Emanuel complains about federal cuts to summer job programs

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The federal government has so dramatically reduced its support for summer jobs programs that it’s “not even worth applying anymore,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday.

The former congressman and White House chief of staff complained about a federal government he once helped to run during a Politico forum called, “What Works: Chicago” with the mayors of Gary, Ind., and Pittsburgh, Pa.

“The summer jobs, we increased our investment 150 percent. At the same time, the federal support? Ninety percent reduction. We ended up, of the 20,000 kids, the federal government was about 700 kids,” Emanuel told the panel.

“I said, `It’s not even worth applying anymore.’ It costs you more than the actual money you’re gonna get. And you’ve got to keep our kids learning and earning in the summer.”

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Instead, Emanuel said he’s taking matters into his own hands — by adding 10,000 academic and job opportunities to his citywide summer plan to engage young people between the ages of 4 and 24 and keep them safe when school is not in session.

“Last year, we had 20,000 kids, the largest summer jobs program of any city in America. This year, we’re gonna do 22,000. Community gardens. Bike mechanics. And they will sign a pledge committing themselves to high school graduation if they’re gonna participate in a publicly funded jobs program,” Emanuel said.

All told, this year’s array of summer programs will engage 215,000 kids at parks, libraries, schools, museums, universities, community- and faith-based organizations, the mayor said.

“In a lot of parts of the city, faith-based entities are very important institutions. While I agree with the separation [between church and state], you’ve got to be open to what works,” Emanuel said.

The mayor noted that Chicago Park District camps will include 60,000 kids, all of them participating in 30 minutes of daily reading.

“All of our museums are part of it. We do faith-based efforts. There’s a summer of learning so, when kids start up school, they’ve actually participated in some education capacity,” he said.

“In the summer, you have what is called the `summer slide.’ Kids fall back four or five months of learning so when they get back to school in September, they’re like they were in March. You don’t want to lose that academic time.”

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