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The Download: Education dividend

Posted in: Current Affairs   Municipal government   Economics   Education
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It's hardly news that higher levels of educational attainment bring greater pay and economic security. But it's one of those truths, like the benefits of regular exercise, that probably can’t be invoked too often because the stakes are so high and the number of people that would benefit from taking action based on it is so large.

So it was that the New Year was ushered in with a new report hammering home the point.  Saturday's Globe had an account of a new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center touting the fact that the Bay State workforce has the highest educational attainment level of any state in the country, with 43 percent of Massachusetts workers holding a college degree. The increasing wage premium attached to education helped incomes rise faster here than in the country as a whole over the past three decades, but that has also helped widen the wage gap between those with college degrees and with less schooling.

It’s easy to see that developing higher skills through more education and training is the answer for those on the bottom end of this widening gap; how to make that happen is, of course, the tougher challenge.  Andrew Sum, the director of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies – and a long-time MassINC research partner – tells the Globe that the state economy is not diversified enough and that we have not done enough to maintain or grow our manufacturing sector.  (Sum held forth on these and other issues in this CommonWealth “Conversation” interview last year.) Meanwhile, MassINC research director Ben Forman tells the Globe that we need to focus more on those aiming for two-year community college degrees or certificate programs tied to specific job skills.

It was 10 years ago this month that MassINC issued its New Skills for a New Economy report, which found that one-third of the state’s workforce – 1.1. million workers – lacked the skills needed for the jobs of the emerging “new economy.”  The penalty being paid by workers – as well the state’s economy as a whole -- for that misalignment has only grown in the decade since then.  Jerry Rubin, who runs Jewish Vocational Service, one of the state’s leading workforce development agencies, and John Schneider, MassINC’s executive vice president and the director of the organization’s New Skills campaign, have been pondering a plan of action for the state to address these issues.  Look for their prescription in the Winter issue of CommonWealth later this month.

                                                                                                                                                                                --Michael Jonas


In a drumbeat we're likely to hear much more of throughout the new year, the Globe reports that Medicaid costs are strangling the state budget – and budget officials in the administration and Legislature say tough choices loom.

Finding ways to cut health care costs will be a priority for the next legislative session, reports the MetroWest Daily News.

A massive new database tracking Massachusetts residents’ prescription drug purchases – with an eye toward combating prescription abuse – is set to launch.


Lawmaker pay may be going down, thanks to a 1998 measure that instructs the governor to index legislators' pay to statewide income trends. The Globe reported yesterday that Gov. Deval Patrick may shave a tiny bit off lawmakers' salaries based on wage data showing Massachusetts household incomes have either been flat or dropped slightly. 


Doug Rubin warns Scott Brown that he could become the next Martha Coakley – a popular, organized, and cash-rich frontrunner who stumbles nonetheless. The Globe, however, names Brown its Bostonian of the Year.

The Herald debates the chances of the state Parole Board becoming Mitt Romney’s Willie Horton.


The New York Times looks at growing anger at public employee unions during a time of constrained public budgets and increasingly stingy pay and benefits in the private sector.


The Globe's Larry Harmon gives new Mass Teachers Association president Paul Toner props for his recent embrace of using student test scores as one measure in teacher evaluations.

Eagle-Tribune says the new bullying law adds another impossible task to the workload of schools.

Two state educators sing the praises of new state curriculum standards.


On his Mass Market blog, Patriot Ledger business editor Jon Chesto lays out the unfinished business of 2010 and the chances for tying a bow around the issues such as casino gambling, off-shore wind, and corporate takeovers for 2011.

The New Bedford Standard Times looks at the impact of rising fuel costs on local business owners as gas prices have rocketed up 30 cents since Labor Day, a period during which they have traditionally fallen.

State data show no area has been hit harder by layoffs since 2007 that Fall River, the Herald News reports.

Gov. Deval Patrick ponders a $259 per employee increase in unemployment insurance costs for employers, the Gloucester Times reports.

The Worcester Business Journal takes a look at the state's efforts to crack down on the "underground economy," The state reeled in about $6.5 million in fines last year from businesses that purposely avoided paying for various types of insurance or misclassified employees to save money.

A Pittsfield program that instructs teachers on industry skills so they can better prepare their students for the workforce is back for 2011 after a two-year hiatus, reports the Berkshire Eagle.


Sock it to 'em: The Springfield City Council considers raising the illegal dumping fine from $300 to a range of $5,000 to $10,000, along with the possibility of a week in jail.

Despite budget woes, Hopkinton and Marlborough avoid layoffs, while Southborough moves to regionalize dispatch services.

Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk, despite a recent bout with hypertension, says she will run for a third term, the Gloucester Times reports.

Barnstable looks at redrawing its precinct lines, reports the Cape Cod Times.

The Salem News calls for more transparency, saying town officials should explain why Salisbury Police Chief David L’Esperance was placed on leave Dec. 6.

Haverhill firefighters accused of lying to obtain their EMT recertifications face pay cuts of as much as 30 percent, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

MetroWest communitites are already looking at ways to prepare for potential cuts in local aid, reports the MetroWest Daily News.


The MBTA rolls out commuter rail cars where conversations must be kept to a whisper and cell phones and computers must be silent, NECN reports.


UMass Lowell professor says more nuclear plants are needed to meet the nation’s clean energy needs.

The EPA this week starts regulating greenhouse gases from new power plants. WBUR reports the new rules could drag down the economic recovery.

The Berkshire Eagle argues that General Electric's clean-up of PCBs in the Hudson River near Albany holds lessons for the company's ongoing cleanup of the Housatonic River in western Massachusetts. The paper also continues to support four wind energy projects in various stages of development saying that they could provide "more than enough electricity to power all the homes in the Berkshires."

The Cape Cod Times reports that environmental groups are hoping for passage of an expanded bottle bill in the new legislative session, which would increase the number of recyclable bottles eligible for deposit.


New senior citizen housing project OK’d in Springfield, reports the Springfield Republican.


Cape Cod Times editorial reviews the run of bad luck faced by the Mashpee Wampanoag in their efforts to build a casino in the Bay State.


In the New Republic, John McWhorter says legalizing all drugs would, in one fell swoop, end black underclass life as we know it – and urges that it be done.


Why are Republicans suddenly not on fire to bury Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? For one, the Atlantic argues, their control of the House now gives them partial ownership of the mortgage giants’ troubles.

The agenda for the new Republican majority in the House: slash spending and dismantle health care reform.

Slate introduces 10 conservatives to watch in 2011.

E.J. Dionne Jr. has predictions for what will come with the new GOP-controlled House.


The first of the Baby Boomers officially enter retirement in 2011, and will continue to do so at a rate of about 7,000 a day.


The Greatest Country Ever? Why, that would be us, says Rich Lowry at National Review, and he has the metrics to prove it going back to 1648 and the Peace of Westphalia.


US News & World Report has a round-up of the best editorial cartoons of the past year.

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