Still Losing Ground: Children's Budget 2015

June 25, 2015

A new report finds that the share of federal spending devoted to America’s young people is still shrinking, despite the economic recovery.

Things are looking up financially for the federal government, but you wouldn’t know it if you’re a kid. Because when it comes to federal spending, America’s young people are still getting squeezed. 

That’s the bottom line from the Children’s Budget 2015, a report released today by First Focus that examines fiscal 2015 federal spending on children and youth. This year’s data spotlight a disheartening trend: the share of discretionary federal dollars devoted to children and youth continues to slide and has dipped below 8 percent, to 7.89 percent. That’s down from a high of 8.5 percent in 2010.

Put another way: since 2010, the share of federal discretionary spending dedicated to children has dropped by more than 7 percent — a significant amount in just 4 years. (The report relies primarily on appropriations bills considered by Congress.)

For those who note that everyone took a hit during the recession and the consequent cuts in federal spending, Bruce Lesley, the president of First Focus, says this: “Kids are disproportionately taking the brunt of those cuts.”

With the recession over and Washington considering various budget increases, the challenge for the youth field is to reverse that trend.

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(edit as you wish): The Children's Budget from @First_Focus finds youth still losing ground when it comes to gov $pending. #InvestInKids

On June 24, Lesley spoke to more than 100 people from youth serving and advocacy organizations around the country who gathered at the National Press Building to hear the findings and discuss the implications.

Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, was also among the speakers and declared that “The most consequential predictor of our economic future 25 years from now is about how our children are doing today.”

The challenge, Lesley and McCarthy said, is to get that message to policymakers.

Advocates and practitioners said they will use the report to make the case for more government funding and to learn more about where federal youth priorities are headed.

The good news: Lesley cited several opinion that show public opinion strongly in favor of increased government supports for kids, including a recent Children’s Leadership Council public opinion poll conducted by Hart Research. The Forum’s SparkAction initiative collaborated on the outreach for the poll, including a webinar on how to use the data in advocacy.

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Heads Up: I'll do an in-depth analysis of the new report, coming next week.



Patrick Boyle is the Forum for Youth Investment's communications director and a veteran journalist on youth issues. You can reach him at patrick[@]



News Update by Patrick Boyle