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Congress should oppose Trump proposal to eliminate national service programs

REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Deep cuts in National and Community Service programs like AmeriCorps would be foolish and wasteful.

AmeriCorps, VISTA and Senior Corps would be eliminated under the Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal, unveiled March 16. These and other national service programs are funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Jim Kielsmeier

Minnesota – long a leader in promoting volunteerism and community service tied to education – would be one of the biggest losers if the corporation were eliminated. AmeriCorps and other national service programs are overseen in Minnesota by the nonprofit ServeMinnesota.

Minnesota currently has more than 2,200 AmeriCorps members at 1,250 sites. They manage or mobilize 21,000 community volunteers and generate more than $32.0 million for nonprofits, schools and faith-based community organizations.

Minnesota’s Reading Corps

Amy Meuers

The largest AmeriCorps partner in Minnesota is the state’s Reading Corps, which serves both pre-K and K-3 students. The success of this program in increasing reading proficiency has produced private grants to fund its replication in other states – from California to Massachusetts.

With the AmeriCorps partnership, Minnesota’s Reading Corps model is highly cost-effective. One study found that at-risk students not enrolled in Reading Corps were referred to special education at three times the rate of those who were in Reading Corps. This diversion of children from services no longer needed has resulted in cost savings of $9.0 million.

Jon Schroeder

Some of the president’s proposed budget cuts – in arts and humanities, for example – may be driven by partisan politics. But AmeriCorps and other programs run by the Corporation for National and Community Service have historically enjoyed broad, bipartisan support.

One recent national poll found that 83 percent of American voters – including 78 percent of Republicans – support maintaining or increasing the current federal investment in national service.

Durenberger was lead Republican cosponsor

Bipartisan support for AmeriCorps dates to the early 1990s, when the original federation legislation creating the Corporation for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps was backed by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Minnesota’s Sen. Dave Durenberger was the lead Republican cosponsor of the original legislation, insisting on its link between community service and K-12 and postsecondary education.

“The link between national service and education,” Durenberger said recently, “has particular relevance today with our commitment to equity in both learning opportunities and academic achievement.”

Bipartisan support for national service was also evident during the recent “AmeriCorps Week” celebration when Democratic and Republican governors and U.S. senators from more than half the states authored proclamations and resolutions of support for national and community service programs.

GOP letter of support

And when it became clear that deep cuts in these programs were under consideration in the Trump White House, a group of 70 former Republican officeholders and leading campaign and fundraising consultants wrote a letter urging the president to preserve funding for AmeriCorps and related programs.

“As Republicans,” the authors wrote the president, “we support the critical goal of eliminating government waste. But as conservatives who believe in the unifying, patriotic values of national service, we urge you to support the Corporation for National and Community Service.”

Bottom line: Deep cuts in National and Community Service programs like AmeriCorps would be foolish and wasteful – costing far more than they would save. Such cuts would also be politically unwise and hurt both individuals and the communities they serve.

Members of Congress should preserve funding for these programs as they consider the president’s FY2018 budget. And Minnesota’s congressional delegation – from both parties – should be leading and supporting that effort.

Jim Kielsmeier is the founding president of the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) and an author and speaker on national service and service learning. Amy Meuers is the current NYLC president and CEO. Jon Schroeder is a former NYLC board chair and was policy director for U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger, R-Minnesota, providing staff support for Durenberger’s role as lead Republican co-sponsor of the original National and Community Service Act.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 03/24/2017 - 04:12 pm.

    Questions….

    How much $ is in the budget for these programs?

    What other programs or expenditures should be cut or eliminated to support this expenditure that you are advocating?

  2. Submitted by David LaPorte on 03/25/2017 - 08:29 am.

    AmeriCorp and longterm good

    My daughter graduated with a double major in psychology and art. She enjoyed the subjects, but they didn’t prepare her for the job market.

    To “find herself”, she did two volunteer gigs. The second one was with AmeriCorp. She got paid almost nothing for working in an AIDS hospice for the homeless in Washington DC. This, by itself, benefited the country.

    But the real benefit, both to her and to the country, was the she discovered that working in a hospice was very fulfilling. She finally had her direction in life.

    She filled in the prerequisites that she needed in night school and with on-line classes, then went to nursing school. (If you want to do hospice work, you’re better off with a nursing degree than with an M.D. since nurses run the show in hospices.)

    She’s now an R.N., an underpaid and often thankless profession that the country desperately needs. AmeriCorp got her on the cheap, she did excellent work for them and now she’ll be helping people for the rest of her career.

    I’m sure that there are thousands (probably millions) of stories like hers. Eliminating AmeriCorp would save very little money and the country would lose an extremely valuable resource that does an awful lot of good for the particpants and for our society. This cut would be a classic case of “Penny wise and pound foolish”.

    • Submitted by Ed Day on 03/26/2017 - 08:41 pm.

      Very nicely said, except

      that “finding yourself,” in my experience, is often used as a derogatory term used by conservatives who committed to profit over people at a young age. It’s a way of condemning those who do not aspire to be a cog in a large corporation.

      Eliminating any pathway for your daughter (and thousands of others) to do “an awful lot of good for the participants and for our society” is pretty much a goal of the current administration, and it has a lot more support than many realize.

  3. Submitted by Joe Nathan on 03/26/2017 - 07:05 am.

    Well done

    Thanks to each of you for your writing and long time advocacy of these programs.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/26/2017 - 09:29 am.

    Each and Every One of Disaster Donald’s Cuts

    fits into that phrase, “penny wise and pound foolish.”

    When you propose a budget based out of a complete lack of ability to comprehend,…

    how the nature of all the various types of humans in this nation and on this planet interact,…

    and what does or does not motivate those people,…

    which may be very different from what motivates you,…

    it’s extremely easy to propose a budget such as President Trump has proposed,…

    a budget that will have an overwhelmingly negative effect on our entire nation,…

    and the world,…

    except, perhaps, for the top .1%,…

    but enabling them to absorb even MORE of the proceeds of the labor of everyone else in the society,…

    may make them momentarily happy,…

    but will NOT help them deal with their biggest underlying problem:

    their inability to ever feel satiated; as if they have “enough,”…

    coupled with a parallel inability to see how damaging the lives of massive numbers of their fellow citizens,…

    no matter how undeserving they believe those “others” to be,…

    will ultimately destroy the foundations of their OWN lives as well.

    Trump’s proposed budget would be a disaster if enacted,…

    because it takes us in exactly the OPPOSITE direction of peace and prosperity.

  5. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 03/27/2017 - 08:50 am.

    We should encourage more national service

    I think two years of national service is a great idea for everyone and should be encouraged with student loan repayment or qualifying for enhanced government benefits in the same way that military service qualifies people for benefits. National service is a unifying force for building society. Ask anyone who served in the Depression era programs like the WPA what it meant for them and for the country.

    Of course we have an administration who has the public goal of “deconstruction” of our government so I can see how they would be opposed to a program that benefits more than it costs and brings people together.

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