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Funding after school programs

This should be a no-brainer.

CM C.O. "Brad" Bradford

CM C.O. “Brad” Bradford

To combat youth crime, a former Houston police chief says the city must first solve another problem: unstable and inadequate funding for after-school programs.

City Councilman C.O. Bradford said it is more urgent than ever to make after-school programs a public-safety priority as federal grants continue to dwindle or expire, forcing dozens of area providers to shut their doors this year and leaving more children unattended during critical hours.

“Deadly house parties. Drive-by shootings. Killed kids,” he said. “We’re going to see more and more of that.”

Bradford, Houston’s police chief from 1997 to 2003, has failed on previous attempts to persuade Houston leaders to take city funds earmarked for new police officers and instead spend them to expand after-school programs, but he vows to continue the push.

Since 2011, Bradford has chaired a coalition of area after-school care providers called ENRICH, which is based out of the Harris County Department of Education’s Cooperative for After-School Enrichment. The group’s end-of-year report highlighted local studies it organized and funded that show that after-school programs are linked to reducing youth crime.

For more than a decade, numerous national and regional studies have concluded that about 20 percent of all crimes – and more than half of violent crimes – committed by kids and teens happen in the four hours after school on weekdays, combatting the perception that mischievous kids prefer to skulk the dark. Some hope a solution is as simple as providing positive alternatives during those hours.

Former Mayor Lee Brown touted after-school programs as an anti-crime measure when the city began funding some in the late 1990s. Although the city spends millions from federal grants each year, only about $225,000 comes from the general fund.

“Too many young boys and girls are being cited and being detained because they are simply being children, and we are not providing the proper guidance, coaching and counseling they need,” Bradford said.

ENRICH reported that 53 percent of funding for after-school programs in Harris, Waller and Fort Bend counties came from federal sources in the 2012-13 school year. Dozens of after-school programs focused on academic enrichment were forced to shut down after that school year as federal grants expired with no option to reapply for one or two years.

I completely agree with CM Bradford that this is a priority and a sound investment that needs to be funded. You know the old expression “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”? That’s the idea here. Kids who are bored are more likely to get into trouble than kids who are busy. Doesn’t make them bad kids, it just makes them kids. I don’t know about you, but I certainly did a few stupid things when I was a kid and didn’t have anything better to do. The fact that federal grants are getting scarcer for this, presumably in the name of “austerity” or “smaller government”, is a scandal and a travesty, but this is the world we live in right now. We can pay now to help keep kids busy and engaged and productive, or we can pay later when they’re not. You tell me what makes more sense.

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2 Comments

  1. The Dude says:

    Indeed the devil is in the detail: what would the Councilmember have us not pay for in order to pay for this? We could not give the police their 3% raise for a year and cost shift those funds annual thereafter to this, which would be about $9-$10 million – particularly since this theoretically should help fight crime – but I suspect that’s not going to fly…

  2. Steve Houston says:

    Bradford could also forgo his $100k/year pension until he retires from city service to help fund such programs too. Each time the subject comes up, Bradford is asked where to get the money from, not a bad way of budgeting. He always has difficulty coming up with the requite cuts that are acceptable to the Mayor and other council members.

    In a like manner, he was the one who underfunded the city crime lab for each year of his reign as Chief, allowed all those thousands of rape kits to build up untested, and otherwise mismanaged funds to such a degree that he is being hailed as the perfect candidate for Mayor to succeed Parker.

    Kuff, even full funding of after school programs is not going to stem the tide of most crime committed by juveniles. Most of those interested in stealing, damaging property, or otherwise engaging in criminal conduct do it regardless of such programs and all the local studies sponsored by groups like Bradford’s handled by people that push an outcome before the data comes in will not change that (Bradford was always big on “studies”, making sure they were properly revised until they reflected the outcome he desired when he was Chief as I recall).

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