LIKE A SEQUEL to a horror film, this year's District summer jobs program appears to have the same basic story line as last year's. In the original version, young people could not get their paychecks (some were still unpaid two months after the program ended) and job assignments were confused. Some job sites got too many young people while others got too few. This year's version is basically the same. Already teen-agers have marched on the city's Employment Services Department, which runs the summer program, to demand paychecks owed them -- they waited in long lines again yesterday. The director of the summer program has recently been fired amid complaints that some young people had been assigned to jobs where there was no work for them and others were placed at jobs without supervision. Mayor Barry has said he is "very unhappy" with the program.
What else is new?
The source of the program's trouble appears to be bad management, and the city has changed the management -- as it did before and, as usual, the change in leadership did not help. So there is no reason to think that this latest change in the identity of the person filling the chair of the director will bring some miraculous improvement. The real problem with the summer jobs program is that it starts too late in the year -- no matter who is running it. Currently, the city gets the program in gear in the spring. But the effort is just too big and too complicated -- not to mention, too important -- to be put together in three months.
Washington should take a cue from the successful summer program in Baltimore, described on the opposite page today. Baltimore's summer program is simply one part of a year-long program that helps poor youth to find jobs. With a permanent program in place, problems caused by hurriedly setting up a summer program are eliminated. An added bonus is that it serves the needs of poor young people for jobs all year long.
Currently, the District has a year-round program, but it is very small and it is, if possible, even more badly managed than the summer program. For example, the 1978 program, paid for by CETA (the federal government's Comprehensive Employment and Training Act), was scheduled to start in September of that year. But it did not begin until March of 1979 because of administrative problems. And when it finally did start, there was a hurry-up effort (much like the summer program) to find any available job that could be filled by a CETA worker so as to avoid returning the money to the federal government.
A better summer program will come about only after the year-round program is working well. There are two CETA programs run throughout the year in the District that could be expanded if good management were available. One is the Youth Employment and Training Program, and the other the Youth Community Conservation and Improvement Project. The city now has just over 3,000 young people in all its year-round programs. With proper management, those programs could be expanded to two or three times that size. And once the proper management of the year-round program was in place, it would provide a strong administrative structur for the summer program. Finally, the young people whom the summer program is meant to help would be able to get to work on supervised summer jobs -- which, after all, is supposed to be the point of exercise.