On Wednesday, March 28 the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee held its annual hearing with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to discuss the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request. While the majority of the hearing focused on issues unrelated to Job Corps, Chairman Denny Rehberg (R-MT), who was critical of Job Corps in 2011, stated his support for the program and questioned the President’s FY 2013 proposal to close “chronically low-performing” facilities, convert residential slots to non-residential slots, and focus on serving older youth. Rehberg specifically voiced his opposition to closing “low-performing” Job Corps facilities, particularly before the completion of the program’s third-party evaluation. He suggested the Department of Labor (DOL) was putting the “cart before the horse.”
Rehberg asked Solis the status and results of the third-party evaluation, which she said would not be completed until early 2014. Solis went on to state that DOL is using “preliminary findings” to develop its criteria to close “chronically low-performing” centers. Earlier in the hearing, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) said she was “disturbed” by the Administration’s proposal to close centers and inquired about the criteria DOL will use to determine which centers will close. Solis responded by stating that DOL will employ criteria used on a regular basis to evaluate Job Corps center performance to determine the closure of facilities.
During the five-minute Rehberg-Solis exchange, Rehberg asked whether the centers up for closure are privately-or publically-operated. Solis signaled that DOL would examine all centers’ “performance overall” so taxpayers’ dollars are spent efficiently. According to Solis, there have been “issues in the past” with Job Corps centers and operators. The proposal to close centers is intended to remove “the bad actors” and that DOL also wants to engage more small businesses in the operation of centers. Solis also suggested that the closure of facilities is intended to create a more effective Job Corps.