U.S. Senator Jon Tester doubled down Tuesday on his efforts to stop the closure or transfer of Montana’s Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers by pushing to add an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would block changes to the centers’ operations.
Tester, a Democrat, introduced legislation last week that would not allow government funding in 2019 and 2020 to close any Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center. The bill also would prohibit any agency from making changes to agreements that operate the CCCs, which would prevent them from being privatized.
Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican, signed on a co-sponsor to that initial legislation.
Tester filed the bill as an amendment to the larger legislative package that the Senate plans to vote on later this week.
“I’m appalled by the Administration’s reckless, short-sighted decision to either close or privatize all 25 Civilian Conservation Centers across the country,” Tester said. “Since 1966, these job-training centers have helped connect local businesses with hundreds of high-skilled workers prepared to meet the demands of a 21st-century economy. I won’t stop until Administration reverses course or is blocked by Congress from closing the Job Corps Centers.”
Montana has two operating CCCs — Trapper Creek at Darby and Anaconda Job Corps in Anaconda.
The CCCs are operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. The U.S. Department of Labor also oversees the operation of other Job Corps centers, many of which are run by private organizations.
On May 24, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the Forest Service would end its relationship with the CCCs and turn them over to the U.S. Department of Labor, where they would likely be privatized.
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Under the proposed plan, Anaconda Job Corps was slated to be closed. Trapper Creek would be turned over the Department of Labor, its current employees let go, and then privatized.
Earlier this month, Daines reported that he had secured President Donald Trump’s decision to keep the Anaconda Job Corps open as a CCC.
Anaconda Job Corps remains on the list filed in the Federal Register of eight Job Corps centers slated to close. A spokesperson from Tester’s office said Tuesday that officials from both the U.S. Agriculture and Labor departments recently said in a briefing there were no plans to change Anaconda’s status before the Federal Register notice expires in July.
Enrollment at Anaconda Job Corps has been frozen since the announcement that it would close. Its numbers have dropped to 130. At full capacity, the center works with 170 students.
Trapper Creek Job Corps continues to accept new students every two weeks, said the center’s director, Jesse Casterson.
“We are continuing to operate with business as usual,” Casterson said. “Nothing has really changed at Trapper. We graduated five students last night … and we’re bringing in seven to 11 new students every two weeks. Right now, some of those students are coming here because they couldn’t go to Anaconda.”
Masonry students from Trapper Creek were pouring concrete at the Bitterroot College in Hamilton and at a site in Stevensville this week.
Last week, a bipartisan amendment was passed the House 313-109 that would prevent the federal government from pulling funding from the Job Corps Conservation Centers for the rest of the year. That bill will go to the U.S. Senate for consideration.