Summer Jobs in the City

April 27, 1995

Remember your first job? Remember how it felt to earn your own money? How all the things grown-ups tried to teach you about responsibility suddenly became clearer? Remember learning the value of taking a workmanlike approach to any endeavor? Thousands of teen-agers in Baltimore may miss those important lessons this year.

The Republican House, in its laudable but sometimes misdirected zeal to achieve deficit reduction, has passed a "Contract with America" that doesn't include a summer jobs program for youths. A Senate bill does give cities the option of paying for summer jobs, but only by taking money from their equally important year-round jobs programs.

Karen Sitnick, assistant director of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development, says Baltimore needs a $3.2 million federal appropriation to provide 4,000 summer jobs. Already, 1,000 kids who want to work have applied for summer jobs.

Local businesses are being asked to help. Any company that can hire a teen-ager or make a cash donation that would help pay the salary of a teen assigned to work at one of the local non-profit agencies is asked to contact the Commonwealth Youth Services Office by telephoning 396-JOBS.

The city has some experience dealing with a similar situation. President Reagan cut summer jobs 10 years ago and Baltimore created a non-profit foundation to solicit jobs and money. The same structure, in cooperation with the Greater Baltimore Committee, will again be used this time.

The outlook isn't very bright. Typically the city gets about $100,000 in cash donations each year for its summer jobs program. Private employers also hire about 200 teen-agers. But doubling or tripling those numbers still leaves a huge hole.

Police Chief Thomas C. Frazier says he wrote letters to everyone he could think of on Capitol Hill to save the summer jobs program from Congress' rescission list. He said Baltimore's already inadequate mechanism for dealing with juvenile violent crime doesn't need another blow.

But it's not just the potential impact on street crime that makes the summer jobs program vital. Working teaches important lessons that help youngsters become responsible adult citizens. Companies that can help the city fill any void created by Congress should step forward now.

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