Thursday, February 18, 2010

fury & logical consequences

Yesterday poor Mr. Lipstick spent the evening at a happy hour where he lost track of time, returning home much later than expected. I say poor, because, the logical consequence of his actions meant that I had time to pour over the governor's budget proposal. Time to read, research, take notes, and become more and more furious.

Perhaps if he had arrived home when I expected him I would not have had time to put much thought into the proposal other than, "wow, that's terrible". But instead I had time to not just read the entire 37 page proposal, but was able to then dwell on it until I was fuming. By the time poor Mr. Lipstick walked in the door I was ready to explode with my anger at the proposal, the governor, and well, any political official in general really.

And I'm not even fuming about the money taken away from the schools themselves. I'm not yelling about the lack of money for new buses, the decrease in funding for coaches, the cuts in the teacher retirement programs, or for the music and arts programs. Oh, trust me, it's not that I'm not upset about those- but at the moment I have bigger fish to fry.

The programs on the chopping block include the very programs we rely on to support our children outside of school. Programs that support homeless families. Programs that prevent child abuse. Who cuts programs that prevent child abuse??

No, I'm not even yelling about the proposed cuts to giving poor families access to dental care.

Here's a cut and paste of some (just some!!) of the programs on the list-

  • Eliminate Lottery support for certain education programs ($91.9 million) Decrease support for Direct Aid programs by moving programs that are currently supported by the general fund to Lottery support. To implement this action, selected programs from Lottery will be eliminated. Programs suggested for elimination are discretionary and are not considered basic instructional programs: Enrollment Loss ($17.5 million), Mentor Teacher ($2.0 million), School Breakfast ($5.3 million), and Additional Support for School Construction and Operating Costs ($67.0 million). Savings are estimated at $47.1 million for FY 2011 and $44.8 million for FY 2012.
School breakfast. SCHOOL BREAKFAST. We know for sure that our children have access to 2 meals a day. Now we'll know they're only eating 1.

  • Eliminate general fund support for Healthy Families of Virginia ($6.3 million) Healthy Families of Virginia is a voluntary program that offers home visiting services for up to five years to high risk families who need individualized and comprehensive support. Services include in-home parenting education, child development, preventive health care and support services. The Healthy Families model is designed to promote positive parenting, improve child health and development, and reduce child abuse and neglect. Hampton Healthy Start pilot project was funded in FY 1994 and state funding has since been provided to expand programs across the state. The Healthy Families program in Virginia has grown to 38 local sites serving at-risk families in 88 communities. One state level organization, Prevent Child Abuse Virginia (PCAV), also funded with the state dollars, provides training, technical assistance, quality assurance, and evaluation to the local sites. Health Families currently (Chapter 781) receives $5.5 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) support. The introduced budget supplants the TANF with general fund and reduces the overall state support by 10 percent. This strategy will eliminate funding added in the introduced budget to offset the reduction of TANF for Healthy Families of Virginia ($1.4 million FY 2011 and $4.9 million FY 2012).
I do appreciate that they take the time to list all the benefits of the program before they recommend cutting it. I can't even begin to tell you the impact this program has had on some of our families- parents who have said they now understand how to parent, how to talk to their children, and how to discipline their children.

  • Eliminate funding for child advocacy centers ($2.0 million) Child advocacy centers provide services to children and families who experience abuse and neglect through a multidisciplinary team approach. Per budget language (Chapter 781), the Department of Social Services (DSS) provides $290,000 to various child advocacy centers each year. $200,000 ($100,000 general fund and $100,000 TANF) for the centers in general and $45,000 TANF for each of the centers in Bristol-Washington County and Lenowisco Planning Districts. In addition, the 2005 General Assembly appropriated $1.0 million general fund in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources (OSHHR) for the development and enhancement of children's advocacy centers in Virginia. The introduced budget cuts funding for these organizations by $305,000 ($190,000 TANF and $115,000 general fund). This strategy eliminates the remaining funds set-out in both the Department of Social Services ($85,000 general fund) and the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources ($900,000 general fund).

  • Reduce funding for homeless programs ($6.0 million) General fund support included in the introduced budget bill to supplant the loss of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds for homeless programs is reduced by one-half in FY 2011 and eliminated in FY 2012. Funding for Child Services Coordinators is reduced beginning in FY 2012.
And these are only a few. Only a few! Social services will be hit, meaning that not only will we have fewer resources in our schools, but we will have fewer resources outside our schools to help our children and their families. You try to learn to read when you're getting one meal a day, traveling from apartment to apartment living in your car, and occasionally, when your mother gets really frustrated with life, getting hit with a belt. Let me tell you, reading is the last thing on your mind.

Once I'd stopped my rant- and Mr. Lipstick patiently waited for me to finish, which I appreciate, he pointed out that this is a proposal, not an actual budget. It will go before a democratic senate which will then pick it apart and the programs on the list will becoming bargaining chips. Some will survive, others will go. He may have just been telling me this to get me to stop screaming, but I suppose we have some hope.

I'm still nervous.

Today a parent told me he's going to keep playing the lottery in hopes he'll be able to save our schools. I'm glad somebody wants to save us.

A think tank focused on creative solutions for future problem solvers -tree