NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Suspicious Of AmeriCorps

February 7, 2002

President Bush has proposed a budget increase of 50 percent for the AmeriCorps program. Given the not-too-distant history of the federal paid-volunteer program, critics think this is too great a leap of faith.

  • AmeriCorps has often been embroiled in scandals and politicization, documented by journalist James Bovard in his book "Feeling Your Pain," and in numerous reports from the Office of the Inspector General.
  • Last month the director of a Mississippi anti-poverty program was sentenced to 41 months in prison for misapplication of AmeriCorps funds, with numerous witnesses testifying that they were told to falsify records.
  • Les Lenkowsky, the new head of the Corporation for National and Community Service that oversees AmeriCorps, has received praise for reforms he has initiated in the corps -- and he promises tighter financial controls in the future.
  • But critics are still suspicious of the need to federalize volunteerism -- and fear that such a program may well be politicized once again, and would take decades to kill.

Moreover, they argue that the response post-Sept. 11 has established that private voluntary assistance is alive and well in the U.S. They question the need for a government role.

Terry Scanlon of the Capital Research Center suggests that AmeriCorps' bona fides first be established by a few pilot programs and huge additional funding be delayed until their effectiveness can be evaluated.

Source: Editorial, "Contract With AmeriCorps," Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2002.


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