Wednesday, June 01, 2016

DCAYA’s Budget Updates Part II: Expanded Learning & Youth Homelessness

The final vote by the Council occurred yesterday, and the District’s FY17 budget now goes to Mayor Bowser. Today we continue to reflect on the work of our members and partners throughout this year’s advocacy season, and provide an update on successes for youth, families and children within the FY17 budget. Last week’s blog focused on Youth Workforce Development and Disconnected Youth, and we continue this week with a look at Expanded Learning and Youth Homelessness.

Expanded Learning

A Path Forward for Funding Afterschool and Summer Learning

After the mayor proposed $4.9 million to the DC Trust for community-based afterschool and summer programming in FY17, our initial ask was to double that investment in order to serve up to four times as many children and youth in need of quality expanded learning opportunities. While we were optimistic about the strength of the proposed amount compared to recent years, it was not enough to reverse a downward trend for out-of-school time programming we have seen each year in the District since 2010.

While we will continue to advocate for scaled-up, multi-year funding beginning in FY18, the advocacy priority for FY17 quickly shifted with the announced dissolution of the DC Trust on April 26. Since then, DCAYA and our community-based partners have worked hard to preserve the $4.9 million intended for expanded learning programs. Our coalition has held more than a dozen meetings with members of DC Council and their staff, as well as the Deputy Mayors for Education and Health and Human Services, to build support among policy makers for an established, nonprofit intermediary with youth development expertise to administer out-of-school time (OST) funding in FY17. We continue to be an active partner in this effort, as Deputy Mayor Brenda Donald presents this recommendation to Mayor Bowser.

We’d like to thank the Deputy Mayors and members of Council, as well as all of our expanded learning partners (simply too many to list here) who stepped up to provide resources and insight in the wake of the Trust’s collapse. Most especially, we’re grateful to those members who met with policy makers and offered public testimony to advocate for the preservation of out-of-school time funding. We'd like to give a special shout out of thanks to Fair Chance and Gretchen Van der Veer for helping coordinate our members and Fair Chance partners to do a final round of walk arounds with DC Council on the importance of out of school time programming.

Sustaining 21st Century Community Learning Centers

Earlier this year, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) announced that due to internal efforts to streamline grant making processes and decreased federal funds, there would be no new competition for the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center (CLC) grant program in the 2016-2017 school year. This action immediately affected three community-based OST providers who all stood to lose approximately $995,413 in the coming school year. The disruption of these services, which have all demonstrated quality programming and remarkable outcomes for students, would have caused significant ramifications next year for up to 1,000 at-risk students and undermined years of investments.

Recognizing that families, youth and children deserve more than a haphazard and inconsistent delivery of these key critical services, DCAYA and these three partners launched a targeted advocacy effort to find support and funding. These efforts paid off with Council identifying $800,000 to sustain 21st Century CLC’s in FY17. We’d like to thank these organizations and their families for rallying to support the students, as well as Superintendent Hanseul Kang and everyone at OSSE for their support in working toward a solution, and Councilmembers David Grosso, Brianne Nadeau and Charles Allen for their outspoken support for sustaining this important and life-changing funding stream.

Youth Homelessness

Building Capacity for a Youth-Friendly System

This year, DCAYA advocated to an additional investment of $800,000 to create more transitional housing and independent living options for youth experiencing homelessness. While the mayor’s proposed budget included significantly more funding for crisis support and prevention and diversion services, which we had advocated for and certainly applaud, more funding for meaningful housing interventions will be needed in future years if we are to meet the intent of the 2014 End Youth Homelessness Amendment Act and make homelessness among unaccompanied minors and transition-aged youth rare, brief and non-recurring by 2020.

DCAYA continues to work in a leadership role with the Interagency Council of Homelessness (ICH) and the ICH Youth Subcommittee, and we are optimistic that with the Fall release of the ICH’s Strategic Plan to End Youth Homelessness, we and our partners will be positioned to make an even stronger ask next budget season. We’d like to thank ICH Executive Director Kristy Greenwalt, DHS Director Laura Zeilinger, and DHS Deputy Administrator for Youth Services Hilary Cairns for their continued leadership and support for scaled-up funding, as well as Kimberly Henderson with Child and Family Services Agency, for her role co-chairing the Youth Subcommittee. We are grateful to our members and partners from Sasha Bruce, Casa Ruby, the Latin American Youth Center, Wanda Alston, Covenant House and the DC Center for the LGBT Community for their leadership, advocacy partnerships and public testimonies.

Dignified Housing for Homeless Children & Families

In February, the mayor made good on her promise to voters to deliver a plan to close D.C. General and move homeless families into safe and dignified housing throughout the District, and the plan was met both with intense support and praise, and resistance and criticism. The months that followed saw some of this teased out as policy makers, advocates, and members of the community worked toward a middle ground.  We are pleased that Council has since passed a revised plan that calls for the use of government-owned properties in Wards 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8, and the purchase (instead of leasing) of the sites in Wards 1 and 4. These revisions effectively respond to resident concerns about cost while maintaining the overall intent of the plan. We believe that the housing these families will receive, along with improved access to local amenities and on-site case management services, will have life-changing results for their children well worth this effort and its capital expenditures.

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