Durbin, Duckworth, Illinois Representatives Question Corporation For National & Community Service's Reorganization Plan
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), along with U.S. Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL-01), Danny Davis (D-IL-07), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Dan Lipinski (D-IL-03), Mike Quigley (D-IL-05), Bill Foster (D-IL-11), Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Chuy Garcia (D-IL-04), Sean Casten (D-IL-06), and Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), sent a letter to the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) raising concerns with its proposed Transformation and Sustainability Plan. The plan calls for closing CNCS offices across the country and would put the closest office for Illinois grantees in Columbus, Ohio. CNCS is a partnership between the federal government and state governors, and is the leading provider of grants that support and promote national service and volunteerism.
“Instead of four dedicated full-time CNCS staff located in Chicago with field knowledge, opportunity for local input, and outreach capacity, Illinois will be served by an unknown number of CNCS staff split among five states, with potentially little to no knowledge of Illinois, and located two states away,” the members wrote.
CNCS grantees in Illinois currently benefit from the support of the state office in Chicago. If the proposed reorganization goes through, the nearest CNCS “support” for Illinois grantees will be, on average, triple the distance away in Columbus, Ohio – upwards of 373 miles. For some grantees, such as East Saint Louis School District 189, that distance will increase to 414 miles.
“At a time when our country’s need for national service is at an all-time high, this reorganization appears to take several steps backward,” the members continued.
Earlier this month, Senator Duckworth visited Triton College, the program sponsor for CNCS’s SeniorCorps’ Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in suburban Cook and southern DuPage counties, to discuss the impact of CNCS’s plan to close state offices. RSVP volunteers are Americans 55 years and older involved in projects such as organizing neighborhood watches, tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged or disabled youth, renovating homes, teaching English to immigrants, assisting victims of natural disasters, tax preparation assistance programming and more. In November, Duckworth introduced the 21st Century American Service Act, which would increase the number of service positions available through civilian national service organizations, educate all young Americans about the national service opportunities available to them and reduce financial barriers that prohibit some young Americans from serving.
Full text of today’s letter is available here and below:
January 22, 2019
Dear Ms. Stewart,
We write to share our concerns and request additional information regarding the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) Transformation and Sustainability Plan.
Each year, CNCS engages more than 325,000 national service participants at more than 50,000 locations across the country to empower our nation’s most valuable resource – its citizens. It is the leading provider of grants that support and promote national service and volunteerism.
CNCS was formed as a partnership between the Federal Government and state governors. The unique combination of direct CNCS staff outreach to local stakeholders and coordination with State Service Commissions (SSCs) through CNCS state offices plays a critical role in ensuring that federal national service funding responds to local needs and drives local results.
But the reorganization plan calls for closing CNCS state offices across the country, including in Illinois, in favor of a regional model. According to the plan, Illinois is slated to become part of the “Midwest Region” along with four other states and served by a regional office in Columbus, Ohio.
Instead of four dedicated full-time CNCS staff located in Chicago with field knowledge, opportunity for local input, and outreach capacity, Illinois will be served by an unknown number of CNCS staff split among five states, with potentially little to no knowledge of Illinois, and located two states away. Based on Fiscal Year 2017, the average distance from CNCS grantees in the proposed Midwest Region to their current respective state office was 120 miles. That distance, on average, increases to 252 miles under the plan. In Illinois, the average distance to Columbus for CNCS grantees would be 373 miles – more than triple the distance to Chicago. CNCS Grantee East Saint Louis School District 189, for example, is 414 miles away from Columbus.
Prior to your confirmation, you discussed with Senator Durbin the difficult issues facing Illinois and Chicago including youth trauma and violence that has garnered national attention.
In your previous experience in Chicago, you’ve seen these challenges up close and how well-spent resources can make a difference in struggling communities. But you’re proposing to remove staff from Chicago at a time when additional federal resources, not fewer, are needed to effectively respond to youth trauma, violence, and their underlying causes in the largest city in the proposed Midwest Region. We fail to see how this fits with Goal 6 of the plan to “align [y]our workforces and workplaces to better serve [y]our customers, meet evolving needs, and ensure efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”
In the June 8, 2018, submission for the public comment period, a Serve Illinois Commissioner asked “What metrics will be used to support and justify a reduction in field presence and staff” which will allow CNCS to meet this goal. Despite the concerning fast-moving pace of the planned reorganization, this basic question and lack of clear justification for decisions—including selection of regional office locations—remain.
As such, we request responses to the following:
- How will a regional model improve CNCS outcomes? Please provide any supporting analysis and evidence.
- Please provide a list of the locations of Listening Sessions held by CNCS to solicit feedback on the Plan. Why was Chicago chosen as a Listening Session location?
- How was the total number of regional offices determined and why? Please provide any supporting analysis and data.
- What criteria were used to identify potential regional office locations?
- Please provide the assessment of each potential regional office location for the proposed Midwest Region.
- How many CNCS staff are currently located in the Illinois office?
- How many cumulative CNCS staff are currently located in state offices in states making up the proposed Midwest Region?
- How many total staff does CNCS intend to have in the proposed Midwest Region office?
- Please provide a timeline for the proposed closing of the Illinois office and opening of the Midwest Regional office in Columbus, Ohio.
- When does CNCS expect the proposed Midwest Regional office to be fully staffed?
- Please provide a copy of the proposed organizational chart between SSCs, CNCS regional offices, and the CNCS national office under the Plan.
- Please provide a crosswalk demonstrating how each responsibility currently handled by state offices will be accounted for under the Plan.
- Under the plan, what input will SSCs have with regional offices and the CNCS national office regarding programming in their state?
- How will the regional offices deliver Training/Technical Assistance to local stakeholders in a timely and effective manner?
At a time when our country’s need for national service is at an all-time high, this reorganization appears to take several steps backward. We appreciate your consideration and respectfully request a reply no later than February 1. Thank you.
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