Most Youth Programs Survive Budget Battle Ax, with Trims

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Federal funding for youth services weathered the fiscal 2011 budget standoff with what could best be described as limited but significant casualties. The field will have little time to catch its breath before an even tougher battle for federal money in fiscal 2012.

There were few drastic cuts in youth-related programs in the spending deal reached between the White House and congressional party leaders and approved by both houses of Congress last week.

The fine print of the deal, which shaves $38 billion from the spending levels of fiscal 2010, keeps funding for both the Workforce Investment Act and the Corporation for National and Community Service, both of which had been targeted for elimination under H.R. 1, the budget bill passed by the House in February with $40 billion in spending cuts.

 “It was not as draconian as it could have been,” Kevin McCartney, senior vice president for government relations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, said of the final version. “This could have been much, much worse.”

The relatively small cuts came after Washington advocates sought desperately to bring attention to the major reductions in the H.R. 1 package.  

“I’ve never seen a more reckless or shortsighted spending bill than H.R. 1,” Mike Petit, executive director of Every Child Matters, said at a March press conference aimed at focusing attention on the impact the cuts would have on youth. “It repudiates 100 years of investments in children,” Petit said at the time.

It was not clear who the heroes and heroines of the budget fight were – advocates said such leadership was difficult to pinpoint – but they credited the Obama administration as a major influence.

“The administration, I think, is interested in putting forward a lot more things for kids,” Petit said.

Not everyone was happy with the administration’s role in striking the deal. One Washington insider said that while there is general relief that the cuts weren’t worse, there is nervousness among youth advocates about how the administration appeared “relatively quick to compromise” on a bill that would cut $38 billion.
 

Déjà vu again?

Several programs that were largely spared in the 2011 deal were among those President Barack Obama had singled out for increases in 2012 – such as Head Start and AmeriCorps. Those that took the deepest hits were programs Obama already planned to trim or eliminate in 2012, such as Mentoring Children of Prisoners and Even Start.

 “We are tremendously grateful to the administration, and to Congress, for seeing the wisdom in funding service,” said AnnMaura Connolly, chief strategy officer for City Year and campaign director for Save Service, a coalition of organizations created to fight the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Already the battle for 2012 funding has begun. Obama released his proposed budget two months ago, and it includes plans to fund most youth-related spending at or slightly above the 2010 appropriations levels.  

“It’s all-hands-on-deck time again,” Connolly said last week in a message to fellow Save Service members. “We have been warned that [the] FY12 situation will be much worse than the FY11 budget.”

The initial deadline to establish a congressional budget resolution for fiscal 2012, which sets the general framework for spending in a fiscal year, was April 15. The House approved the resolution last week, presented by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but the Senate has yet to vote on it.

Although budget resolutions include few specifics, Ryan’s framework for 2012 would limit nondefense discretionary spending to 2008 levels – about $480 billion. It also would convert Medicaid to a block grant to states that increases with inflation.

Without a budget resolution soon, Goodwill Industries Director of Government Affairs Seth Turner said, 2012 could play out in a manner similar to 2011: a stream of short-term continuing resolutions that keep the government open for business, perhaps for the whole fiscal year.

What is affected?

Here is a summary of what was funded for 2011, the fight for those dollars and what the president has proposed for 2012:

Service-Learning

2011: AmeriCorps and other CNCS programs foresaw rapid expansion after Obama signed the Serve America Act in 2009. The legislation authorized an increase from 75,000 AmeriCorps volunteers to 250,000 by 2017.

The Republican-controlled House’s proposal in February offered a shocking alternative: zero dollars for AmeriCorps or any of the other CNCS programs. The Republican Study Group supports elimination of the agency.

Save Service, led by Connolly, launched a campaign aimed at reaching the district office of each member of Congress with the message to protect CNCS funds.

The campaign did not focus on what AmeriCorps participants, mostly older teens and young adults, get out of the experience. Instead, Save Service stressed how those participants serve as a supply of good and cheap labor for nonprofits at a time when they might otherwise struggle to staff all of their programs.  

“We wanted to help them understand better how corporation funding works,” said Connolly. “It helps to support organizations that members of Congress support like Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.”

“We certainly have agencies, mostly smaller ones, that depend on AmeriCorps staff for a lot,” said Turner of Goodwill.

The fiscal 2011 budget provides nearly level funding to AmeriCorps, which came away with a $23 million cut from its 2010 total of $373 million. The deal, however, eliminates funding for Learn and Serve, a $40 million CNCS program that funds service-learning projects at schools and colleges.

In a letter last week to Obama, Save Service asked to have the corporation piece together Learn and Serve money using unspent money from 2010, administrative funds and privately raised money.

