U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) have launched a comprehensive review of the federal Job Corps program. In response to ongoing reports of financial challenges, the committee seeks information from the Obama administration, operators of Job Corps centers, and the National Job Corps Association.
"Congress must get to the bottom of the budgetary shortfalls that continue to plague the Job Corps program," said Chairman Kline. "I expect the department and all interested stakeholders to cooperate fully with the committee's investigation so we can ensure this program serves our nation's youth while protecting taxpayers' investment."
The federal Job Corps program provides disadvantaged youth with the necessary skills to pursue a career, join the military, or prepare for higher education. Operated by the U.S. Department of Labor, the program currently serves 60,000 students and has an annual budget of $1.7 billion. In 2011, the department announced a $39 million funding shortfall in the Job Corps program. The department took emergency steps to fill the budget gap, such as transferring funds from other employment and training programs. However, the funding shortfall continued and rose an additional $60 million in 2012. As a result, the department announced on January 18 that it was suspending all new enrollments at Job Corps centers nationwide.
To date, the Department of Labor has failed to provide specific reasons for the program's ongoing budget weaknesses or propose reforms that will enhance its long term financial stability. In their letter to the department, committee members stated:
Despite knowing the program faced a shortfall since fiscal year 2011, the department failed to anticipate and address the specific causes or take action to stabilize the financial condition of the program. Instead, it continues to take temporary steps to achieve savings to cover the shortfall, estimated at more than $100 million over the last two program years. The department's lack of action is even more concerning considering the impending sequestration. The committee is growing increasingly concerned with the ability of the department and its contractors to manage the program's budget in the short and long term.
As part of the committee's broad oversight of the program, members have also sent letters to:
The National Job Corps Association;
Operators that run the nation's 125 Job Corps centers; and
The Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Labor.