The Fort Simcoe Job Corps center west of White Swan is no longer on the chopping block.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reversed a decision Wednesday to close nine Job Corps programs and privatize 16 others, according to U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside.
The move will save the Fort Simcoe Job Corps, which was among the nine facing closure. The Curlew Job Corps in Ferry County and Columbia Basin Job Corps in Moses Lake would have been privatized.
“Over the past few weeks, I have worked with a bipartisan coalition in Congress of members whose districts were directly affected by USDA’s decision to close or permanently alter U.S. Forest Service Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers, and it is with great pride that I announce the decision has been reversed,” Newhouse said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
The initial proposal to close and privatize the centers came from the federal government late last month in a cost-saving effort.
The Fort Simcoe Job Corps provides training for 140 to 170 students in heavy equipment operation, auto mechanics, masonry and culinary arts. The school helps at-risk youth ages 16 to 24 from underserved areas and helps them acquire skills and credentials. It is on the Yakama Reservation.
Of 123 Job Corps programs nationwide, the 25 Civilian Conservation Centers are overseen by the U.S. Forest Service. They are the only Job Corps programs nationwide that focus on training in natural resources conservation and natural disaster assistance.
The federal government received pushback from members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, including Newhouse, with wildfire response among the primary concerns.
Newhouse proposed amendments to several federal agency budgets to block the transfer or closure of the sites. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington was among a bipartisan group of senators to propose legislation that would similarly block the changes.
“Hearing the success stories from CCCs in White Swan and Moses Lake has reaffirmed my belief that these programs – and these students – deserve our investment,” Newhouse said. “I look forward to witnessing their future successes as they continue to carry out the U.S. Forest Service motto, ‘Caring for the land and serving people,’ in Central Washington and across the country.”
Walt Johnston, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees in Washington and Utah who worked to rally opposition to the Job Corps changes, lauded the announcement.
“That’s democracy in action, showing that the ... program is a worthwhile, public endeavor, and we do supply a benefit to this nation as a whole,” he said. “This is actually a social program that makes sense, and (U.S. Agriculture) Secretary Perdue recognizes that.”
Johnston said the reversal was no surprise in the face of “outcry across the nation” which was bipartisan and expressed by the House and the Senate.
“We are extremely happy,” Johnston said.