AmeriCorps funding denied

Posted 11:32pm September 24

by Ilana Weinberg
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

House and Senate negotiations failed to approve the emergency $100 million in appropriation funds requested by AmeriCorps last week. The organization, which provides stipends and scholarships to young people in exchange for community service, was omitted from the final package of $937 million in supplemental funds.

Democrats and Republicans argued throughout the summer over the future of the service program created under the Clinton Administration. House Republican leaders opposed the extra funds requested, after AmeriCorps approved more volunteers than its educational trust could support.

Financial management problems have left AmeriCorps officials unable to fund about 20,000 of the 50,000 volunteer slots that the program usually offers.

The inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs AmeriCorps, acknowledged that poor management contributed to the miscalculations in the budget.

Supporters will urge Congress to approve President Bush’s request for $433 million for AmeriCorps funding in 2004, hoping to expand the program to 75,000 volunteers. The House has so far approved $345 million, and a Senate committee passed $340 million.

The cut in funds will also effect Teach For America, an organization under AmeriCorps that recruits recent college graduates and places them in at-risk school districts for two years. Many Teach For America corps members, who earn a regular beginning teacher salary, will not receive AmeriCorps “education awards” because of the funding cutbacks. These awards have been used to pay back past or future educational expenses.

Despite being denied national funding, Teach For America continues to launch an aggressive recruitment effort on campuses nationwide.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton took the cuts in funds for AmeriCorps very personally. Clinton told the Associated Press that President Bush is breaking a “president-to-president” promise made to her husband to protect AmeriCorps. The Clintons felt a particular responsibility for the program, and Sen. Clinton was disappointed in Bush’s failure to force the issue within his own party.

“When my husband spoke with President Bush as they were changing the leadership of our country, the only thing my husband asked President Bush was to take care of AmeriCorps and national service,” Clinton told AmeriCorps supporters at the beginning of the month.

White House Spokesperson Scott McClellan noted that President Bush “is very committed to expanding AmeriCorps and expanding the number of members within AmeriCorps, because of the vital role they play in helping people across the country,” according to the Associated Press.

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