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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Tester Bill Would Stop Further Job Corps Closures

Senator Jon Tester (D) - Montana
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

One day after Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines announced a reversal of the decision to close a Job Corps facility in Anaconda, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester introduced legislation that would stop closures of similar sites across the country.

In a speech on the Senate Floor Tuesday, Tester said, "It is my hope that this administration will open their eyes and see what’s really going on in this country." 

Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers like the one in Anaconda provide trade skills, education and service opportunities for at-risk youth, ages 16 to 24.

"Quite frankly, Job Corps has worked for decades and decades and decades," Tester said.

On May 24, the Department of Labor announced nine Job Corps across the country would be shut down, including Anaconda’s. The labor department would privatize or take over management of the remaining 16 from the Forest Service, including one in Darby.

But Monday, Sen. Daines said he convinced President Trump to overturn the Anaconda closure.

"If Senator Daines got the Anaconda Job Corps to remain open, I want to thank him for that," Tester said.

Tester’s bill says the government can’t use its funds to close or repurpose Job Corps, and he says keeping Anaconda alone open isn’t enough.

"The reason for the legislation is predictability on all the Job Corps," Tester said. "And it also applies next year, if the president gets a whim to close Anaconda Job Corps, say after the election — can’t do it." 

Montana Sen.Steve Daines at a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee meeting in April 2018.
Credit Courtesy Sen. Steve Daines
Montana Senator Steve Daines at a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee meeting.

Together, the Anaconda and Trapper Creek Job Corps in Darby serve about 700 students a year and employ nearly 150 staff. Students work for nearby employers as part of their training, and often enter the local labor force upon graduation.

Job Corps students also respond to local emergencies like wildland fires. In 2016, Forest Service Job Corps crews worked nearly 400,000 hours on more than 400 fires across the country.

Tester’s bill is co-sponsored by Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman from Arkansas, where another Job Corps faces a closure.

Nick Mott is a reporter and podcast producer who focuses on wildlife, natural resources, and the environment. He was editor on the podcasts Shared State and Fireline, and producer on the podcasts Threshold and Richest Hill.
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