Asked whether she would support a move to take money away from AmeriCorps to fund Learn and Serve, Connolly said no.

“I believe there is a way to fix this problem without cannibalizing other programs, which is to find other funding at the corporation” to use, she said.

2012: Obama’s proposed budget calls for a total of $1.3 billion for the corporation, up from $1.2 billion in the 2010 budget. Budget officials noted that while the money will not permit greater expansion from 2011 totals, it will fully support 90,000 AmeriCorps volunteers.

Employment

2011: Also scheduled for elimination in H.R. 1 was the youth activities portion of the Workforce Investment Act, one of the largest discretionary youth funding streams. In fact, H.R.1 would have taken away all the funding of WIA.

But instead of cutting all of the $924 million from last year, this bill reduces the program to $827 million in 2011.

“While the cuts to WIA are going to be hard-felt, I’m happy to see that we avoided the wholesale dismantling of the workforce system,” said Goodwill’s Seth Turner. “But we are far from being out of the woods. In the event that Congress yet again fails to reauthorize WIA, I’m fearful that it will become increasingly difficult to fend off drastic proposals such as H.R. 1.”

YouthBuild, a national program that helps at-risk youth learn the construction trade while pursuing a high school diploma or GED, received $80 million in the continuing resolution. That is about $20 million less than it was appropriated in 2010. It is slightly more than the program’s $70 million appropriation for 2009, although in that year, YouthBuild also received $47 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

2012: Proposed appropriations for youth employment and training activities are essentially the same as in fiscal 2010, when the total was $923.1 million, although the administration this year splits the money into $850 million for youth employment and job training and $73.9 million for a youth innovation fund.

Obama’s request for YouthBuild is $102.5 million – $13 million less than his original 2011 request, but $20 million more than what YouthBuild ended up with in the budget deal. Job Corps spending would rise by $15 million to an even $1.6 billion.

Obama proposes to zero out the Career Pathways Innovation Fund, which in the spending deal is also eliminated for 2011.

Juvenile Justice

2011: Juvenile justice may have been the biggest youth fund loser in the 2011 agreement. The total appropriation for juvenile justice activities is $275 million, which is a $148 million cut from last year’s total of $423 million.

“This bill accelerates a decade-long downward trend in funding for federal [juvenile justice] programs at a time when states are struggling to maintain progress,” Tara Andrews, deputy executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, wrote in an e-mail.

Most of the juvenile justice trims will come with the elimination of Part E demonstration programs. In 2010, as in most of the 10 previous years, almost all of the $91 million in Part E was earmarked by Congress for specific programs.

About $57 million will come in further cuts to other juvenile justice programs. The bill itself does not spell out where that money must come from, but juvenile justice advocates believe the reduction will be applied proportionately to all Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention programs. If that happens, it would mean a 17 percent cut in spending for the following lines in the budget (2010 figures are in parentheses):

– Title II Formula grants ($75 million).

– Title V ($65 million).

– Juvenile Accountability Block Grants ($55 million).

– Mentoring ($100 million).

– Safe Start ($5 million).

– Community-Based Violence Prevention ($10 million).

– Victims of Child Abuse ($22.5 million).

If the cuts are not proportional across various programs, the mentoring account could be forced to absorb the entire $57 million reduction. A total of $100 million was appropriated in the 2010 juvenile justice budget for mentoring. Obama has proposed $45 million for mentoring in his 2012 budget – $55 million less. Forcing all the 2011 cut onto the mentoring budget essentially would accelerate Obama’s 2012 spending request.

Second Chance Act funding, which helps juvenile and adult offenders transition back into the community, does not appear to have been cut back from 2010.

2012: Obama initially proposed a massive overhaul of juvenile justice spending for 2012, but the administration has since pulled back on the plan.

The two mainstays of the juvenile justice budget have long been the block grants given to states based on population and the Title II Formula grants that are disbursed to states based on their compliance with the four core protections of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Those protections require states to keep juveniles separated from adults in locked facilities, to not detain status offenders, and to address disproportionate minority contact in the system.

Obama’s plan would have combined the 2010 totals for both pots of money ($75 million for formula grants and $55 million for block grants), reduced it by $10 million, and created a $120 million Juvenile Justice System Incentive Grants program. Only states that could document compliance with the JJDPA core protections would be eligible to compete for the incentive grants. There was no guarantee that a fully compliant state would actually win a grant.

The plan drew sharp criticism from juvenile advocacy organizations such as the Campaign for Youth Justice and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson told a House subcommittee in late March that the administration would be devising a new plan for the money, and details of a new proposal emerged the next week: $80 million for formula grants, $30 million for block grants, and $10 million for the incentive grant competition.

