Budget Director Signals Probable Cuts for Youth Programs

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The president’s budget director fired a warning shot at federally funded youth programs today, saying the government wastes money on too many similar and overlapping programs that are funded through a confusing plethora of uncoordinated budget streams.

In a speech at the Center for American Progress, Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the administration will cut back on duplicative programs and those that are the least effective.

“There are over 110 funded programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in 14 departments and agencies across the federal government; over 100 programs that support youth mentoring scattered across 13 agencies; and more than 40 programs located in 11 departments with responsibility for employment and training,” Orszag said.

“This redundancy wastes resources and makes it harder to act on each of these worthy goals. … We cannot afford to waste money on programs that do not work, that are out-dated or that are duplicative of one another.”

In tandem with Orszag’s speech, the White House directed federal agencies to make plans to cut at least 5 percent from their budgets. In addition, Orszag said, “We are asking each agency to develop a list of their bottom 5 percent performing discretionary programs, as measured by their impact in furthering the agency’s mission.”

What all this means for youth programs remains to be seen.

“I think it’s a shot across the bow,” said Larry Wright, CEO of the Alexandria, Va.-based National Mentoring Partnership.

While Wright said he favors “efficiency” in times of tight budgets, he cautioned that different mentoring programs aren’t necessarily doing the same thing. “They treat these youth support serivces as though they could fall into any one category,” Wright said. “Juvenile justice mentoring is different than academic mentoring in the Departmet of Education.”

Similar messages about duplicative federal funding of youth services have been heard for years. “This is a familiar refrain, and I don’t know what it signals at this moment,” said Dorothy Stoneman,  president of YouthBuild USA, which provides advocacy, training and support for the YouthBuild programs funded through the Department of Labor ($102 million in fiscal 2010).

In 2003, the White House Task Force on Disadvantaged Youth issued a report saying that federal youth programs were too fragmented among agencies, with frequent overlaps and almost no coordination. It said federally funded youth programs waste money and manpower through “overlap and duplication,” and called for the creation of a Disadvantaged Youth Initiative to coordinate it all. A summary of that report is here.

Many in the youth field agree that federal youth programming should be consolidated. The U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention was created in 1974 in large part to coordinate federal services and resources dealing with youth crime and delinquency. The Younger Americans Act, introduced in Congress nearly a decade ago but never enacted, sought to create a Federal Youth Development Council that would, according to a website for the Act, “facilitate interagency collaboration, coordinate federal research, and identify and replicate model programs, federal youth policy and funding under a single entity.”

Today’s statements by Orszag, coupled with Obama’s budget-trimming directive, signal that cuts to many programs, including those for youth, are imminent.  In February the president released a proposed budget for fiscal 2011 that would boost funding for some youth programs – including AmeriCorps, Youth Build and the Teen Pregnancy Initiative – while cutting funds for others, such as mentoring through the Justice Department, and Missing Children/Child Exploitation programs.

  • Chris Baca

    I would agree that there is duplication and lack of coordination but it is at the Federal level.  At the local program level, there is too little money for programs for there to be duplication. 

    Where money is wasted is in the bureaucracies created at the National level.  Also, millions of dollars are wasted on “policy initiatives” that end up not serving one child or family.  So much money is siphoned off by “non service deliverers” at universities, colleges, and think tanks. 

  • Carl

    The great challenge here is the fallout of the business model called ” collaboration “. For example, twenty years ago the Feds would fund one organization in the City of Chicago to provide mentoring services, now we must all collarborate therefore we end up with 15 organizations conducting mentoring programs funded by the Feds. Let’s admit it: The Collaboration model does not work. It creates too many providers, under the same roof, doing the same thing ( with a different spin ). The second issue is the ongoing workforce preservation strategy. Our industry has too many adminstrations working to keep their job, and job security. Funders contine to prolong these leaders/organizations and should stop funding so many organizations. Third, State Governements need to declare a moratorium on NEW non profit 501 ( c ) (3) organizations. We have enough infrastructure in the nation to cover ANY mission. Please stop approving new non profit organizations.

  • Donna

    Each administration has “pet programs” and “buz words.”  For instance, the Obama administration, based on funding, is certainly a friend of the Corporation for National Service.  Here, the resources are allocated to non-service producing organizations.  Those of us who are on the ground delivering direct services must attempt to train people who can find jobs and turn to AmeriCorp as a “volunteer” experience opportunity.  No where except in the nonprofit sector would one be expected to be happy about taking a non-professional to do a professional’s job; and, feeling thankful for it!

    Secondly, collaboration–it’s a joke.  Everyone talks about collaboration; but, no one knows what it looks like.  To truly be collaborative in America, everyone would have to have a labotomy.  America is a culture built on competition.  Without extensive and intentional retraining, there is absolutely no way that true collaboration is going to take place.  The time and the resources are just not there for this.  So, all of the administrations new innovative programs that require “collaboration” are just going to be chaotic messes without meaningful, measurable impact.