Budget cuts don’t have to ruin summer

Kids picking up trashDrastic reductions in public funding for summer school and summer job programs mean summer break is broke for thousands of kids across the country.

The Associated Press reports that New York City has cut more than $15 million from its youth employment program for young people from the ages of 14 to 24, resulting in 10,000 fewer spots.  Washington, D.C. has cut more than half of the city-funded summer-camp programs serving low-income communities. Detroit’s youth summer-jobs program, which had 7,500 spots a few years ago, is down to 1,200.

According to Mary Ann Zehr in Education Week, Los Angeles has cut the spots its summer-jobs program from 9,400 last year to only 725 this year. Meanwhile, L.A. Unified’s summer school budget has gone from $18 million down to $3 million. Four years ago, 235,000 students enrolled in summer school in L.A. This summer they expect only 22,000.

What will all of those other kids be doing? We don’t know, but some might be tempted to get involved in gangs or other illegal activities. Sarah Pitcock of the National Summer Learning Association told Education Week, “Summer is a time of a lot of risk for kids, especially low-income kids who aren’t engaged in something meaningful and productive.”

Downey students plant treesFortunately there are other positive ways to keep kids occupied.

generationOn is a global youth service movement empowering kids to change the world for the better. Their user-friendly website offers project ideas for kids and teens and plenty of resources for parents and teachers. Kids can practice caring, respect, responsibility, and citizenship by doing projects that help the homeless, the food-insecure, senior citizens, and animals. Kids can also do a lot to improve their local environment. Help your children join the local Kids Care Club. If your area doesn’t have one, it’s easy to start your own.

You can also check out the summer initiatives at The Corporation for National and Community Service. There you can find a volunteer opportunity in your area, create your own project, or check out the opportunities at AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America. Kids and teens might also enjoy looking at the ideas offered on Learn and Serve’s YouthSITE.

The economy might be down, but you can use summer to lift someone else up.