Sen. Jon Tester on Tuesday called the Trump administration’s move to close or privatize dozens of Job Corps centers a “reckless and clueless” decision, then announced new legislation aimed at preventing the move.
Tester, speaking on the Senate floor, said the Civilian Conservation Corps and its programs provide a vital link to economic growth and forest health in rural states and give at-risk youth a chance to learn a skill, earn a decent paycheck and support a family.
“That’s why I was so appalled when the Trump administration recklessly and cluelessly moved to close so many successful Job Corps programs across this country,” Tester said. “It’s just amazing to me. It’s amazing the shortsightedness of this decision to privatize 16 centers and close nine others across this country.”
Last month, the Labor Department said it was closing nine CCC locations across the country and privatizing 16 others. The Department of Agriculture said the U.S. Forest Service would no longer oversee the sites due to budget cuts.
The announcement targeted the Anaconda CCC for closure and left the Trapper Creek center in Darby slated for privatization. Both would lead to negative outcomes for at-risk youth in Montana and other rural states, Tester said.
“They will be at risk. They will not be well trained,” he said. “They will in fact end up in some sort of government program instead of contributing to our economy. This is what the Job Corps allows them to do.”
The day before Tester delivered his remarks to the Senate, Sen. Steve Daines told state reporters that he called Trump over the weekend and received his assurance that the Anaconda site would remain open.
Daines said he wasn’t sure about the future of Trapper Creek.
Tester questioned Daines’ pledge on Tuesday, saying the Trump administration has offered no public details about its plans to close, keep open or otherwise tinker with the program, one that’s been in place for decades.
“While we’ve heard there’s some sort of reprieve for the Anaconda Job Corps, we have not received word that that means it’s actually going to stay open or any of the other Job Corps across this country, 16 of which were scheduled for privatization and nine of which were out-and-out closures,” Tester said.
Tester’s legislation, introduced in partnership with Sen. John Boozman, R-Louisiana, would prohibit the use of funds to close any Job Corps CCC programs in Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020.
It would also prohibit any agency secretary, including Alex Acosta from the Department of Labor, from changing the interagency agreement that facilitates operation of the CCC and Job Corps programs.
“It has produced people who are valuable assets to the business community, who have raised families, helped support our economy and are part of the fabric of this great country,” Tester said. “Yet this administration, through their goal of making America great again, has forgotten about things that made America great and have made America great.”