Summer jobs for Baltimore teenagers are good for the students and the city. The kids get something worthwhile to do with their free time and a legitimate source of money, as well as fewer opportunities to get into trouble.
But one group of youths thinks more could be done to keep teenagers employed through the summer and school year. Peer to Peer Enterprises - the conscientious, talented kids involved in programs such as the Algebra Project and the Urban Debate League - have been trying to get City Hall to kick in $3 million to support and expand their programs, which pay students to tutor others and participate in similar peer education activities. They would use the money to establish an investment pool to ensure their groups' longevity.
They have the right idea, but the city is doing as much as it can right now with budget constraints and a slowed economy. Mayor Sheila Dixon has set aside more than $14 million for youth programs, including $2.4 million for summer jobs for teens - an increase of $700,000 over last year. In addition, about 181 companies have pledged 652 jobs for city youths and contributed another $510,655 to the effort.
No elected official wants to vote against teens eager to make a difference, but City Council members this week rightly recognized that raiding the city's rainy day fund to support Peer to Peer was the wrong approach, given the grim economic forecast. But any extra city money found at the end of the year should be used to help seed the Peer to Peer investment pool.
Meanwhile, the program's students who are planning a hunger strike should instead continue their efforts to raise private funds to help pay tutors. Their work is a worthy investment.