Great Society at 50: LBJ’s Job Corps

May 27, 2014

By David A. Fahrenthold
May 19, 2014
Published in The Washington Post

Indiahoma, Oklahoma - In the middle of an Oklahoma wildlife refuge — at a campus so remote that buffalo wander in — about 100 young people are taking classes in the hope that the U.S. government can turn their lives around.

Given the statistics, most of them will be disappointed.

This is the Treasure Lake Job Corps center, an outpost of a job-training program created as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. The program began with a noble, untested idea: Government could save troubled youths one at a time, taking them in and teaching them a trade.

Today, students here learn subjects such as cooking, nursing and plumbing from employees of the U.S. Forest Service. A year of education and job placement costs taxpayers about $45,000, more than tuition at Georgia Tech.

But at last count, only about 49 percent of Treasure Lake’s students completed their job training.

And only 55 percent of those graduates found jobs in fields they were trained for.

“Is it worth it to the taxpayer? If functioning well, yes,” said Roger Hepburn, Treasure Lake’s new acting director.

But is Treasure Lake worth the cost given how it actually functions? read more