Obama Budget Offers Growth and Cuts

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The warm hope that President Barack Obama would reinvigorate youth programs with new federal funding has met the cold reality of the recession.

The president’s proposed 2010 budget, released last month, would eliminate several funding streams for youth programs, including $82 million in juvenile justice grants, school-based mentoring grants that go to numerous nonprofits, and state grants through Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities.

But the 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 throws cold water on the hopes of after-school advocates by keeping the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program (CLC) at its current level.

The budget proposal has set off the standard annual battle in Congress, where youth program advocates hope to get the cuts restored.

Among the major youth-related proposals:

Justice: Eliminate the major source of discretionary money at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) – Part E Demonstration Projects, funded at $82 million this year.

One likely reason: Although Part E money can be awarded through competitive bids, in recent years Congress has eaten up almost all of the money in earmarks.

After-School: 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 for CLC “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.”

Mentoring: 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, the Centers for Youth and Families in Little Rock, Ark., Communities in Schools of Springfield, Ill., and the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative.

The budget proposal says a recent evaluation “found the program to be ineffective.” (For an examination of that evaluation, see page 24.) The budget also says mentoring is supported by numerous other federal programs.

“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.’ ”

Community Service: Increase funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) by 29.4 percent over the enacted fiscal 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.

There is a 5 percent increase in the corporation’s Learn and Serve initiatives, the only CNCS programs designed for schoolchildren. 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.

Substance Abuse: Eliminate Safe and Drug-free Schools and Communities state formula grants, currently funded at $295 million. The budget proposal cites a study calling the program’s structure “profoundly flawed” and says that it “does not focus on the schools most in need” and the funds are distributed so widely 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 Maryland Governor’s Office for Children.

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