The long, drawn-out budget battles around federal spending for this fiscal year ended on April 8. On the service front, the budget agreement yielded some disappointments but also revealed both the strengths of the service and volunteering sector, as well as the challenges for us going forward in a charged and demanding fiscal environment.
After multiple temporary extensions, Congress ultimately approved a deficit-reduction measure that included $75 million in cuts to the budget for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Fortunately, the Corporation was not eliminated as the House of Representatives had proposed, but there were some reductions:
- The entire CNCS will be subject to a .2 percent rescission
- AmeriCorps state and national was cut by $23 million
- The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) was cut by $12 million
- Learn and Serve America was eliminated
Obviously, the end of federal support for service learning in the nation’s schools was disappointing. Points of Light Institute and its youth division, generationOn, have engaged with other advocates to urge policymakers to identify alternative funding platforms for service learning programs. Service learning, we believe, is foundational to building a lifelong commitment to civic engagement and we support its restoration in the federal budget. Support for youth service engagement is the pipeline for future generations of engaged citizens.
Overall, the calls, letters, meetings in congressional district offices, op-eds, letters to the editor and good old-fashioned talking that our sector marshaled meant that CNCS was funded at 94 percent of the fiscal year 2010 level. This hard work was invaluable, a real-time example of the creativity and energy of citizens engaged in public problem solving. Special thanks goes to the Save Service Coalition led by AnnMaura Connolly, Greg Propper and a team of organizations.
Points of Light Institute was pleased to support this campaign. Through the coalition of allies in the sector, service and volunteering advocates visited 440 congressional offices and thousands of calls were made to the offices of members of Congress. HandsOn Network affiliates and AmeriCorps Alums members were integral to the Save Service campaign. An AmeriCorps alum was responsible for initiating a petition that enlisted 100,000 individuals to Save Service.
The disappointment in the outcomes of the budget debate are clear, and we will face even more daunting challenges in fiscal year 2012. But the importance of service was also recognized in the outcome. Lawmakers are faced with difficult choices and we will have increasingly constrained resources. It will be incumbent on our sector to demonstrate the high economic and civic value of service and citizenship and the return on investment in the forms of problems solved, impact created and lifelong citizen volunteers cultivated.
Yours in Service,
CEO, Points of Light Institute
Co-Founder, HandsOn Network