Federal Funding

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President Bush rolled out a $2.4 trillion budget request last month that drew a response from the youth field that was seemingly equal in hiss and bliss.

The president’s fiscal 2005 budget would slash or eliminate some employment training and juvenile justice programs, while increasing funds for abstinence- only education, juvenile re-entry and AmeriCorps programs.

“This budget proposal falls short of meeting the needs of America’s children, particularly those children who are victims of abuse and neglect,” said Shay Bilchik, CEO of the Child Welfare League of America.

In a statement issued shortly after the president sent his budget to Congress, Bilchik said, “Just as the president provides for a new course for space exploration with a request for a $1 billion funding increase, so must we also demand that a new course and vision be set in motion for the future of America’s children.”

Among other comments, Bilchik criticized the administration for not providing access to foster care benefits to many relatives, especially grandparents, who care for abused and neglected kids.

Judy Samuelson, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance, let Bush have it for not, in her view, properly funding the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. She criticized Bush for “flat-lining” the funding at $1 billion, which she said “is not nearly enough to meet the needs of America’s children and families.”

Samuelson added, however, that she was heartened the president didn’t repeat “last year’s attempt to gut the program.”

The D.C.-based Children’s Defense Fund said the administration “fails to meet the basic needs of children in health care, housing, child care, child nutrition, abuse and neglect.” A CDF budget summary charges that the administration is guilty of “underfunding its own No Child Left Behind Act by $9.4 billion.”

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), which supports comprehensive sex education, blasted Bush for nearly tripling his last request for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Of the $273 million allotted for these programs, the bulk is being transferred to the Administration for Children and Families for community-based efforts.

“This is pure political pork,” said Bill Smith, policy director for the New York-based organization. “This is a political stunt by Bush to get to his conservative political base. There is no science to back abstinence-only as a valid public health intervention. It is an election year stunt.”

Disagreeing wholeheartedly was Leslee Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, an association of organizations that provide abstinence education. “With the recent revelation that for every dollar the federal government spends on abstinence education, $12 are spent on promoting contraception, this funding is welcome,” Unruh said in a prepared statement from her agency’s South Dakota headquarters.

Also thrilled was anyone who gets workers through AmeriCorps. Last year, severe financial troubles put a freeze on program proposals and individual applications. Programs were significantly reduced or eliminated at agencies that lost AmeriCorps slots.

In the 2005 budget proposal, however, AmeriCorps’ parent, the Corporation for National and Community Service, is slated for $1.017 billion, an $82 million increase over this year. The president’s request would boost AmeriCorps grants and the National Service Trust from $441 million to $452 million, while Learn and Serve America would grow by $3 million, to $46 million.

The Bush proposals would also increase the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state grant program by $1 billion, to $11.1 billion. That’s a 75 percent increase in the program over the four years of the Bush administration.

However, a $2 million IDEA program to serve migrant children with disabilities would be terminated. The same goes for the $6.9 million Higher Education Demonstration Projects, which fund technical assistance and professional development for special education students with higher education aspirations.