Trump’s budget would slice $$ for B&G Clubs

21st Century and LEAP funding would be eliminated in ‘America First’ plan

By SARALYN NORKUS saralyn.norkus@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 3/25/17

Editor’s note: This is the first in an ongoing series that will detail how the proposed “America First” budget would directly impact our area if it were to pass without revisions.

The 45th …

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Trump’s budget would slice $$ for B&G Clubs

21st Century and LEAP funding would be eliminated in ‘America First’ plan

Posted

Editor’s note: This is the first in an ongoing series that will detail how the proposed “America First” budget would directly impact our area if it were to pass without revisions.

The 45th President of the United States unveiled his proposed “America First” budget on March 16. The preliminary budget, which calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, would receive those funds by slashing or eliminating them altogether for numerous domestic programs.

One such casualty would be the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports before-and-after school and summer programs. Per the budget, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program “lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.”

In Cleveland, one organization that would be directly impacted by the elimination of this program’s grants is the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region, which provides children in the Bradley County and Polk County area with a safe environment to learn and grow.

“The club’s whole stance is to provide school age children with a program intentionally designed to help them achieve academic success, to help them have healthier lifestyles and to develop good character and leadership skills,” Chief Executive Officer Derrick Kinsey explained.

“We program in those areas to get them into the hands of people who can continue that, whether it be vocational or trade school, university or the military. We know once they leave our care, we need to continue that forward thinking in their lives, because if they stop, they stop growing and stop being a benefit to society.”

While they do not solely rely on the 21st CCLC program, Kinsey said about $400,000 of the B&G Clubs’ budget comes from grants.

“The club’s budget is divided into different sectors, and unfortunately one sector is grants,” Kinsey stated.

“Each one of our units has some sort of tie to state (LEAP grants) and federal funding.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region currently has eight units, seven in Bradley County and one in Polk County. Of those eight, all but two, the Jacobs Unit at Clingan Ridge and the Cleveland State Unit, rely on 21st CCLC or LEAP grants to help fund them.

“If they were gone, and unless some big donor stepped up to the plate, we’d probably have to shut down those services so that we can condense the money that we do have, because at the end of the day, about $400,000 of our budget is coming from 21st Century and LEAP,” Kinsey said.

“It’s a reality, because I would have to condense units and there’s only so much space. If the space is gone and the staffing is gone, you can only do so much. We’re now serving 3,300 members a year and more than 500 kids a day. Over half of those kids cannot be served anymore if that funding is gone — period.”

Since the club is certified by the Department of Education, they are graded on the services that are provided, including quality, safety and accountability.

“That certification is there because of the state and federal dollars. If that were to be removed, it removes a ton of things,” Kinsey explained.

By being certified by the Department of Education, the Boys & Girls Clubs can be on the childcare certificates list.

“If a single parent wants to go back to school but doesn’t have a place to put their kid, they can bring them to the Boys & Girls Clubs for free because of that,” he detailed.

The club would also stand to lose out on potential expansions in Polk County and Meigs County, as Rural Development Block Grants have been utilized in the past. Another area that hangs in the balance is the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Club members are provided with a snack and meal daily and in the summer, the organization further expands on that, offering them two meals.

Following the release of President Trump’s preliminary budget, Kinsey and numerous others affiliated with the Boys & Girls Clubs were put on alert.

“Obviously, we’re put on mission alert because we know that it could affect us tremendously. The Tennessee Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs got together and we all sent letters to legislators to let them know that this is something that is serious and it affects us, who you’re out there working for,” Kinsey commented.

“We do know that it’s come up in the past and enough people stood up and said ‘hey, we’re paying attention and no, don’t chop this’ and they didn’t. What we can hope for is that our president is actually listening to the people and their needs. Sometimes, there might be something that needs to be cut — I believe that and believe there are probably things out there that serve a small amount of people and not the masses and could probably go away, but 21st Century touches so many lives.”

Those connected with the Boys & Girls Clubs have already begun contacting their legislators, but Kinsey urged the community to “be in their ears” as well.

“I need them to be a voice and to know what it does and how it affects us, because if (the funding) goes away, I’ll need the community to step up and support their club — this is their youth and their town. I need them to be a voice to the legislation, all they have to do is email them.”

Kinsey acknowledges that those looking at the organization from the outside may think it is unhealthy to be so grant-driven.

“We want to serve kids and found that we could go after these grants that could help us serve them. The United Way is very good to us and they support us, and we have some great donors and fundraisers in our town, but we’re bigger than what we can seem to produce because there is a nonprofit on every corner and there’s only so many people in our small town who are capable of helping to that degree,” he explained.

“We have to be innovative and creative with our resources and try to think of ways that we can continue the process.”

When asked why he feels the 21st CCLC program is so easy to include on a list of programs to eliminate, Kinsey shared his insight.

“They wouldn’t see value and from a bird’s eye view for those first couple of weeks, they might think it was a great decision. Six months to five years and they’ll be going ‘what have we done?’ It’s kind of like you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” he began.

“If you’re not in the world of after school programming and not in the world of kids, you’re not necessarily seeing its importance until it affects you directly. You can look at it from a distance and be concerned for those people way over there, but it doesn’t directly touch you — it’s somebody else’s issue. Sometimes you just must educate the world and go ‘No, it is your issue.’”

“We see the benefit from it, we see those kids that fall through the gaps. We have some great parents whose kids go to the club, but for every one kid that’s got the perfect world, we have five that have an imperfect world and don’t have the same tools and the web of support to get them to the next level,”

While Kinsey admitted that not every child they work with would go down some dark path if they didn’t have the Club, he did add that they’ve seen firsthand the results of being able to pull back those kids who may have been on the brink.

“I have so many Boys & Girls Club people that will come in and say ‘man I used to be a member here and this is what happened because of that.’ What would happen to those stories if the Club was not there?’”

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