After-school Programs on Trump’s Chopping Block Again; Juvenile Justice Seems Safe

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In a replay of last year, President Donald Trump proposed scrapping the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, the federal funding for after-school and summer learning that reaches 1.7 million children.

It’s part of his budget proposal that would slice domestic programs, ramp up military spending and add to the deficit.

For juvenile justice programs the budget appears to preserve current funding levels — including programs targeting young women and girls, defense for the poorest youths and youth violence prevention, one advocate said.

It’s still early in the process, said one House Republican aide close to the Budget Committee, pointing out that presidential budgets are usually considered suggestions to Congress and rarely pass through as is. Furthermore, youth and juvenile justice reform advocates should be cheered by the most recent congressional budget, which passed last week, the aide said. That budget raises spending for domestic programs, which means that many programs key to reformers’ hearts may get a sympathetic hearing on the Hill, the aide said.

There is some concern that Trump’s budget would cap funds to compensate crime victims. Though it might require a statutory change, but National Juvenile Justice Network Executive Director Sarah Bryer found the proposal disconcerting.

“The idea that we would cap its coffers flies in the face of all of the unmet need of crime victims that we know still exists,” she said. “As it is, too many of our youth and their families have been victims of crimes and do not receive adequate services to address their trauma and other needs. We need to be expanding crime victims’ services, not putting a cap on the fund.”

As for potentially losing after-school funding, that “would be absolutely devastating,” said Jeff Davis, executive director of the California After School Network.

21st Century funding mostly serves kids who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.

“What that means in California is that it would completely eliminate 750 [after-school] programs,” he said, including 300 sites that serve high school students. The high school sites provide academic support, safe, constructive places for high school students to be and assistance in passing the California High School Exit Exam.

California would not be the hardest-hit state. It’s one of a handful of states that earmarks some state funds for after-school programs.

“It would be worse for states who rely on it as a sole funding source,” Davis said.

Among other states, Alabama would lose $12 million for its lowest-income children. Illinois would lose more than $51 million.

Last year, Congress ignored the Trump effort to cut funding. Davis said the public — including academic researchers — were galvanized to lobby Congress because the White House “falsely said that after-school programs are not making a difference.” The context may be a little different this year, he said.

”Folks are beginning to be fatigued with attacks on critical social services,” Davis said.

The Afterschool Alliance has launched a campaign to reach out to members of Congress.

Executive Director Jodi Grant called the Trump proposal short-sighted and dangerous.

“It ignores decades of research demonstrating the many ways afterschool programs support student success,” she said in a statement. “It betrays millions of families who rely on these programs to keep their kids safe, inspire them to learn and provide parents with peace of mind during the sometimes perilous after school hours.”

Others said that cutting funding would negatively impact the workforce by removing a support for working parents.

"Many families will be forced to either leave their young children home alone or abandon their jobs,” said Kelly Sturgis, executive director of the New York State Network for Youth Success, in a statement.

This story has been updated.

Bill Myers contributed to this report.

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