Friday, May 27, 2011

Taking Care of Business (Sorta)

This week's blog post is the last in our series about the effects of last year's budget cuts (FY'11) on youth this summer. This week, our friends at Urban Alliance were kind enough to let their Chief of Staff, Sean Segal have a few spare moments to guest blog for us. Special thanks to Sean for gracing our blog with his writing and sharing his thoughts on this year’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP)!

Year after year, SYEP has been plagued by cost-overruns, poor management, and a lack of youth development principles. While providing jobs for youth is a noble and needed goal for the District government, in the past, SYEP has hurt more than it has helped and done a disservice to District youth – often teaching youth that a “job” means getting paid whether or not you work.

With all this in mind, the changes implemented for the summer of 2011 are both encouraging and long overdue. To make the program more manageable, SYEP is being scaled down by 10,000 youth. Youth are being required to invest their own time and energy in a more detailed application process. All work supervisors have been required to attend training in youth development principles and DOES has talked about being stricter when it comes to placements so that youth have a real opportunity to gain valuable work experience. While there have still been some logistical problems – such as announcing a change in the maximum number of hours youth will be allowed to work just this week (even though it was legislated last year) – SYEP IS moving in the right direction.

With changes, however, always come unintended consequences. This year, 10,000 fewer youth will have the opportunity to participate in SYEP. With the youth unemployment rate currently over 50%, it is not as though young people can easily go seek out alternative employment opportunities. Further, when you consider the new steps youth had to take to register, and the fact that the program was full in less than 5 days, you can easily guess that the youth who did not register were the youth that had no one pushing them, did not have internet access, or had some other extenuating circumstance that prevented them from registering. These disengaged youth are the ones who need programs like SYEP the most. Making SYEP a smaller, more targeted program that offers real job skills is the right move. But this move MUST be paired with strategies, and with appropriate funding, to engage the disconnected youth population.

It would be hypocritical not to acknowledge that DOES implemented many of the recommendations that the provider community has given in the past few years. However, the aforementioned externalities of these decisions highlight the fact that despite DOES' attempts to improve services for youth, the larger District government has made no comprehensive plan for youth employment or youth engagement. When you combine the cuts to SYEP, with cuts to funding for youth programming city-wide, thousands of youth will be on the streets with nothing to do this summer.

The DC Council needs to recognize that youth programs are interconnected and are most effective when they are well coordinated. When funding is cut for programs like SYEP and agencies like CYITC (the Trust) and DCPS, earmarks to non-profits are eliminated, and human services funding takes an additional hit, you are cutting services to the same youth over and over again. When youth have nowhere to go this summer, and additionally have nothing to do, no one should be surprised.

Thanks to Sean AGAIN for sharing his thoughts with us! For more info on the numerous cuts to youth programs this summer please look over our previous blog posts. WAMU 88.5's Kavitha Cardoza also did a short piece on the crisis in which DCAYA's Executive Director was interviewed it is available here.

For more information on The Urban Alliance please visit their website.

Individuals interested in being involved with DCAYA's advocacy and policy work around youth workforce development may contact Anne Abbott: anne(at)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Heat Goes Up and the Funding Goes Down

Our first two posts centered on the reasons cutting funds for summer school would have such a negative impact on DC’s student population. However, DC summer school has never been funded at a level that would allow it to accommodate anything more than students who needed credit recovery. In short, summer school is meant to prop up students who are already failing or in need of remediation. There is no space for students seeking enrichment, or anything above basic credit recovery.

The Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation (often simply referred to as the “Trust”) in contrast, funds year-round after school activities, as well as, summer enrichment activities for thousands of DC’s children and youth every year. In FY’10 the “Trust” had an operating budget of 10.6 million that they used to serve approximately 3,300 that summer. However, after last fall’s emergency budget gap closing the “Trust” was left with a total budget of just 4.6 million for FY’11.

The result? For this summer the “Trust” received 6 million dollars worth of requests for funding, but only has 1 million to grant out.

Programs like Beacon House, Asian American LEAD and Kid Power, all long time Trust grantees, will be forced to cut back. Beacon House will serve 30 fewer children ages 5-13 in their main camp and will be unable to employ older youth as junior counselors. In previous years the junior counselor program gave up to 50 older youth viable employment opportunities. Kid Power will have to reduce its elementary summer camp slots from 100 to 35 and Asian American LEAD will be unable to provide services to one of its age brackets. This summer applicants for Trust funds were only allowed to apply for grants in one age range. This means programs that aim to serve children and youth across the age spectrum and provide continuous services as children and youth grow up cannot do so.

Now that FY'12 Budget Hearings have wrapped up, we can only wait and see if the "Trust" will be funded at a level that allows for higher levels of programming next year. This summer, however, will be a tough one. The examples we gave are just a few of the MANY programs that have had to cut back as a result of heavy reductions to the Trust's operating budget. There are programs out there that,thought they have received funds for summer programming in years past will not receive any this year and may not be able to offer services at all.

The lack of summer school opportunities coupled with large budget cuts to the "Trust" force a situation on DC's children and youth that leaves many of them without positive opportunities for summer learning and enrichment. Children and youth from economically disadvantaged families are disproportionately affected by this occurrence because without programs like those funded by the "Trust", parents and guardians will likely not be able to afford to send their children to full-cost camps or enrichment opportunities. The summer learning loss that occurs because of this will be devastating to the long term academic progress and success of these young people.

While drastically changing the government's agenda about funding youth programs for this summer is probably not a tenable goal, there is still time for parents and youth to tell members of the DC Council that summer programming is critically important. DCAYA will be doing a Walk-Around to various Council Member's offices on Monday May 23, 2011 at 3:30pm in the John A. Wilson Building to speak with Council Members and their staff about these issues. If you are interested in participating please contact DCAYA Policy Analyst Maggie Riden by either phone or email. Her contact information is below.

This is one of the last opportunities advocates and concerned community members will have to speak with decision makers before they vote on the budget late next week. Make sure your voice is heard.

Maggie Riden

email: maggie(at) phone: 202.587.0616 (ext. 36)

For more information on Trust programs that are operating for Summer 2011 click here.

For more information on other summer programs offered by DPR, MPD or other government agencies click here.