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A House panel June 22 examined ongoing efforts to improve student safety within Job Corps, but lawmakers didn’t get to hear from the Labor Department office that runs the embattled program.
Officials from the Office of Job Corps, a part of the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration, didn’t attend the two-hour Education and the Workforce Committee hearing. Committee Chairwoman Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said she was disappointed that the office “decided not to testify today.”
“Their attendance would have provided the committee with important information about the program and the measures taken by the Office of Job Corps to address these safety concerns,” she said.
“There is a long-standing policy for Congress to afford Executive Branch witnesses an opportunity to testify on a panel separate from non-governmental witnesses,” a DOL spokesman told Bloomberg BNA. “The Department of Labor and Job Corps are first and foremost concerned about—and fully committed to—student safety. The National Office of Job Corps looks forward to future opportunities to inform Congress of the significant improvements Job Corps has made to demonstrate its commitment to the safety and security of Job Corps students and staff.”
Committee members during the hearing applauded the program’s effort to help youth sculpt a career. Some Democrats questioned the White House’s budget proposal calling for reduced spending.
The Job Corps program provides some 60,000 disadvantaged youth with training to pursue a career, join the military, or prepare for higher education.
The House hearing is part of a congressional review of Job Corps that was prompted by the death of two students in 2015. The hearing was held the same day that the Government Accountability Office released a report on a review of the matter by the DOL’s Office of Inspector General.
The Trump administration last month proposed a budget that includes closing some underperforming Job Corps facilities and reducing spending by about $400 million to $1.4 billion for the next fiscal year.
Democrats such as Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) questioned panelist Jeffrey Barton, center director of the Earle C. Clements Job Corps Academy in Morganfield, Ky., about what would happen if funding is cut.
“Their options would be drastically limited and reduced,” Barton said. “It would be very sad, and quite honestly they would be faced with a life with challenges they had before they enrolled in the Job Corps program.”
OIG reports have suggested Job Corps should improve its oversight of student disciplinary policies to enhance safety at the centers. DOL Deputy Inspector General Larry Turner told the panel that Job Corps has taken action to make centers safer, but there remains work to be done.
“Job Corps needs to expeditiously complete the various safety initiatives it has recently begun,” he said. “Moreover, Job Corps must be more vigilant in its monitoring to ensure center operators and regional office personnel fully enforce Job Corps’ zero tolerance policy.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
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