In his 2008 bid for the White House, Barack Obama said he would expand federal assistance for a nonprofit that provides job training and high school tutoring to low-income youths.
YouthBuild U.S.A. is a national organization that teaches young people from impoverished backgrounds how to build homes. Its website says "110,000 YouthBuild students have built 21,000 units of affordable, increasingly green, housing since 1994.” Students spend half their time in construction and half their time in the classroom, preparing to earn a high school diploma or an equivalent degree.
Obama said he supported the organization because it helped youths complete high school, find employment and attend college. He pledged to expand enrollment from 8,000 to 50,000.
Four years later, is YouthBuild bigger than before Obama's first term? Yes, but so far the candidate's ambitions were loftier than his achievements.
More money spent, more students trained
In the three budgets before Obama became president, Congress appropriated $49.5 million, $59 million and $70 million for YouthBuild. Under the Obama administration, the nonprofit won $49.5 million in economic stimulus, most of which got spent in 2009. The next year, Congress appropriated $102.5 million. Obama seemed to be on track to keep his campaign promise, with a 73 percent hike in funding between 2008 and 2010. He then requested $120 million for 2011, which would have marked another dramatic increase.
However, the past two budgets have been far less generous to YouthBuild. On its website, the organization blames the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, which attempted to eliminate federal funding altogether and successfully negotiated a cut; in both 2011 and 2012, Congress set aside about $79 million for YouthBuild, which is what the White House has requested for next year as well. (When we adjusted that figure for inflation, we found it's roughly the same as what President George W. Bush's administration spent.)
Despite the budget fluctuations, slightly more students are getting trained than before Obama took office. Government records show the number of students trained by YouthBuild -- using federal money -- was fewer than 4,500 in 2006. Even fewer received training in 2003, 2004 and 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated YouthBuild would train 5,120 students in 2013.
"The net impact has been an increase -- not on a path to 50,000, but a more incremental expansion,” said Dorothy Stoneman, president of YouthBuild.
YouthBuild keeps a tally of total enrollment, including students trained without the use of federal money. After the initial boost in federal investment, enrollment rose to more than 11,000 and stands at about 10,000 today, Stoneman said.
In this case, we see that Obama did expand YouthBuild, even if Republicans in the House reversed some of those gains after 2010. His specific goal of increasing enrollment to 50,000 students is far off, but he made enough progress to earn a Compromise.