Establish a Texas Youth Corps

Texas should establish a service and conservation youth corps for out-of-school, unemployed youth.


Background
In 1991, Texas had about 200,000 unemployed young people between the ages of 16 and 24. Youth aged 16 to 19 experienced a 20 percen t unemployment rate and accounted for 93,000 of the total. Another 113,000 youth aged 20 to 24 also were unemployed with an 11 percent unemployment rate. 1

More than 40 cities and counties and 18 states have established youth service and conservation corps to provide an alternative to youth unemployment, gangs and youth crime. 2 A youth corps gives communities needed services and provides educational and job opportunities, work and life skills, improved self-esteem and the satisfaction of community involvement to unemployed youth.

Youth corps members work on service projects, such as making public facilities accessible to the disabled or serving in nursing homes, senior centers, child care centers, schools, law enforcement agencies and literacy centers. They also work on conservatio n projects to improve wildlife habitats, parks and recreational areas, energy conservation and recycling. Some corps are involved in housing rehabilitation and low income minor home repair that teach specific job skills.

Communi ties receive needed services not otherwise available, and unemployed youth, who might otherwise become involved in gangs, drugs, crime or other social ills, are placed in gainful activities that can lead to a productive life. The program can provide an opp ortunity for youth to serve as role models for other people, which instills a growing commitment to community.

The concept of youth service and conservation corps began with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established in 1933 as a New Deal program t o combat unemployment in the United States during the Great Depression. In 1935, 2,600 CCC camps had an enrollment of 500,000 nationwide. The CCC was abolished in 1942.

The basic concept was revived again in the late 1970s with the energy crisis when several corps were established across the country. In the late 1980s, more states and localities established corps in response to problems of youth unemployment, gangs and yo uth drug abuse. The National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (NASCC), established in 1985, is the national association for youth corps and has more than 70 corps organizations representing more than 20,000 corps members. 3

While youth corps across the nation vary somewhat according to mission, funding sources, benefits and ages of youth served, they all have certain common features. Youth corps generally serve out-of-school, unemployed youth, usually between the ages of 16 t o 24 for six months to two years.

Corps members work on projects in teams or crews of 6 to 12 under t he guidance of a staff supervisor who provides assistance but challenges them to learn new skills. Corps members are usually paid minimum wage or provided a stipend if they are considered a volunteer. Some programs offer members a tuition scholarship, cash grant or savings certificate of up to $5,000 when they complete their time in the corps.

Corps teams work on both short-term and long-term service and conservation projects that have tangible results in the community. Corps members receive ongoing educat ional opportunities, intensive orientation, including team building, outdoor physical training and exercises in learning through service.

The Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) programs are a source of assistance to youth corps programs, usually through returning Peace Corps volunteers or locally based VISTA volunteers. The federal Job Corps, which is often confused wit h youth service and conservation corps, is a separate program that provides specific job skills in a residential setting for unemployed youth.

A few youth service and conservation corps, such as Florida s and California s, also provide residential services, but most corps are urban-based and transport crews or teams to project sites from a central base. State-operated corps are usually conservati on-oriented and work on the state parks system. States also give grants to support local corps. State programs usually have an advisory board composed of representatives from unions, education, employment and volunteer organizati ons and the general public.

The National and Community Service Act of 1990 established the Commission on National and Community Service, which gave $21.5 million in grants to states for conservation and service corps in fiscal 1992. 4 Texas applied for a grant but was not selected. Funding for fiscal 1993 is also $21.5 million and will be enough only to sustain corps that currently have grants. However, another $22.5 million will be available in February for demonstration grants, and T exas could apply for one of these.

Although Texas was not selected for a youth corps grant, the state did receive a $1.1 million grant for ServeAmerica, which is the student volunteer part of the Commission s enabling legislation, and some funds for higher education volunteerism.

Texas Programs
Texas has two local youth corps operating in Dallas and El Paso that could benefit from federal and state grants, and other Texas cities also have expressed interest in starting programs. The Dallas Youth Service Corps serves 50 youth c orps members on a regular basis and more in the summer and has a waiting list of 123 applicants.

The El Paso Service and Education Labor Force (SELF) is a small program that serves 15 members. The Dallas and El Paso corps began operating in 1991 from a joint effort of Public/Private Ventures, Inc., and NASCC, which provided grants to start 12 urban co nservation and service corps across the nation. The Dallas Corps receives annual funding of about $1 million, and the El Paso corps receives about $500,000, both from a variety of sources. 5

A Texas Youth Corps could be administered by the Texas Commission on Commerce and Labor recommended in another part of this report.

Program Costs
The estimated average cost of operating a youth corps program is about $15,000 per youth corps member per year, which includes a full-time wage or stipend at approximately minimum wage, a scholarship of up to $5,000 and administrative costs. Besides genera l revenue, some states also use oil overcharge funds, lottery revenue, Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) funds, Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) funds, park fees and hunting and license fees to fund corps programs. California uses bottle bill revenue to fund the recycling portion of their state and local corps. 6 State programs that give grants to local corps can also require local match.

Besides the sources listed above, local programs often use Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, city, county or school district funds and private funds, such as foundation , corporate, individual and in-kind donations. Some corps charge a fee for service to fund their programs or to use as local match for state or federal sources.

