Review of State Plans for the Workforce Investment Act from a Disability Policy Framework
The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workforce Investment and Employment Policy for Persons with Disabilities (RRTC) has conducted a review of the state plans mandated under the Workforce Investment Act (Public Law 105-220). The purpose of the review was to establish a research baseline for evaluating current and future state implementation efforts to provide effective and meaningful participation of individuals with disabilities.
The RRTC conducted a review of the WIA state plans submitted by each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia using an analytic framework. Two policy documents were used to guide the review: (1) The Emerging Disability Policy Framework: A Guidepost for Analyzing Public Policy, and (2) A Description of the Workforce Investment Act Legal Framework from a Disability Policy Perspective. Both documents were written by Bobby Silverstein, Director of the Center for the Study and Advancement of Disability Policy, as part of research conducted jointly by the RRTC and the Center for the Study and Advancement of Disability Policy.
The Emerging Disability Policy Framework is intended as a benchmark for both designing and evaluating public policy that seeks to address the needs of Americans with disabilities. It is the result of extensive review of the hearing records, committee reports, statutory and regulatory bases for the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The purpose of the review was to discern the fundamental values, principles, and policies inherent in these laws and the extent to which they define the fundamental goals of disability policy. In order to validate the Emerging Disability Policy Framework, analyses and interpretations were subject to peer review by key stakeholders in the outcomes of disability policy: federal, state and local policy makers; persons with disabilities, their families, and advocates; researchers; service providers; and other experts in disability policy. The Emerging Disability Policy Framework includes general questions for analyzing the extent to which disability-specific and generic programs and policies reflect the goals of disability policy in their precepts, goals, definitions, core policies, methods of administration, and program supports. These questions serve as a guide for evaluating, expanding, and improving the design and implementation of public policies affecting persons with disabilities. To that end, the Emerging Disability Policy Framework provides a framework that can be used to design, implement, and evaluate public policies and programs to ensure meaningful inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream society.
Using the Emerging Disability Policy Framework as its basis, the RRTC developed a Template for analyzing each state plan to identify specific approaches, activities, policies, procedures, and strategies related to effective and meaningful participation by persons with disabilities in the system proposed by that state. The Template covers the state plan development process, a state's vision and goals, and specific provisions related to governance, service delivery, and performance measurement. It includes 35 questions across 14 discrete areas of analysis. Some questions included in the Template are based on specific citations in the law and regulations related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Other questions are included to gather a better understanding of how the interests and needs of persons with disabilities will be met under a comprehensive workforce development system mandated under Title I of the Workforce Investment Act.
The Template also allows for a description of how each state addresses the needs of customers with disabilities within each of the 14 discrete areas of analysis. For example, some states simply include "persons with disabilities and/or multiple barriers to employment" as part of a list of all customer groups that would be served but provide no further explanation as to how they would meet the needs of specific groups. Other states provide more comprehensive descriptions of how their state will address the needs of particular customer groups, including persons with disabilities and/or multiple barriers to employment. The design and format of the Template facilitated this level of analysis.
FINDINGS: In order to receive federal financial assistance under the Workforce Investment Act, a state must submit to the U.S. Department of Labor a state plan. A key role for the Department of Labor is state plan approval, including approval of state performance indicators. (Section 1125(c) and 136(g) of WIA (29 USC 2822(c)). An additional role for DOL is leadership, including guidance on interpretations of statutory and regulatory provisions. (Section 189 of WIA (29 USC 2939). A further role for DOL is a monitoring and oversight authority to hold states accountable for performance based on their individual plans and WIA statutory and regulatory requirements.
The review of state plans provides a snapshot, at one point in time, of state specific approaches, policies, procedures, and proposed strategies for effective and meaningful participation by youth and working-age adults with disabilities in the proposed system of workforce development. The review of state plans resulted in five general findings. Additionally, there are 23 specific findings identified across eight core areas of focus: plan development and governance, definitions, state assessment, strategies for improvement, state level performance measurements, local governance and service delivery, youth activities and state monitoring and enforcement.
Selected Specific Findings