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September 16, 2013

City officials push to renew Job Corps contract

ETR doesn't qualify to retain 'small business' designation

(Continued)

“We just shouldn’t penalize them for their success,” Herzig said. “It doesn’t make sense.” 

Meredith Kelly, spokeswoman for Schumer, said the chairman of the HELP committee wouldn’t allow amendments to the Workforce Investment Act but will allow them when the bill reaches the Senate floor at an undetermined date. If Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Connecticut, a HELP committee member, offers the amendment, Schumer will support it, she said.

“It makes sense that workforce contractors, like ETR, that have done a good job with local Job Corps, get a fair opportunity to bid and to continue the important work that they do,” Kelly said. “Sen. Schumer will support efforts to incorporate this common-sense provision in any reform to the Workforce Investment Act.”

Since opening Sept. 10, 1980, Oneonta Job Corps history has varied in negative and positive light in the public eye. Police have intervened at times of unruly students and criminal behavior, and at other times, the center and its students have won national awards for achievements. The center’s ratings have fluctuated during the decades.

Job Corps officials note that centers not only provide students with education and marketable skills, but also have a positive impact on local economies. Typically, contracts for Job Corps Centers are for two years, with three one-year renewal options.

Christopher Kuhn, director of the Oneonta academy, said the local center’s annual budget is $9.7 million, of which two-thirds is payroll expenses.

The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to Schumer applauding the local Job Corps and to support ETR’s eligibility, Chamber Director Barbara Ann Heegan said.

Citizen Voices, a local group that supports economic growth that provides jobs, also has advocated sending letters to Schumer and Gillibrand.

ETR has been “very successful” in turning around student performance at the center, Vimalassery said.

The National Job Corps Association supports efforts to develop small businesses, Vimalassery said, and discussions continue with federal officials about eligibility factors for center operators. 

However, the most important issue remains determining what is best for students and student outcomes, he said.

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