Reich Challenges Business To Match Clinton's Summer Jobs
WASHINGTON--Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich last week challenged the business community to match one for one the number of jobs that would be created under President Clinton's summer-employment plan, for a total of 2.6 million jobs for disadvantaged youths this summer.
Mr. Reich's challenge, made in a speech at a conference of the Council of the Great City Schools here, appeared to go beyond the summer-jobs goal set by the President in his address to Congress last month.
In the Feb. 17 speech, which laid out the Administration's economic program, Mr. Clinton said his short-term-stimulus plan would create "almost 700,000 new summer jobs'' for youths, and he called on business "to join us in this effort so that together we can provide over one million summer jobs'' for young people.
H. Keith Poston, a spokesman for the National Alliance of Business, said the new target, under which the private sector is being asked to provide 1.3 million summer jobs, represented "a huge increase.''
"It's certainly very ambitious,'' Mr. Poston said last week. "We'll do what we can.''
In his March 15 speech here, Secretary Reich called for speedy passage of President Clinton's proposal to increase funding for the summer-jobs program by $1 billion, close to one-third of which would be used to finance a new academic-enrichment component. The $1 billion would be added to an equal amount already available, according to the Administration.
The House approved the President's stimulus plan late last week, and the Senate was expected to vote on it this week. (See story, this page.)
Adoption of the package's summer-jobs provisions, coupled with the already available funds, would enable an estimated 1.3 million low-income 14- to 21-year-olds to obtain federally funded summer employment.
Last summer, some 800,000 disadvantaged youths obtained employment under the program. About 286,000 of those slots were funded by a supplemental appropriation that was adopted following the Los Angeles riots.
Academic Component Stressed
Under the $1 billion Clinton proposal, about $300 million would be used to increase all sites' funding by 25 percent, Mr. Reich said. Another $400 million would be targeted at the nation's 100 largest cities.
And, in an effort to stem the loss of academic skills among participants during the summer break from school, the measure includes $300 million for a new academic-enrichment component, consisting of 90 hours of instruction over the course of the eight- to 10-week programs.
Mr. Reich told the Great City Schools meeting that the Labor Department will work closely with the Education Department to develop the academic component.
Mr. Poston of the business alliance last week praised the focus on academics in the summer program.
"Anything that would help raise the education level of students participating in the program is something we would strongly support,'' he said.
Although individual sites in the federal summer-jobs program have included some form of academic instruction in previous years, adoption of the Administration's plan would mean that such schooling would be offered nationwide for all participants for the first time.
No details about what the "academic enrichment'' effort might involve were available last week, however. Mary Meagher, a spokeswoman for the Labor Department, said the curriculum would be designed primarily at the local level.
Robert Knight, the president of the National Association of Private Industry Councils, speculated that most programs would tie the enrichment component "into the basic K-12 education curriculum'' this year. But, looking ahead to the summer of 1994, Mr. Knight said he envisioned that additional planning time would allow the programs to tie academic offerings to specific work-site-related skills.
Congressional appropriation of the necessary funds by early April is crucial, Mr. Knight added, in order to insure that sites have adequate lead time to plan the academic component and hire faculty members, as well as to line up job placements.
"Without the planning time,'' warned Katie Landini, the assistant director of employment and training for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, "you'll find kids jobs, but they won't have the same educational component that the Administration wants.''
Last year, the jobs program received a $500 million supplemental appropriation, on top of an existing $687 million budget. The money was not available until June, however. Because of the short lead time, many programs were unable to spend all of the funds, leaving $267 million left over for this summer's program.