as processing of claims.”
Thirteen straight years of flat funding for the department’s jobs services program haven’t helped either, he said.