Obama, Congress Flunk National-Service Test

With the audacity to overreach, President Obama commemorated the fifth anniversary of the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act on Monday by calling it “the boldest expansion of opportunities to serve our communities and our country since the creation of AmeriCorps.”

He’s wrong. National-service advocates, including Democrats otherwise loyal to Obama, say the law has gotten little more than lip service from the White House—and far less than that from House Republicans.

In fact, both the Obama administration and Congress received failing grades Monday in a report by ServiceNation and Voices for National Service, two groups advocating for programs that support volunteerism and community service.

This must be what Obama considers to be bold and expanded:

  • From 2010 to 2013, the number of people serving the nation through AmeriCorps declined by nearly 18,000 because of a lack of funding from Washington, according to the report.
  • This year, despite soaring number of applicants for AmeriCorps positions, fewer than 80,000 national-service members are serving. That is 120,000 short of the law’s goal for 2014.

The 2009 act authorized the growth of AmeriCorps from 75,000 positions in 2008 to 250,000 by 2017. That pledge appears unattainable, given the resistance of Republicans to support national service and Obama’s inability to overcome the GOP.

“As we celebrate this anniversary,” Obama wrote in a letter to national-service advocates Monday, “let us recommit to fulfilling its promise.” One recipient, who asked not to be identified, emailed me a copy of the letter and scoffed, “You can’t recommit to something that’s never been committed to.”

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