The Ottumwa Courier


April 24, 2013

Job Corps enrollment freeze ends, but maximum capacity reduced


"We're proposing that Department of Labor [skip] this across-the-board budget cut ... and look at the Ottumwa facility specifically," said Douglas.

There's a couple of reasons for that. One is cost per pupil. The way this new "cost-efficient model" was designed in Ottumwa, fewer students will not equal fewer costs. Yes, food may go down, but infrastructure costs will remain about the same for 237 kids as they do for 300 kids. You can't turn off the heat, shut off the stove or send the gate guard home just because there are 60 fewer students. You also need an English teacher and a math teacher whether there are 10 kids or 20 kids.

The math shows a facility meant to house 300 kids may have a specific "fixed cost" of $12,000. With 300 kids, cost per student is $40 each. Dropping 60 students leaves that fixed cost at the same $12,000. Only what was once a good value now costs taxpayers $50 per student.

That was distressing to congressional aide Tom Larkin, who was at Tuesday's meeting representing his boss, Sen. Tom Harkin. He said he'd bring the cost efficiency concerns to Washington.

"Tom Harkin fought for the Ottumwa center year after year, and it didn't happen. When it finally happened, to have that cap put on before this center reached capacity was disappointing, to say the least," Larkin said.

And in a press release Monday, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley expressed reservations about the DOL's "good news." He wrote about his concern that the DOL's new plan reduced the number of total students that could be enrolled at every center and that he still wants answers on why the freeze was needed in the first place.

"This reduction is the primary action being taken to eliminate the budget shortfall that led to the enrollment freeze. We’re working to confirm this information," read a note from his office staff.

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