No one seems to have a bad word about the state's YouthWorks program, which provided an estimated 5,000 jobs for teens from low-income households last year, but nonetheless it has found itself on the chopping block as Beacon Hill finalizes its budget for the coming fiscal year. There is no good time for cuts in this valuable program, but with summer looming, this is a particularly bad time.
The program was earmarked for $9 million in funding the past fiscal year, and the House has proposed cutting it to $5 million, with the Senate likely to reduce funding to $8 million, according to The Boston Globe. While Boston, Worcester and Springfield get the largest share of the funding, Pittsfield, one of 31 state communities eligible for funding, received $80,627 in 2012 and $26,800 so far in 2013 according to the YouthWorks website. (There is also a year-round component to the funding.) It is administered in Pittsfield through BerkshireWorks.
The teen unemployment rate is 24 percent nationally compared to an overall unemployment rate that has declined to 7.5 percent this year. YouthWorks funds jobs at $8 an hour for students in low-income families, giving them and their families some extra money while also providing teens work experience to build upon. The program doesn't have an apparent downside and it is not clear why it fell into such disfavor while making its way through the Beacon Hill budget process.
Being penny-wise and pound-foolish with programs that benefit the state's young people is unwise in both the short- and long term. Governor Deval Patrick lobbied again this week for a budget proposal that will guarantee early education for children up to the age of 5 and fully fund K-12 education. The Legislature is not required to fully buy into the governor's program but it is obligated to take it and its clear benefits seriously, which it has yet to do as it prepares the new budget.
YouthWorks works, and a case hasn't been made to cut it back, certainly not to the level proposed in the House. It should at least be level-funded another year.