For the past six months, my staff has been working on an analysis of the City's spending to support programs and services for its children and youth. The results are, at best, disturbing. As an organization, our collective efforts are uncoordinated, unfocused, and underfunded.
In total, the City spends about $17 million annually on supports and services for young people. Of this amount, only about $4 million comes from the City of Sacramento. This is a little more than 1% of our General Fund. The remaining $13 million comes from the Federal and State governments and is spent on two after-school programs - Sacramento Start and 4th R. As a whole, the City-provided youth programs are offered by several departments, have no framework and are not evidence based. Additionally, the funding isn’t being directed at those age groups most in need. Our analysis also found that of Recreation and Parks expenditures, the Department with the largest children- and youth-serving programs, only 18% is directed at high school students.
Contrast this with San Francisco and Oakland. Those cities spend 7.5% and 3% of their General Fund dollars on youth, respectively. San Francisco also has an additional funding allocation known as the “Children’s Fund.” It provides permanent and ongoing revenue through a charter amendment that sets aside a percentage of property taxes which is directed to a special department within their city focused on serving children and families. Oakland has something similar also.
Sacramento deserves better. In last year's Mayor and Council priorities, we included the creation of a Department of Children and Youth for the 2016-17 budget year. The idea is to pull into a single department all of the youth related supports and services currently being provided by various City departments. We would adopt a set of goals for our young people as well as a youth development framework within which the programs would be operated and evaluated.
The expectation is that these bureaucratic changes would lead to increased quality and effectiveness of existing programs and guide future programs. The reorganization however, would not lead to additional funding. For that, I am working with representatives of the business, public safety, and non-profit communities to identify potential sources of additional resources. My hope is to put forward a youth funding proposal this fall for the Mayor and City Council to consider.
If we truly believe what we often say, then it is time to walk the talk, focus on the needs of our young people, and find sufficient resources to provide the supports and opportunities they need and deserve.
In addition to his council duties, Jay works as an independent consultant and policy advisor on education reform and youth policy and strategies.