President Barack Obama released a proposed 2010 budget Thursday that would eliminate several funding streams for youth programs, including $82 million in juvenile justice grants, abstinence-only sex education, school-based mentoring grants that go to numerous nonprofits, and state grants through Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities.
But the proposed budget holds to Obama's pledge to triple the size of AmeriCorps, increasing the budget of the Corporation for National and Community Service by nearly 30 percent.
It also throws cold water on the hopes of after-school advocates by keeping the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program (CLC) at its current level.
Programs slated for elimination were not shown to be effective in evaluations, the budget document states.
Traditionally, the president's budget proposal is essentially a wish list that shows the administration's priorities, setting off months of battles in Congress before a budget is finally passed that might bear little resemblance to the one first proposed.
See Youth Today's overview of the president's proposed federal 2010 youth budget as compared to fiscal 2009.
Among other things, the budget would:
- Eliminate the two major sources of discretionary money at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) – Part E Demonstration Projects, funded at $82 million this year, and the discretionary portion of the Byrne Discretionary and Competitive Grants. The Byrne grants would go from $208 million to $30 million, with none of it slated as discretionary.
One apparent reason: Although the funds can be awarded through competitive bids, Congress has increasingly eaten up the money in earmarks. Almost all of the Part E money announced for this year was taken by earmarks, as this report explains.
- Flat-fund CLC, the largest dedicated pot of federal after-school funding, at $1.1 billion. During last year's presidential campaign, Obama promised to double the program's funding (although he did not say by when).
Jodi Grant, executive director of The Afterschool Alliance, said in a prepared statement that keeping the current funding level "is a serious mistake that will result in millions of children having no safe, supervised, educational activities after the school day ends, and millions of worried working parents struggling to find care for their children."
- Eliminate the Education Department's Student Mentoring Program, now funded at $47 million. Grant recipients have included numerous Big Brothers Big Sisters of America affiliates (including those in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Augusta, Ga.); some YMCA affiliates (such as the YMCA of San Francisco); the Centers for Youth and Families in Little Rock, Ark.; the Colorado Christian Home, in Denver; Communities in Schools of Springfield, Ill.; and the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative.
The budget proposal says a 2009 evaluation of this school-based program, conducted by the department's Institute of Education Sciences, "found the program to be ineffective." It also says mentoring is supported by numerous other federal programs, citing the 2003 report by the White House Task Force on Disadvantaged Youth.
While not disputing the results of the federal study, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) spokeswoman Kelly Williams said, "We believe well-run school-based mentoring programs can and do have real impacts," and that the organization will work with the federal government to continue funding well-run programs. The first large-scale evaluation of BBBSA's school-based mentoring efforts showed some sobering results, but Williams said the organization is making changes based on ongoing evaluations done by Public/Private Ventures.
"I don't think that's the last word" on this funding stream, said Lawrence Bernstein, a senior associate at the research firm Abt Associates, and the project director for the evaluation cited by the White House for terminating the program. "Everybody I've talked to in the field has said, 'Well, don't worry, we'll get it back in.' "
"It's a cottage industry," he added. "A lot of these [student mentoring programs] are sprouting out of the ground, and then they disappear. I mean, we went to send the results back to everybody, and we couldn't find two of our grantees. They didn't exist anymore."
- Eliminate $147 million in funding for abstinence-only sex ed, using the money for a new initiative to combat teen pregnancy that would rely largely on "promising models."
- Increase funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) by 29.4 percent over the enacted 2009 budget, to $1.149 billion. Most of the increase is aimed at taking AmeriCorps to a force 250,000 strong, about triple its current size, as Obama said he wanted to do during his presidential campaign.
The proposal adds more than $100 million to the State and National AmeriCorps budget, enough to fund about 10,000 more volunteers, for a total of about 84,000. CNCS spokesman Sandy Scott said the amount is what the corporation had requested and will also provide funds to increase its infrastructure to support the 250,000 AmeriCorps volunteers who are scheduled to be in place by 2017.
