Labor secretaries since the Reagan era have been promising to reform Job Corps, which has a $1.7 billion annual budget. The Labor Department's inspector general said in April that "Job Corps could not demonstrate beneficial job training outcomes," and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta told Thrush the program needs "fundamental reform."
About 50,000 students enroll every year, and each student costs taxpayers $15,000 to $45,000. President Trump attempted to cut funding for the program but was unsuccessful, partially because of the program's broad bipartisan support.
"Progressives see it as an enduring commitment to the poor rooted in a golden age of liberalism. Conservative lawmakers support Job Corps because it encourages low-income young people to work hard," Thrush writes. "The website for the trade association of Job Corps contractors is plastered with pictures of smiling politicians from both parties. The centerpiece is a snapshot of Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, hugging a Job Corps student in Morganfield — one of seven centers in his home state. During the Obama administration, budget officials floated the idea of shuttering a handful of the lowest-performing centers, according to former aides. The idea ran into immediate resistance from members of Congress in both parties. In the end, officials succeeded in closing only three, two of them underutilized rural forestry service sites in Arkansas and Oklahoma."