Spring clean­ing: Time to get D.C.’s sum­mer jobs pro­gram right

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS ● Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

Where’s the beef? Or, more apro­pos, where’s your beef? Thanks to Jimmy Carter and his will­ing part­ners in the House and Se­nate, an es­ti­mated 4 mil­lion dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple re­ceived job train­ing and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties dur­ing his four years as pres­i­dent.

In ad­di­tion to those em­ploy­ment prospects un­der the Com­pre­hen­sive Em­ploy­ment and Train­ing Act (CETA), the Carter ad­min­is­tra­tion also im­ple­mented the Eco­nomic Stim­u­lus Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Act of 1977, which made a fresh new $20.1 bil­lion sub­sidy avail­able to fill the gaps for poor, un­em­ployed and un­der­em­ployed work­ers.

Each year dur­ing Pres­i­dent Carter’s term in of­fice, about 4 mil­lion eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged per­sons re­ceived train­ing and job op­por­tu­ni­ties un­der the CETA alone. New pro­grams tar­geted vet­er­ans, mi­grant work­ers, youths and Amer­i­can In­di­ans — and this is not to sug­gest they are un­de­serv­ing.

Lo and be­hold, here we are on the verge of Easter break, and the av­er­age Amer­i­can par­ent with a teenager is hop­ing, in­deed pray­ing, that their kid gets a sum­mer job.

In D.C., where 13,000 sum­mer jobs are up for grabs, the D.C. au­di­tor has again pointed to mis­man­age­ment and short-cir­cuited over­sight that could eas­ily lead to waste, fraud and abuse.

Af­ter con­duct­ing ear­lier au­dits that looked at sum­mer jobs pro­grams across the coun­try, D.C. Au­di­tor Kathy Pat­ter­son re­cently let the cat out of the bag. In her tes­ti­mony to the D.C. Coun­cil about the city’s $17 mil­lion pro­gram, she pointed out sev­eral short­com­ings that im­peded “the pro­gram’s goal of pro­vid­ing youths with the skills, at­ti­tudes and ex­pe­ri­ence needed to suc­ceed in the work­force.”

City lead­ers have long known about mis­man­age­ment prob­lems with the pro­gram, even prior to nam­ing the sum­mer jobs pro­gram in honor of Mar­ion Barry, who was cre­at­ing sum­mer jobs for youths as a pri­vate em­ployer long be­fore he was ever elected mayor.

As Mrs. Pat­ter­son ex­plained, the No. 1 mis­sion for the Mar­ion Barry Sum­mer Youth Em­ploy­ment Pro­gram (MBSYEP) is to give youths the op­por­tu­nity to “earn money and gain mean­ing­ful work ex­pe­ri­ence.”

If that were, in­deed, the goal of the MBSYEP, it is fall­ing short — so short that the other three prongs of the pro­gram aren’t even wor­thy of dis­cus­sion at this junc­ture.

Un­der­stand, D.C. was em­ploy­ing youths dur­ing the sum­mer long be­fore Mr. Carter be­came pres­i­dent, as Barry and other ur­ban lead­ers cor­ralled youths and busi­ness for jobs. Sim­i­larly, mi­grant la­bor lead­ers like Ce­sar Chavez were urg­ing fed­eral of­fi­cials to up­lift im­mi­grants and Amer­i­can In­di­ans even while press­ing civil rights con­cerns.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is still weigh­ing how to steer pub­lic dol­lars to­ward ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient jobs pro­grams, as well it should.

The District’s elected lead­ers should think long and hard too as they weigh ex­pand­ing the pro­gram for the city.

For cer­tain, as Mrs. Pat­ter­son also spot­lighted, the Depart­ment of Em­ploy­ment Ser­vices should have an au­dit trail to pre­vent waste, fraud and abuse; en­sure that MBSYEP is charged only for ex­penses re­lated to the sixweek sum­mer pro­gram; en­gage an in­de­pen­dent eval­u­a­tion of the pro­gram by each June; and pub­lish the results by De­cem­ber of each year — as re­quired by law.

Big-city sum­mer jobs are con­sid­ered by many to be a lux­ury with ru­ral ar­eas, ex­urbs and Amer­i­can In­dian lands left be­hind.

In­stead of sim­ply pour­ing more funds into pub­lic cof­fers, it’s time pub­lic of­fi­cials held them­selves ac­count­able.

As Bos­ton Mayor Marty Walsh wrote in an es­say, ev­ery­body’s gotta start some­where. For the 50-yearold Demo­crat, that some­where was Dunkin’ Donuts.

“My days would start early in the morn­ing, way be­fore our store opened —and you know how early Dunkin’ Donuts opens!” writes Mr. Walsh, who also de­scribes how a first sum­mer job can foster per­sonal and pro­fes­sional growth, a strong work ethic and com­mit­ment.

C’mon, folks. In the name of Mar­ion Barry, we must do bet­ter leg­is­lat­ing and man­ag­ing sum­mer jobs pro­grams. If we’re not care­ful, next sum­mer the jobs might not be there — and it won’t be the pres­i­dent’s fault.

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