Ryan Asks for More Education Funds Also Looks for More Cost-Effective Methods of Training People

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Thompson Daily Herald State Government Writer

SPRINGFIELD - Gov. George Ryan will call today for spending an additional half-billion dollars on education and job training programs to help people like Erin, a once-homeless suburban mother who has turned her family's life around over the last 18 months.

Even as he pours more money into jobs development, Ryan and others wonder if there is a cheaper way than the average $5,000 in tax dollars spent to help Erin and others through an experimental employment program.

Erin, who did not want her last name used, studied to become a patient-care assistant through a program at EHS Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

She completed the program and left to become an emergency medical technician and aspiring paramedic.

"She's done a remarkable job of putting herself and her family's life together over the past year and a half," said Fran Anderson, who heads the employment program for Glen Ellyn-based Bridge Communities, DuPage County's largest provider of permanent housing for the homeless.

Yet, while Erin is a success story, her case illustrates the state's difficulties in targeting its jobless programs.

The $500 million-plus in Ryan's $40 billion budget fulfills his pledge from last year's campaign to devote half the state's extra income from a booming economy to improving the state's work force.

"People in the Northwest suburbs are clamoring for highly trained workers," said Mark Russo, a spokesman for community development groups. "They can't expand without them."

While most of the new money will go to schools and universities, Ryan also will beef up job training contracts with private employers and community organizations, including doubling the $1 million now spent on the experimental program designed to tailor job training to a specific employer's needs.

"It's a combination of being geographically based (in the community) and being very customized to that company's needs. You're not just training people for some job down the road," said Ted Wysocki, president of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations.

But even as he puts more money into the program, Ryan will launch a study to determine whether the money is being used effectively. Not only the cost per job but the quality of each job has been a subject of debate between the Illinois Department of Human Services and community agencies. …