After a last ditch effort to save after school programs in Steuben and Allegany counties from the scrap heap, a new federal budget proposal is now threatening to make those cuts permanent.
Earlier this year, much of the Southern Tier’s existing after school programs were denied funding under the seventh round of funding of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant. Impacted were:
- The A-3 Consortium run year-round in Addison, Bradford, Campbell-Savona, Canisteo-Greenwood and two locations in Hornell. The consortium serves 631 children.
Programs in Allegany County administered by the non-profit ACCORD Corporation, who would have lost services for roughly 1,300 children.
Appeals to state elected officials won last minute contingency funding in the state budget, restoring much of the funding lost.
The federal executive budget proposed by the Trump administration for fiscal year 2018 however, calls for severe cuts to the grant program. The move was criticized by state officials on Wednesday.
“Despite the outcry from education leaders, President Trump’s proposed budget includes a sweeping and irresponsible slashing of the U.S. Department of Education’s budget. The severe cut will have far-reaching impacts across the nation, with life-shattering consequences for New York’s children. If these proposed cuts become reality, gaps and inequity in education will grow, eliminating the progress we have worked so hard to gain. Vital community and arts programs would cease to exist, leaving voids in neighborhoods across the state,” said a joint statement issued by Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.
While cuts to supplemental education programs have been proposed across the board, to include adult literacy, English as a second language programs, homeless youth support, special education and even the Special Olympics, after school programs would arguably be hit the hardest.
“The State Education Department receives $3.6 billion in federal funding each year, the vast majority of which is passed on to local school districts to support at-risk children. By abolishing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for New York, President Trump will eviscerate after-school programs, community learning centers, teacher preparation, work study, adult education and cultural programs. These are the very programs that help our most at-risk students and community centers”, the statement outlined.
The 21st Century grants program would be cut to the tune of almost $88.5 million in New York state. Overall, New York state would experience more than $284 million in cuts for federal education grants and aid.
"As advocates for New York’s children, we must tell Congress that these wholesale cuts are not acceptable. New York needs adequate federal funding to support our students so they can succeed in life. We encourage all our educational partners to urge Washington to put the future of our children first," the joint statement from state officials concluded.
US Education Secretary Bestsy DeVos defended the budget's education spending.
”This budget makes a historic investment in America's students. President Trump is committed to ensuring the Department focuses on returning decision-making power back to the States, where it belongs, and on giving parents more control over their child's education." DeVos said. "It also ensures stable funding for critical programs, including Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
"The budget also reflects a series of tough choices we have had to make when assessing the best use of taxpayer money. It ensures funding for programs with proven results for students while taking a hard look at programs that sound nice but simply haven't yielded the desired outcomes.
"By refocusing the Department's funding priorities on supporting students, we can usher in a new era of creativity and ingenuity and lay a new foundation for American greatness,” DeVos concluded.
While a growing bipartisan coalition in Congress is calling the budget proposal "dead on arrival," there is no guarantee that all funding will be fulfilled at the previous year's levels. Whether New York state would again step up and fill such gaps in the future remains to be seen. An estimated $38 million in additional funding was earmarked in the 2017-2018 budget to support sustaining and adding after school programs statewide.