Policy Corner: June updates from Janet Forbush

Written by Janet Forbush, Senior Advisor with the Center for the Advancement of Mentoring

June 2017

Background:  The wide range of public policy activity at the federal level in recent weeks sets the tone and shapes the body of the content for the June Chronicle column on policy.  Primary features review the implications of the Trump administration education budget; ongoing developments regarding the emerging American Health Care Act (AHCA) – the Republican replacement legislation for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), e.g., Obamacare; and, considerations for mentoring advocates regarding approaches to fundraising and sustainability for local programs in the future.  In other words, do we need to rethink our overall fundraising strategies at the national, state, and local levels and, if so, are there approaches we can employ now.

Federal Developments

Education: Several proposed cuts by the Trump administration in the education budget have raised concern among members of both political parties.  Since passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Title I program has been a bedrock of federal support for K-12 education with a focus on districts with high concentrations of students from low-income families.  Today the future of Title I is unclear.  Congress passed two budget laws in 2017 and depending on whether readers compare the proposal of President Trump to the 2017 annualized Continuing Resolution (CR) signed in December 2016 or the 2017 fiscal appropriation signed in May 2017, there is potentially a decrease in Title I dollars.  During the June 6 hearing on the Education Department proposed budget, there was a lively exchange and disagreement between Secretary Betsy DeVos and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) over whether Title I dollars would be increased or reduced.

The Trump administration has also proposed several cuts to higher education spending including elimination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.  There is also a large proposed cut to the Office of Federal Student Aid which provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need.  If this last item were to be adopted, it would be the lowest level of funding the program has ever received since the Department of Education began to administer it in 1980.

Career and Technical Education funding is also slated for a cut.   During her June testimony, Secretary DeVos urged “schools to look at successful career and technical education programs run by states and districts and find ways to scale up and implement those.”  Whether this will be a plausible approach in states already facing shortfalls begs cautious consideration.

While the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Education would garner level funding in the Trump proposal, Secretary DeVos has stated that her office is “not going to be issuing any decrees” on civil rights.  Critics of this policy approach suggest the change emphasizes “expedience over thoroughness.” Efforts in the Obama administration resulted in far-reaching investigations and resolutions requiring schools and colleges to address civil rights concerns.

American Health Care Act:  Efforts are still underway in the U.S. Senate as Republicans are nearing release of a “discussion draft” of their rewrite of the House version of this proposed change to health care coverage and funding.  The House version was passed in mid-May.  One of the unusual aspects of the Senate process has been the closed-door approach employed by members for drafting the document.  Senate Republicans who do not sit on the working committee have expressed disappointment that they have been shut out of efforts to come up to an alternative to what the House passed.  Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority leader (R– Ky.) is quoted in the June 21 Washington Post suggesting that his goal is to have this legislation voted on before the Senate goes on their Fourth of July recess.  It appears that Senate Democrats will be in a full court press to modify and push back on several of the, as yet, unknown features of this legislation.  Stay tuned!

The importance of this legislation cannot be over emphasized given the implications for widespread impact on children, youth, and families given the shift away from the Affordable Care Act. Readers are encouraged to be in contact with their U.S. Senators and Representative to express your views on features of the legislation.  Details should be available early next week.  Monitoring the website of MENTOR (www.mentoring.org) is encouraged.  Readers of the Chronicle will be updated on these as well as other policy developments in the next issue.

Fundraising for Mentoring – A New Mindset

Mentoring advocates, practitioners, researchers likely share a common concern today that our pathways to sustainability for programs are shifting and will continue to change in the coming years and months.  Certainly the public discourse over the past few months informs all of us that government dollars, whether at federal, state, or local levels are likely to become more limited and will need to be replaced throfyugh other sources.  So, what might we consider?

Think BIG!  Think BOLD!  Build new relationships and these can begin at the local level through creative connections with local community foundations that are increasingly encouraging non-profit organizations to work together in building approaches for solving community problems.  There is likely a regional association of grantmakers in your community and learning which grantmakers are parties to that association as well as their priorities can be useful in creating your asset mapping strategy.  A membership in your state association of non-profits is important as well as in a local Chamber of Commerce.  If your community, as is the case in Washington, DC, publishes a Catalogue on Philanthropy, learn whether your organization would be a possible featured agency in the next edition.

Efforts in both Kalamazoo and Flint, Michigan in recent years have engaged philanthropists to address city budget deficits as well as the water crisis that still exists in Flint.  A group of philanthropists joined forces to invest $70 million in Kalamazoo alone.

Recently Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who is worth more than $80 billion, posted on Twitter a “request for ideas” for a philanthropy strategy he should pursue.  And, Mr. Bezos is among a larger club of individual billionaires who plan to give away much of their wealth.  Though philanthropy doesn’t have anything close to the resources of government, it is an avenue that is worth adding to the “highway of opportunity” for youth-serving programs.

A recommended book for your consideration on this topic is “The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age” by David Callahan.