Meanwhile, the president proposed decreases or no change in funding for most other lines in the juvenile justice budget. Obama’s budget has no money for demonstration programs ($91 million in 2010 appropriations), $45 million for mentoring ($100 million in 2010), and $62 million for Title V Delinquency Prevention Grants.

Education

2011: Perhaps the biggest youth-related surprise to emerge from the deal was for Head Start, a 46-year-old federal program that provides social, health and educational development for young children, which the House initially had targeted for a $1 billion-dollar cut.

Last year, a major evaluation of Head Start found that participants did not, on average, fare better academically by the end of first grade than a control group.

The deal struck last week will provide an increase in Head Start funds from $7.2 billion in 2010 to $7.5 billion in 2011.

The bill includes “a modest increase for Head Start to ensure that all children currently enrolled will continue to receive services,” according to a statement from the House Appropriations Committee.

Petit, the Every Child Matters executive director, said he believes the increase in Head Start “is meant to be a symbol.”

“I’m not surprised at all” that Head Start was increased, he said.

Even Start, which combines early childhood education and adult literacy services, was eliminated for 2011, after receiving $67 million last year.

Individual Pell grants, which provide need-based support to low-income college students, will be funded at the same level as before: a maximum of $5,550. The original House proposal would have lowered the maximum discretionary Pell grant total from $4,860 to $4,015, but left alone a $690 mandatory addition to the Pell grant included in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007.

The losers in the continuing resolution were providers that were competing for federal earmarks in the 2011 appropriations. The Fund for the Improvement of Education, which for years was filled with earmarks, was eliminated. The fund previously received more than $200 million. In 2009, $88 million went to congressionally directed projects that included mentoring programs, literacy classes and truancy reduction initiatives. 

Teach for America, which was recently provided with an endowment from four philanthropic agencies, was in line for $21 million in the 2011 appropriations. The funding was viewed as an earmark and zeroed out of the budget. However, the program recently won a $50 million award from Education’s Investing in Innovation initiative.

2012: America’s education system is poised to receive a major boost if Congress follows the president’s 2012 proposed budget (a big if, in this political and economic climate). Education spending would increase by $2 billion, or 4.3 percent, from the previous year.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan touted the president’s proposal last week, outlining five priority areas in the funding: early learning; funding to sustain and expand existing district-level reforms such as Race to the Top and Investing In Innovation (i3), teacher recruitment and training, college completion, and helping students at risk.

Among the funding streams that received a proposed increase, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants to after-school programs would receive $1.27 billion, up $100 million from last year, along with $600 million to turn around low-performing schools, up $54 million from last year.

Notably absent from the list of recipients of increased funding: for-profit colleges. In fact, a $265 million cut in career and technical education grants would partially help the Education Department afford to fund the increases in other areas.

Obama proposed an $8.1 billion budget for Head Start in 2012, an $866 million increase from the 2010 appropriation.

Child Welfare

2011: Federal contributions to foster care services are an entitlement program, managed by the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and were not affected by this budget deal. In fact, the bill appropriates $1.85 billion for ACF to make advance payments to states for the first quarter of fiscal 2012.

A major cut was made in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program at the U. S. Department of Agriculture, which permits states to provide food and health services to low-income women with children under the age of 5. WIC was appropriated $7.3 billion in 2010, and will receive $504 million less than that for 2011.

Mentoring Children of Prisoners, which was first funded by HHS in 2003 and was reauthorized in 2006, appears doomed. It will receive no funding for 2011, and Obama has proposed to cut its 2010 appropriation ($49 million) in half in 2012, noting that it has not proved to be as effective as hoped and that changes would be made.

Home Visitation funding, which supports assistance to expectant young mothers or parents of newborns, definitely was not cut; it’s a matter of whether it will increase as planned.

The funding is one of the few points of bipartisan agreement in the polarizing Affordable Care Act and is supposed to jump from $100 million in 2010 to $250 million in 2011. It is unclear whether Home Visitation will get some, or all, of that increase.

2012: Obama proposes a total of $7.5 billion for WIC and $19 billion for child nutrition, which is $2 billion more than was appropriated in 2010.

For adoption incentives, Obama would add $10 million, while holding steady with child welfare/adoption assistance. He would add $5 million to funds for runaway and homeless children. The Center for Faith-Based/Community Innovation’s $1 million budget would be eliminated.

Home Visitation is scheduled for $350 million in 2012, and the program’s fate is inextricably linked to the Affordable Care Act – the health care reform law passed last year.