Boston s City Year youth corps program uses an annual Serve-a-thon to raise much of its funding. The Serve-a-thon attracted 4,000 people in 1991 and raised $435,000 for the program. The Serve-a-thon works much like a walk-a-thon, but instead of walking, people are sent to sites around the community to paint, clean vacant lots or plant community gardens. Each corps team also has a corporate sponsor. 7

Most state programs are small, serving about 300 to 500 corps members, but the California Conservation Corps serves 1,800. Additionally, many urban areas in California also maintain corps. The size of corps often grow in the summer when JTPA Title IIB fund s become available to hire youth in the summer.


Recommendations
A. The Legislature should establish a Texas Youth Corps that would provide competitive grants to entities at the state and local leve ls to establish or sustain youth conservation and service corps. The Corps should be placed in a state agency whose mission is consistent with work force development. In this case, the program would appropriately fit in Texas Commission on Commerce and Lab or recommended in another part of this report.

The Texas Youth Corps should also have an advisory council composed of representatives from unions, businesses, education organizations, employment services, human services, volunteer organizations, conservation programs and job training programs.

The Texas Youth Corps would need to provide both competitive grants to start up new programs as well as sustaining grants for existing programs. The Corps also should provide statewide training, technical assistance and grant monitoring to youth corps rec eiving grants. The state corps program should be allowed to provide training and technical assistance to other corps in the state not receiving grants. The program would need a director and sufficient administrativ e staff to provide training, technical assistance and monitoring services to state and local entities receiving grants. The program would also coordinate grant applications submitted to the federal government.

B. The Texas Youth Corps should be funded on a two-year trial basis from the balance of the Advance Interest Trust Fund 935. An appropriation of $9 million each year of the biennium should be made to the Texas Commssion on Commerce and Labor, which is recommended in another section of this report, or another appropriate agency, to fund the Corps.

The balance in Fund 935 cannot be used for its original purpose, which was intended to cover interest payments to the federal government when Texas was forced to borrow money to pay unemployment compensation. Due to changes in the way Texas now manages Te xas Employment Commission s (TEC) federal funds, the state will no longer have to borrow money from the federal government in the future for this purpose. The source for the fund was a surtax of one percen t that was paid by employers and collected by TEC. The balance of the fund as of November 15, 1992 was $26.6 million. Since the funds came from employers, it is reasonable to spend the fund on a purpose that is employment-related, such as the Texas Youth C orps.

C. The Legislature should mandate that the Texas Youth Corps present a report to the 74th Legislature on the progress of the program s implementation.


Implications
A Texas Youth Corps grant program would maximize the number of young people in the program by leveraging state and local dollars and by matching federal dollars should they become available. The Corps would create meaningful opportunities for employment, training, education and service for unemployed youth. It would also provide them wi th improved self-esteem, a sense of belonging to their communities and leadership qualities. A Texas Youth Corps would also provide communities with needed services they could not otherwise afford.

The proposed funding source for the Texas Youth Corps, th e balance of Fund 935, provides a two-year start-up fund for the program. Some employers could object to the balance of the fund being spent for a purpose other than its original one; however, the fund can no longer be spent for its original purpose. The s tate has a responsibility to ensure that available funds are spent for needed services. The Texas Youth Corps is an employment-related program that provides job training and other services to youth and the community and would benefit employers.

The Texas Youth Corps would need to ensure that youth employed in these programs do not take jobs away from people currently employed. State and local corps generally place a union representative on their board and ensure in legislation that corps projects will not take jobs away from current workers.


Fiscal Impact
It is not possible to calculate the cost savings of this recommendation. However, state grants of $8.5 million per year would pay for 1,133 corps members at 50 percent local match.

The fiscal impact inf ormation listed below assumes $8.5 million each year would be provided in grants, and $500,000 would be spent annually on administrative costs for the program. The program would need eight FTEs to provide technical assistance and training to local youth co rps, apply for federal funding, monitor grants to local corps and to represent the state with other state and federal organizations affiliated with youth corps.


Cost to the Cost to the
Fiscal Advance Interest General Revenue Change in
Year Trust Fund 935 Fund 001 Net Cost FTEs

1994 $9,000,000 $ 0 $9,000,000 +8
1995 9,000,000 0 9,000,000 +8
1996 0 9,000,000 9,000,000 +8
1997 0 9,000,000 9,000,000 +8
1998 0 9,000,000 9,000,000 +8



Endnotes
1 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, unpublished data, 1991.
2 National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, Membership Directory (Washington, D.C., June 25, 1992).
3 National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, Membership Directory and What is NASCC? (Washington, D.C., 1992).
4 Commission on National and Community Service, Summary of Subtitle C Grants (Washington, D.C., August 1992). (Draft.)
5 Dallas Youth Services Corps, Letter and budget document from Mary Eggemeyer, July 22, 1992 and Public/Private Ventures, Inc., Urban Corps Expansion Project Profile - El Paso SELF, August 1992.
6 Interview with Bruce Saito, Assistant Director, Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Los Angeles, California, August 13, 1992.
7 Interview with Virginia Gold, Serve-a-thon Co-director, Boston City Year, Boston, Massachusetts, August 28, 1992.