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The District has failed to order annual independent evaluations of its taxpayer-funded jobs program for youth since 2010—as it’s required to do by law—according to a new report by the Office of the D.C. Auditor.
On Friday, the office—headed by former Councilmember Kathy Patterson—released a 64-page audit of the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program, which lawmakers recently extended at the request of Mayor Muriel Bowser to again include 22- to 24-year-olds for at least another two years. In 2015, the program served more than 13,000 youth ages 14 through 24, or roughly two percent of D.C.’s total population. It featured more youth per capita as compared to similar programs in seven other U.S. cities surveyed by the D.C. Auditor. But many of those cities “draw more on non-local resources, including federal and private grants as well as in-kind support” to fund the program than D.C. does, the report found.
The report follows $200,000 appropriated by the D.C. Council to the Auditor in February to “conduct an evaluation of multiple years of [MBSYEP] to assess whether the program has met and is meeting program objectives.” The program cost just over $19 million in fiscal year 2015, 99 percent of which was funded by local tax dollars, according to the Auditor. In New York and Los Angeles, 29 and 41 percent of the costs for similar youth employment programs were furnished by non-local sources (notably, such as state funding).
In addition, although the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation evaluated MBSYEP from 2011 to 2014, the District government established this nonprofit; therefore, it can’t “independently” assess the program, the Auditor found. A statute requires that any such yearly evaluation has to include surveys of participants (both youth and employers) as well as interviews; it must be conducted by a third party by law.
“[The Department of Employment Services, which predominately manages MBSYEP] is currently working with the Office of the City Administrator to contract with a research institution to conduct the annual evaluation in 2016 and beyond,” the executive agency wrote to the Auditor in a reply to its initial findings.
By and large, the Auditor found D.C.’s youth could benefit from more business involvement. Per the report:
“Establishing a private-sector component of MBSYEP could also broaden the range of work experiences available to participants. Public-sector positions (with D.C. government agencies, public charter schools, and the federal government) made up more than half (53 percent) of MBSYEP summer placements in 2015. Positions at private non-profit organizations accounted for 37 percent of summer placements in 2015, while positions at private for-profit firms provided 10 percent of summer placements. Increasing the number of positions in the for-profit sector might help youth develop future career options because the District has a significant private-sector employment base despite its reliance on federal and local government jobs.”
Still, the District’s summer youth employment program resembles those in other cities in terms of its structure:
In a statement, Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity Courtney Snowden characterized MBSYEP as “a critical entry point to employment” for many of the District’s youth.
“As noted in the report, other high performing programs around the country provide employment opportunities to youth up to the age of 24,” she said. “As such, Mayor Bowser continues to fight for the permanent expansion of the program. I welcome the recommendations of the D.C. Auditor—many of which this Administration has already started to implement as we look to transform MBSYEP to an even more effective, innovative and nationally recognized youth employment program.”
You can read the full report here.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery; charts via audit