KFQD's conservative shock jock Dan Fagan has now attracted national publicity over his claim that Bristol Palin's intended husband, Levi Johnston, may have been preferentially and illegally enrolled in an electrician apprenticeship program operated by the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC). The story has now been picked up by McClatchy DC.
McClatchy DC cites Fagan's latest Anchorage Daily News column dated January 3rd, and this post on The Alaska Standard blog, a right-of-center team blog operated by Fagan, as references. In general, Fagan claims that Levi Johnston's reported service as an electrical apprentice on Alaska's North Slope while simultaneously enrolled in correspondence courses to complete high school violates federal regulations. He interprets those regulations as mandating a high school diploma.
Fagan also notes that the director of the ASRC apprenticeship program confirmed that Johnston was enrolled in the program, but that he didn't know if federal regulations prohibited those without a high school diploma from participating. The director also did not know if there was a waiting list to enter the program, and could not answer if Johnston had jumped the waiting list to enter the program. Fagan also contacted both the Governor's office and the home of Levi Johnston's mother to get a response from the other principals involved, but has received no reply as of this post.
Triggering Dan Fagan's renewed interest in Governor Palin's internal family affairs was a statement released by Governor Palin on Wednesday December 31st in which she sought to rebut erroneous reports that Levi Johnston was a high school dropout by explaining that Johnston was currently seeking his GED via correspondence concurrent with his ASRC apprenticeship.
So the next step is to find out exactly what Dan Fagan said about the "Federal diploma requirement", and to determine whether or not his information is accurate. To do this, we go back to his initial post on The Alaska Standard, dated January 2nd. And here's what he said:
...federal regulations require any members of apprentice programs, union or otherwise, first obtain a high school diploma, something the Governor’s soon to be son-in-law, Levi Johnston does not have. Some apprentice programs even require the completion of high school level Algebra or the post secondary equivalent.
Bo Underwood, who heads up ASRC’s electrical apprentice program, confirmed Johnston is indeed enrolled as an apprentice. Underwood claimed not to know whether a high school diploma is needed to be an ASRC apprentice and said he would check on it. But federal regulations clearly state a high school diploma is needed before entering an apprentice program.
But do Federal regulations actually require a high school diploma before entering an apprentice program? Here's the specific guidance from the Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration website:
Registered apprenticeship program sponsors identify the minimum qualifications to apply into their apprenticeship program. The eligible starting age can be no less than 16 years of age; however, individuals must usually be 18 to be an apprentice in hazardous occupations. Program sponsors may also identify additional minimum qualifications and credentials to apply, e.g., education, ability to physically perform the essential functions of the occupation, proof of age. All applicants are required to meet the minimum qualifications. Based on the selection method utilized by the sponsor, additional qualification standards, such as fair aptitude tests and interviews, school grades, and previous work experience may be identified.
Note that the Federal government itself does NOT mandate a high school diploma as a prerequisite. They simply require an apprentice to meet the minimum qualifications prescribed by a sponsor, who may or may not require a diploma as a condition of entry. So Dan Fagan has already misstated himself. Sponsors are defined as specific companies or corporations which offer apprenticeship programs.
The next step is to determine whether or not the State of Alaska levies a diploma requirement as a prerequisite for entry into an apprenticeship program. Thanks to the Democratic Underground forum, we have a link to Alaska state information HERE. On the first page, under the paragraph heading "Procedure for Application", it requires an apprentice candidate to furnish a high school diploma only IF REQUIRED.
However, the second page lists the various trades, and specifies that an apprentice for either Electric Lineman or Electric Wireman must have a high school diploma AND one year of Algebra I as a prerequisite. The State of Alaska supersedes the sponsor in this particular case. So it is the State of Alaska, and not the Federal government, which mandates the diploma. Andrew Halcro's blog also shows a couple of other Alaska Links corroborating this information.
In summary, the Federal government does NOT prescribe minimal educational standards, but leaves that issue to the sponsor. But the State of Alaska steps in and prescribes minimal educational standards, with which sponsors presumably must comply. Consequently, based upon my interpretation of state guidance, ASRC is in violation of these standards by employing Levi Johnston as an apprentice before receiving his high school diploma (or GED). Thus Dan Fagan's concern is warranted, even if he misstated the Federal requirement. The fact that Dan Fagan may have long since crossed the line from being a mere critic of Governor Palin to nurturing a full-blown bias against her is irrelevant in this case.
Because of the legacy of distrust left by Sarah Palin in the wake of the Troopergate saga, the Governor does owe us an explanation for this anomaly. In particular, ASRC owes an explanation as to why Levi Johnston is employed as an apprentice electrician without a high school diploma in apparent violation of Alaska state guidance. If it is on the level, then fine, but state the justification. It is a shame that Levi Johnston himself is being dragged once again into public scrutiny, and he shouldn't be looked upon as the "bad guy" in this deal. But once again, we may have a Governor who's acting like an overprotective mother.