THE STORY of the "Mayor's Summer Jobs for Youth Program -- 1979" is one of the good intentions unfulfilled. According to a report by the investigations staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the extra money effort that went into the summer program were casualities of bad management. The program, according to the investigators' report, was "chaotic" with "late planning, poor administration . . . (and) too many youths assigned work sites . . ." The investigators recommend, in conclusion, that the appropriations for nexy year's summer jobs program be cut in half. The city is asking the Senate for $13.7 million, in addition to CETA funds, to provide jobs for teen-agers next summer.
What these findings and recommendations add up to is "too much, too fast." After Mayor Barry promised in his campaign to find summer jobs for 30,000 city youngsters if he were elected, pressure was created to find the money and the work sites needed to employ 15,000 additional youths over the previous summer's figure. The Senate did not appropriate the extra money until late June. Then there was an increased burden on an already work-weary D.C. Department of Labor to deliver in a few weeks the "meaningful jobs" that had been promised. The department was already having trouble handling the logistical problems of finding jobs and assigning CETA jobs.
But these findings need not add up to justification for a cut in congressional appropriations for summer jobs. The city's youngsters should not be victimized -- once by last summer's failures and a second time by a cut in funds that will mean fewer jobs next year. Summer jobs mean a great deal to the city's poor young people: those jobs mean not just money, but the offer of work experience that is a necessary first step for a youngster to take in the world of gainful, responsible employment.
To avoid having the Senate cut the funding for summer jobs, the mayor might consider creating a staff that would work exclusively on the summer jobs program and that would separate from the D.C. Labor Department (which is beset by its own problems). The money invested in a year-round staff and the outcome of its work might help convince the Senate that the District has strong intentions to use next year's $13.7 million properly.
For all the program's difficulties, the mayor was right to have focused on the problems of jobless youths and to have made an effort to do something about them. Last summer the mayor's vision was greater than the capability of the Labor Department's bureaucracy. But that does not mean that the program must be cut in half. It means that the city government faces a big challenge to deliver services to a segment of the city population that has too long been ignored. Despite a tight job market, the city government can offer private employers incentives to hire youngsters from its program. The incentives could range from paying part or all of the youngsters' salaries with appropriated money to offering businesses tax breaks for giving poor young people summer jobs. The Senate should appreciate that last summer's problems were, in part, merely the stumbling, early steps of a government trying to help people it had not helped before.