February 2018 will remain in our collective consciousness as another month marked with tragedy and carnage that played out at Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida resulting in seventeen deaths and countless life-altering injuries. The increasingly common instances where youngsters are witnessing and/or experiencing traumatic violence is startling. As we turn the calendar to March, let us make a renewed effort to infuse our work on behalf of children, youth, and families with the vitality, freshness, and anticipation of spring and the promise it holds for a new beginning. We need to take advantage of this beautiful time of year and the opportunities we have to make a difference in the lives of our young people while grabbing a little of the energy of the season for ourselves as well.
Federal and State Developments
The White House released their fiscal year 2019 full budget proposal on February 12, just days after Congress approved topline spending levels for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The full budget represents the president’s vision for how Congress should spend federal funds for the upcoming fiscal year that begins October 1, 2018 (FY 19).
The proposal echoes the FY 18 budget proposal released last year, with some of the same proposals for elimination and or sharp reductions to children and youth programs, e.g., 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative (elimination) and youth mentoring (25% plus reduction). Other much needed and proven support services for young people including adolescent mental health services, public housing, and assistance for rural youth to gain access to college access are notably targeted for reduction.
David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, aptly characterized the FY 2019 budget proposal as a ‘slash in investment in programs serving young people and communities across the country.’ Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, noted that this is “not a serious proposal; it is divorced from reality.”
State Actions after Recent Florida Shooting
The responses of state legislative bodies in recent days to the Florida shooting have varied considerably. Of interest to Chronicle readers will be a few examples recently reported across the country that take on approaches that focus on either school safety or gun control but often not both issues. Approaching this dialogue from silos is one avenue, however, it may or may not lend the cultivation of dialogue and discourse that is so desperately needed at this time. See below.
Rhode Island – 2-26-2018
Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order to keep guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves and others. This executive order is considered to be an “extreme risk law.” Rhode Island has also joined with Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York in a coalition to combat gun violence.
Governor John Kasich, a Republican has appointed a committee to propose concrete action and urged it to make recommendations quickly. In the meantime, several pending bills, including those that restrict access to guns and some expanding it, are in process in the statehouse.
Some bills loosening gun restrictions have advanced in the state since the shooting, according to The Indianapolis Star. In addition, a Senate committee last week advanced a bill that would do away with a $125 fee for a lifetime license to carry a handgun, and would increase to five years from four a permit that exempts holders from background checks when purchasing a handgun.
A committee in Indiana’s House passed a bill last week allowing people to carry firearms on a school’s property if they are working for or attending a church that does not prohibit weapons on those grounds. This measure passed the full Indiana Senate earlier this month.
March is National Reading Month, a perfect opportunity for mentors to get together with their mentees and enjoy an inspired reading adventure and event. Read Across America Day is Friday, March 2nd! It is a terrific time to share with mentees what childhood book meant the most to you and for all of the many reasons you are able to recall!
Professional Resource: “Opening Doors, Changing Futures” – the Appalachian Higher Education Network and the Institute for Educational Leadership, just published this resource which is especially valuable for readers working with youth in rural communities. Available for free download from http://iel.org.