I’ve written before that my daughter serves in AmeriCorps, at a nonprofit that provides low-income families greater access to New York’s rich arts community. It’s important work that broadens the horizons of many children, exposing them to botanical gardens, museums, art galleries, zoos, and other rich cultural institutions.
We’re proud that she’s in her second year of national service, and that she’s also developed a professional skill-set that may help to open doors of employment later. Beyond my daughter’s experience, other AmeriCorps programs, such as City Year, have Corps members working directly with students in low-income communities.
“When I see programs like AmeriCorps,” Keith “Fletch” Fletcher, executive director and vice president of City Year Miami, recently told me, “I see everything that’s right about America.”
In Congress’s Crosshairs?
Let’s see. Is it a program that yields a good return on its investment? Yes.
Is it cost-effective? Yes.
Is it helping people in need? Yes.
Is it driving the federal deficit? No.
Then why does the White House budget call for eliminating all funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service? CNCS is the federal agency that provides service opportunities to ordinary Americans through its core programs, of which AmeriCorps is one. City Year is an AmeriCorps program.
“Nationally, City Year has just hit north of 3,000 members serving in 313 schools,” Fletcher says. That’s a lot of staff, especially in under-resourced communities. City Year members are helping to stem the high school dropout crisis by providing needed services to students and augmenting the work of teachers.
“It’s a platform to solve big community issues,” Fletcher says. “City Year provides appropriate supports and wraparound services that remove obstacles to student success.”
What’s Not to Like?
Fletcher describes AmeriCorps as a program that yields a triple bottom-line: helping the families that benefit from the programs; providing an opportunity for transformational and leadership growth in the young people serving in the program; and community transformation.
“We deliver all the right moral outcomes,” Fletcher says, “and across the country, Americans support the idea of national service.”
Indeed, according to a poll conducted by TargetPoint Consulting, voters of all stripes want Congress to maintain or increase federal funding for national service: 90% of Democrats, 84% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans.
With AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members serving in 12,000 public and parochial schools across the country, it’s unclear why its funding is slated for the chopping block when it makes up only .01% of the federal budget.
For more information about CNCS, AmeriCorps, and other service programs, visit this website.