How Cuts Affect Youth Programs

Yesterday, The National Collaboration for Youth and United Way hosted a congressional briefing discussing the congressional outlook for children and youth in the 112th Congress.

Speakers:

  • Steve Taylor, Vice President and Counsel for Public Policy, United Way
  • Karen Pittman, Co-Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer, Forum for Youth Investment
  • David Johns, Senior Education Policy Advisor, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Panelists:

  • Kevin Parker, YouthBuild USA
  • Erik Peterson, Afterschool Alliance
  • Bob Seidel, National Summer Learning Association
  • Lindsay Torrico, United Way Worldwide
  • Susan Yoder, American Camp Association

With the budget announcement from the Obama administration and the House, there are going to be several education and other youth programs that are sure to be cut, but the importance of trying to reauthorize or redistribute monies to these programs is crucial.

The National Collaboration for Youth recently published and presented federal policy recommendations based upon supporting investments for youth including, maintaining and sustaining education preparation programs that cultivate healthy youth who are also socially and civically connected.

The report provides recommendations for:

  • Early Child Care and Education
  • Education for All
  • Afterschool and Summer Programs
  • National and Community Service
  • Healthy Children and Youth
  • Child Welfare
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Homelessness
  • Youth Employment
  • Family Strengthening

Karen Pittman proclaimed that it is time for us as youth and student advocates to figure out how early childhood education, afterschool programs, extended or summer schooling programs, and the goals included in the report fit into ESEA. She asked the question of whether or not we were putting things in bills that have too much redundancy or are if we communicating that we really can’t implement reformations that work.

Essentially, she recommended that legislators consider:

  • Coordinating principles (who will be taking care of what, and which programs stimulate others)
  • Ensuring staff quality and education, and how we achieve those means through effective policy
  • Employing evidence-based practiced
  • Creating platforms for programs that create standards that are effective and easy to implement
  • Recognizing, contributing to, and allowing development of public and private partnerships

The panel discussed their varying organizations and how they are or will be affected by budget cuts. Most agreed that while there is data to support the value of these initiatives, the data is still in baby stages and is often not taken very seriously. The most intriguing comments revolved around the idea of what these organizations are going to do to make sure legislators understand the brevity of cutting these programs.

Some questions the panelists encourage similar youth organizations to ask, are:

  1. How do we present the value of the whole youth education continuum and how these programs often stimulate other programs?
  2. How do we demonstrate the connection between the work of youth organizations and education values that policymakers deem as important?

Additional comments I liked from the panel surround the idea of more community involvement and the role of government in stimulating or providing incentives/resources for these programs. The idea was tossed around that there tends to be the never-ending battle of what values are important to the public and what the role of government should be in determining those values. While this argument has never come close to being solved, it is important for the community to get together and let legislators know what is important to them. Without hearing from their constituencies, it is hard for legislators to know what programs are working for the youth of the communities. Each panelist felt that if they can get communities on board, policymakers are more prone to respond differently when discussing cuts.

There is a call to mobilize people to support these programs. This may be one of the only ways that they can garner support from legislators.

There sometimes seems to be a fight in government on how to meet the needs of youth. From experience, these organizations know that when it comes to dealing with the public, it is important to keep in mind economic situations, individual availability, and how to best support varying circumstances.

I asked the question: Besides budget being the key issue, what do you see preventing movement on these agenda items? The response was

  1. There needs to be more attention to gather data on the effectiveness of these programs. As mentioned in other posts, in order for policymakers to move on certain issues, they need to have supportive research and actual data that show the effectiveness of each program. While short stories and the rhetoric behind successes is effective, it only goes so far. Otherwise, policymakers like to see numbers.
  2. People need to realize which programs are valuable in their community and support those initiatives. There is always going to be a fight in how much government should be involved. Right now, we are seeing less money from government and it is time for the market to pick up where the government can’t provide. The ‘backlash’ could be that no one values these programs enough to help them continue forward.

View a copy of the recent policy agenda from the National Collaboration for Youth: Building a Brighter Future: An essential agenda for America’s young people.

View additional resources that support this youth movements.

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