Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the blog, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has reached out over the course of this week as I have stepped into my new role as Executive Director. The outpouring of excitement, the emails of congratulations and the many offers of support have been incredible- and maybe more importantly, this level of community response really illustrates the level of engagement, energy and connectivity of the DC youth serving community – and we’re going to need to tap into all of those assets as we dig into budget season.
We all know that understanding and taking part in the budget process is critical, and it couldn’t be more so given the level of economic insecurity and scarcity we’ve experienced in the last few years. In the last two years we’ve seen proposed budgets come from the Mayor’s office that decrease funding for many of the programs and services that we know positively affect children and youth here in the District and this year is no different. Even before the FY'13 budget was released, we had been hearing for weeks about the anticipated funding gap of $172 million- and lingering uncertainty on where cuts would be made, or revenue found.
For those of us that focus on the health and wellbeing of children, youth and families, a few elements of Mayor Gray’s FY'13 Budget should be concerning. Here are a few of the critical elements:
Out- of- School Time Programming for Younger Youth Took a Plunge: Services to children and youth during non-school hours and the summer will be drastically reduced in 2013. The Trust was maintained at a budget mark of $3 million and the DCPS Office of Out of School Time Programs was cut by $5.7 million. One of the few positives in this budget was an increase of $1.3 million for year round youth employment programming
Services to Disconnected and At- Risk Youth Took a Hit: While the budget does include a 2% increase in per-pupil funding, many of the services and supports designed to support non-traditional learners or at- risk children and youth were reduced. For example the alternative education budget was reduced by $1.5 million; the DCPS Office of Youth Engagement, by $1.3 million, DCPS Student Support Services (including school based social and psychological services) was cut by $1.3 million, the DPR Roving Leaders Program was cut by $2.6 million. Again we did see an increase of about $1 million at DOES for their year-round youth initiatives.
Critical Safety Net Services Remain Under Funded: An array of other services and supports including TANF and the DC Health Care Alliance received additional cuts for FY13, while others including the Homeless Services Continuum remain critically underfunded in a few key areas.
There are no easy ways to balance a budget that has faced this level of shortfall over the last few years- no one can deny that- and if we knew that the reductions listed above addressed existing inefficiencies or reflected a targeted approach to changing the conditions that keep so many of our neighbors from realizing their full potential- rather than reductions to programs and services -that would be laudable. Unfortunately, no one at the Wilson Building, or in the respective agencies are giving those assurances. That said, DCAYA hopes you will join us over the next few weeks in expressing to Council and the Mayor that truly achieving One City- requires a firm and consistent investment in children, youth and families.
Information on Agency Budgets is available on: budget.dc.gov
Questions about DCAYA, our budget advocacy and this blog post can be forwarded to Maggie Riden, DCAYA Executive Director. Fortunately, her email has not changed with her job title, you can still contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org.