DOL YouthBuild: Quantity over Quality?

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The Department of Labor's Employment Training Administration put out a notice of funding for 2009 YouthBuild grants, which pay for education and job training services for youth involved with the juvenile justice and other at-risk youth. On first look, it's not good news.

The notice says $47 million will be released after April 1, 2009; that's $10 million less than was appropriated for 2008. It's obviously a projection, since 2009 appropriations aren't close to final yet, which means more money could come in and then be granted in a supplemental process later in the year (which is what happened this year). But if $47 million is what ETA actually expects to receive for YouthBuild, there is no way there won't be further cuts to the program.

It gets worse, depending on your perspective. The stated goal, according to the notice, is to fund 90 to 100 programs for three years; two years of core programs, one year of measurement and evaluation. The range of the grants is $700,000 to $1.1 million per site.

That is way down from YouthBuild's peak at its former home, the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, sites would received up to $1 million for each year of operation.

Earlier this year, Youth Today reported how current sites were watering down YouthBuild to stay in business. So there is a legitimate concern that DOL is trying to keep the number of YouthBuild sites level, and in the meantime making them less effective individually than the model developed by Dorothy Stoneman in New York and then championed federally by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). The alternative - fewer programs, same fidelity to the YouthBuild framework - would anger sites that lost federal money.

But with both presidential candidates promising to take a hard look at what programs can get cut because they're ineffective, we wonder whether national YouthBuild believers are excited about lots of programs getting funded to do a program that is a shell of the actual YouthBuild design.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) appears to be sold on it; he says he would propose expanding YouthBuild to serve 50,000 (compared to about 8,000 now). Campaign staff for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Youth Today in April that he had no official position on YouthBuild.

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