Monday, July 11, 2011

Whither the District’s Adult Job Training Money?

If you have been following the work of the DC Jobs Council for the past few years, you may remember all of our hard work to get local funds for adult job training in the District’s budget. Thanks in large part to Councilmembers Marion Barry (who got $4.6 million in the FY2010 Budget Support Act of 2009) and Michael Brown (who saved the FY2010 money, and got $4.6 million more in the FY2011 budget), the District made a commitment to fund job training for adults facing barriers to employment, and to disburse those funds via an RFP process.

The DCJC has been following up – relentlessly, some would say – with elected officials and staff in both the executive and legislative branches of the District government to ensure these local funds were spent effectively. After much effort, we can report on what has happened to the local funds budgeted for job training for DC adults.

First, none of the money budgeted in FY2010 for adult training was actually spent in FY2010. The DC Council made the funds nonlapsing, so they rolled over for use for the same purpose in FY2011. That gave us approximately $9.2 million in local funds for adult job training to use in FY2011.

According to the DC Department of Employment Services and the office of the District’s Chief Financial Officer, the money was spent as follows:

Reprogrammed by then-outgoing-Mayor Adrian Fenty to cover severance pay for departing senior-level staff
To The Excel Institute, as directed by a mayoral earmark in the FY2011 Budget Request Act
To Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School to support training programs in culinary arts, nursing, and information technology
To replace funds designated to support DOES’ Transitional Employment Program (Project Empowerment)
Other expenses

For those of you keeping score, that totals $8.1 million, leaving $1.1 million for FY2011. Some of that $1.1 million is being held to ensure DOES is able to fund all of the Individual Training Accounts (ITAs) to which it has committed. Any funds unspent by the end of FY2011 will roll over to FY2012.

A bit more explanation of some of the expenditures may be helpful.

Then-Mayor Fenty earmarked $600,000 for The Excel Institute in the FY2011 Budget Request Act of 2010. The funds were to be used to support Excel’s automotive service training program. And in the Budget Support Act for the same year, $2.2 million in local funds were directed toward a DC nonprofit that (1) offered training programs in culinary arts, nursing, and information technology; (2) could serve 300 clients immediately; and (3) could demonstrate a placement rate of at least 90 percent. Carlos Rosario is the only nonprofit in the District that met all of the criteria.

We should note at this point that The Excel Institute and Carlos Rosario are excellent organizations that provide high-quality programs and services to their clients. Our concern is not with the fact that these entities received funding, but rather that the RFP process laid out in the authorizing legislation was not followed.

The need for DOES to transfer funds between agency line items to support the Transitional Employment Program is a bit more troubling. For some time, the District has been using excess monies from the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund to support TEP. Recently, it came to light that such a practice might be impermissible. Until the question is resolved, the District cannot use the excess dollars in the Trust Fund. To keep the TEP functioning, the city had to find another source of funds. As TEP serves adults, the local funds allocated for adult job training seemed a logical choice.

Again, our question is not about the Transitional Employment Program. We question the process by which the decision was made – a process that left out not only the public, but the DC Council as well.

We recognize that we cannot go backwards and undo these decisions. But we can ask that the District government move forward by ensuring that the local funds set aside in the FY2012 budget for adult job training are used for that purpose, and that the funds are disbursed via a transparent and rigorous RFP process.

We understand from Acting DOES Director Lisa Mallory that RFPs for adult job training will be issued very early in FY2012. She promised that these RFPs will ask a lot of prospective providers in terms of data collection and outcomes. But she also promised a commitment to clarity and to transparency throughout the process, a commitment we find encouraging.

We’ll be watching and keeping you informed every step of the way.

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