The White House budget recently released would eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service that administers AmeriCorps, a program that provides essential, evidence-based programs that contribute significantly to Central Texas schools.
As public school superintendents, we are charged with collectively educating and preparing 120,000 students to succeed. We are greatly concerned that the AmeriCorps program is among federal programs recommended for elimination by the Office of Management and Budget.
To succeed in our increasingly complex economy, our students must read and write well. They must solve problems, use technology, and learn how to communicate and work productively with others. Here in Central Texas, our school districts partner with a vibrant nonprofit network to help us reinforce skills at every grade level and prepare students for college and careers.
Several of our nonprofit partners deploy AmeriCorps members to provide individual and small group work, ensuring that disadvantaged students are not left behind. These members work with our students directly on elementary, middle and high school campuses in our districts. Working with AmeriCorps members, some of our youngest students receive early literacy assistance to close the gap and ensure that they get caught up to their classmates and learn to read on time.
AmeriCorps is both effective and extremely cost-effective. Programs utilizing AmeriCorps members must meet a high standard of quality and evidence ensuring that the investment is worthy of our communities — and each program is locally designed to meet a specific need. This is hardly federal government overreach. Further, all AmeriCorps programs raise dollars locally to match their federal funding, so the community — individuals, family foundations, corporations and civic groups — provides about half of the cost of delivering needed supplemental educational services to our students.
Some students are mentored by AmeriCorps members who help them build their social and emotional skills, keep their grades up and experience the learning and joy that comes from serving others in community projects. Our students work with AmeriCorps members after school as well, engaging in STEM lessons and homework help. And finally, many of our students who are the first in their family to attempt postsecondary education and might not otherwise be prepared for the complexity of preparing for college can access a range of outstanding support from AmeriCorps members who help them get in to college and persist through to a postsecondary degree.
If AmeriCorps is eliminated from the federal budget, our local students stand to lose:
• Early literacy intervention for students in grades K-2. Eighty-eight AmeriCorps members serve with Literacy First.
• Mentoring and academic support in grades 3–8. Forty-nine AmeriCorps members serve Communities In Schools of Central Texas.
• After-school STEM activities in grades K-5. Twenty-six AmeriCorps members serve 4-H Capital.
• Summer teaching and advising for college access and success in grades 6–12 and through college. Fifty AmeriCorps members serve Breakthrough Austin.
• Near-peer coaching for college access and success in grades 11–12 and through college. Twenty-nine AmeriCorps members serve College Forward.
These programs supply our schools with trained, dedicated and enthusiastic AmeriCorps members whose one-on-one attention to students pays off. AmeriCorps members are individuals who commit to a year of national service. They live on a small monthly allowance and as a reward for their dedicated work, they receive scholarship funds for college tuition or loans. Many members go on to be teachers, social workers, attorneys or businesspersons — but they also go on to be lifelong community volunteers who enrich our region for decades.
AmeriCorps has proven itself in our school districts. If eliminated, more than 5,000 disadvantaged students who are currently served by AmeriCorps members in our districts will no longer receive the benefit of one-on-one, intensive and evidence-based supports delivered by our community partners. That is a loss our schools cannot afford.
The following superintendents of Central Texas school districts co-authored this commentary: Royce Avery of Manor, Kelly Crook of Del Valle, Paul Cruz of Austin and Michael McKie of Hays.