Outcry Grows as House Slashes Children and Youth Programs for 1999

Bill Alexander
September 1, 1998

Although President Clinton signed the years-delayed Workforce Investment Act last month, an exaltation of larks will not do a U.S. Capitol fly-over to commemorate the 105th Congress’ support of America’s youth. Shortly before the workforce signing down the street at the White House, the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee tackled the fiscal year 1999 budget by eviscerating programs that directly affect youth and youth services in the areas of education, job training, child care, after-school programs, and summer jobs.

Some controversial provisions of H.R. 4274, the $82-billion FY ‘99 Labor, Health, Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill, include:

  • Eliminating summer jobs for 530,000 disadvantaged youth (a centerpiece of federal youth policy since 1965);
  • Cutting Head Start by $160 million, denying slots for 36,000 low-income children (and barring children whose parents won’t help establish paternity);
  • Cutting the school-to-work program which links school-based and work-based learning for non-college bound youth;
  • Breaking last year’s bipartisan agreement to provide new training and job opportunities for 50,000 high-poverty youth through the Opportunity Areas for Youth program;
  • Cutting $50 million in new funds for drug and violence prevention coordinators at 6,500 middle schools;
  • Cutting $140 million in new funds for after-school centers that were to provide “safe havens” for 400,000 children in 3,000 communities; and
  • Cutting $137 million in new technology funds for low-income children whose schools and families cannot afford modern, state-of-the-art technology.

“It looks like the House Appropriations Committee took aim at the programs that do the most to cut crime, and opened fire,” said Sanford Newman, president of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a Washington-based group made up of 350 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, and crime victims.

David Liederman, president of the Child Welfare League of America, called the House’s action “outrageous,” then joined forces with Marian Wright Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) to run full-page newspaper ads urging the president and Congress to invest a part of the projected $1.6 trillion budget surplus over the next 10 years in children and families.

“We didn’t know what else to do,” Liederman said. “We had to get their attention.”

Tax Cut Bankroll?

CDF’s Liz Rochlen and Stuart Campbell of the Coalition on Human Needs have charged that the drastic cuts in low-income youth programs are being made to pay for the large tax cuts wanted by the Republican leadership in the House and Senate.

Not so, replied Elizabeth Morra, an aide to appropriations committee Chairman Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.). “We were forced to make choices by living within a budget agreement that sets spending levels [caps] for five years out,” she said. In addition, she said, the Clinton administration factored in an additional $9 billion in its budget request, “assuming extra money would be available from tobacco legislation that never became a reality. It was a very difficult time for us.”

Morra also pointed out that the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got budget increases. The Center for Substance Abuse and Prevention (CSAP) got $151 million — $6 million below FY ‘98 but $24 million more than the Clinton budget request for FY ‘99.

Ellen Missenbaum, legislative director for the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, backed up Morra. “Although the disproportionate cuts in summer jobs and legal services will have a devastating effect, they had nothing to do with tax cuts,” Missenbaum said.

S.10 Still Lurks

The House cuts reinforce the sense among many youth advocates around the nation that lawmakers in the nation’s capital are hostile to kids. Another continuing concern is S.10 — the so-called Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Act — which will be considered by the Senate after the Labor Day recess.

The bill encourages sentencing children to adult jails; allows juvenile crime records to follow juveniles forever; and mandates expulsion from school for up to six months for possession of drugs, alcohol, or a single cigarette.

“While we need tough law enforcement, S.10 [would] benefit from more prevention programs,” said Newman from Invest in Kids. He supports amendments favored by Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Joseph Biden (D-Del.) that would make available up to 50 percent of state block grant funds for prevention programs.

The House counterpart, H.R. 3, not only provides no funding for prevention, but forbids states from using any of the proposed $500 million in block grants for prevention programs.

“These bills, with their wait-for-the-crime-to-happen approaches, shortchange the effective programs proven to prevent crime by helping kids get the right start,” said Jean Lewis, president of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, based in Sarasota, Fla.

Meanwhile, reauthorization of the 24-year-old Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act plods along, with the Senate Appropriations Committee increasing Title V funding to $95 million, a $70 million increase over FY ‘98. Part of the increase would result from a $25 million set-aside to support the new Safe Schools Initiative (SSI) which will introduce more police to the school yard, and $25 million to support state efforts to enforce underage drinking laws.

Workforce is Done Deal

At least Washington gave youth advocates the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which took many forms from the Clinton first-term campaign promise of a “G.I. Bill for American workers” to its final molding last year by Republicans, such as Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), who wanted to reshape federal training programs. The bill streamlines the array of programs by consolidating them into three block grants to states and localities.

“Labor Day came a month early,” was the way President Clinton characterized his signing of the Act. He invited a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, along with members of youth advocate organizations such as the National Youth Coalition, to witness the event at the White House.

Rep. William F. Goodling (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, was reportedly angry that Clinton took credit for the bill. Rep. Howard P. McKeon (R-Calif.) told The Washington Post that the Clinton administration “really wasn’t too much involved in this.” But DeWine praised Clinton for his involvement.
With a transition date of July 1, 2000, the bill:

  • Authorizes $250 million per year for Youth Opportunity Grants targeting Enterprise Zones and Empowerment Zones in high-poverty urban and rural communities;
  • Creates Youth Councils as a subgroup of Workforce Investment Boards with a special interest and expertise in youth policy;
  • Creates a separate youth program with youth development approaches and outcomes. The states will make available a list of eligible youth service providers.
  • Cuts Summer Youth Employment as a separately mandated program.

Alexander, Bill. "Outcry Grows as House Slashes Children and Youth Programs for 1999."Youth Today, September 1998, p. 30.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.