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House Learning Center Reinstates Classes

Updated 3:27 p.m. | The House Learning Center will continue to offer orientation classes for interns and staff assistants, despite initial plans to cancel them to save money.

The nonprofit Congressional Management Foundation has offered the courses for about eight years; CMF officials estimate that in 2007, 250 House offices sent at least one staffer to the sessions. But a few months ago, Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard decided to scrap the popular courses, which included lessons on answering constituent mail, handling phone calls and working in a Congressional office setting.

The move angered some top aides, who relied on the courses to teach necessary skills to an often-transient group of junior staffers.

This week, the decision was reversed. Once Congress passed the fiscal 2009 budget, the CAO was released from the constraints of a continuing resolution, CAO spokeswoman Karissa Marcum said. �When the budget passed and we determined that CMF�s contract was awarded appropriately, we decided to reinstate the agreement,� she said in an e-mail.

Over the last few weeks, the House Chiefs of Staff Association has been working with the CAO�s office in an attempt to get the classes back. Beard had decided to scrap three before changing his mind: Intern Assistant Orientation, Staff Assistant Orientation and Effective Writing.

House Chiefs of Staff Association President George McElwee called the reversal �excellent news.�

�I�m very happy that Mr. Beard has decided to reinstate the staff training contract with CMF,� he said. �Having a quality institution helps ensure we have confident and effective staff to serve constituents.�

Beverly Bell, executive director of the CMF, said the organization received the news Wednesday and will offer the classes under the original terms. �We�re very happy to be working again with the CAO and with the Congressional staff,� she said.

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