The proposed budget also provides $50 million for a new Social Investment Fund, to help identify and fund new programs, and $10 million for a Volunteer Generation Fund.
There is just a 5 percent increase in the corporation's Learn and Serve initiatives, the only programs designed for school children. And there is new money for educational grants given to AmeriCorps volunteers at the end of their service, increasing the stipends to $5,350 from $4,725.
Other programs slated to be terminated – along with their fiscal 2009 authorization levels, their federal departments, and the White House justification for elimination – are listed below. The budget's section dealing with program eliminations and reductions is here.
Safe and Drug-free Schools and Communities state grants – $295 million in formula grants, Education. "While reducing violence and drug use in and around schools is a compelling goal," the budget proposal says, "reviews by an independent evaluator and by a statutory advisory committee have demonstrated that this program is poorly matched to achieving that goal." It cites a study calling the program's structure "profoundly flawed," and said it "does not focus on the schools most in need," and that the funds are distributed so thinly that the grants are too small to have much impact.
The budget proposes to increase funding for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities National Programs, which allows the Education Department to award grants to selected local projects "in amounts sufficient to make a real difference."
The formula grants have typically gone to state human services and law enforcement agencies, such as the Hawaii Office of Youth Services, the Delaware Office of Prevention and Early Intervention, and the Governor's Office for Children, in Maryland. Prevention First, a drug-prevention organization in Illinois, has also received the grants, according to the Department of Education.
Even Start – $66 million, Education. This literacy program for low-income children and their families "is not effective," according to two evaluations. "The children and adults who participate ... do not make greater literacy gains than nonparticipants."
"We did three or four national evaluations on [Even Start] showing there weren't any effects," said Bernstein of Abt Associates. "The fact that it survived this long is a tribute to the program."
Healthy Start, Grow Smart – $8 million, Health and Human Services. This program produces and distributes 13 brochures (in several languages) about infant health and development to poor mothers and pregnant women. The proposal says the existing stockpile of brochures will last for a while.
Character Education Program – $12 million, Education. The proposal says the program is ineffective because of its "narrow purpose," saying, "it is very difficult to produce positive effects on student outcome through character education programs alone." It cites a study by the Education Department that found positive effects in nine of 41 programs. The proposal says the objectives of the program can be met through the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities National Programs grants.
Foundations for Learning – $1 million, Education. This program provides about four grants per year for "a broad range of services to foster the emotional, behavioral and social development of at-risk children," the proposal says. It says that its broad range makes it difficult to evaluate its effectiveness. Rather than continue this program, the budget proposes a $1 million increase for the Mental Health Integration program, which links schools and mental health services.
Health Care Facilities and Construction – $310 million. Health and Human Services. Many of the cuts are for projects at children's hospitals and medical centers. Recent grantees include the Child Protection Center, Sarasota, Fla., and Children's Home Society of Idaho, in Boise.
President George W. Bush tried to eliminate Even Start for this fiscal year, but Congress restored the funding.
Adolescent Family Life – $30 million, Health and Human Services.
Drug Courts – $40 million, Department of Justice.
- Increase Child Welfare Services and Training from the current $288 million to $309 million. This Department of Health and Human Services program provides grants to states to help public child welfare agencies improve services (including preventive intervention and reunification), and to higher education institutions for education and training of child welfare service providers and social work students.
- Increase the Kinship Guardianship program, under which states can be reimbursed for kinship guardian assistance, from $13 million to $49 million.
- Increase YouthBuild from $70 million to $114 million, through the Department of Labor. As a presidential candidate, Obama pledged to expand YouthBuild so that its grantees could collectively serve 50,000 youths a year. They currently serve 8,000.
And when OJJDP was free to award the grants through competitive bidding in recent years, it sometimes chose politically favored organizations, overriding the recommendations of in-house peer reviews, according to a recent Justice Department investigation.