This must be the season for snatching the budgetary rug out from under deserving programs. Weve heard Christmas in July to describe an unexpected mid-year bounty; now weve been hit with Scrooge in June.
The Stevens Creek Elementary community - of which I am a member by virtue of my daughters attendance, and with my wife serving as principal - is still in shock over Gov. Sonny Perdues surprise decision to withhold statewide funding for elementary foreign language programs.
Perdue hasnt been friendly to the highly regarded program, leaving it out of his proposed budget this spring. Proponents of the program lobbied the Legislature, which put the $2.1 million in funding back in.
The programs fans breathed a sigh of relief when Perdue signed the budget, and school systems around the state issued contracts for the next school year to elementary foreign language teachers - including five at Stevens Creek .
Out of the blue, Perdue announced last week that he was deferring funding for $21 million in budgeted items - including all the money for elementary foreign language. That means the money is still there, but local school systems cant have it.
Then Perdue left for an overseas trip to convince Europeans to do more business in Georgia. We hope he sees the irony in knifing the foreign language program while courting foreigners to do business here. How short-sighted can you get?
The answer to that question gets even tougher in the next case of rug-pulling.
Augusta Urban Ministries had been counting on a $40,000 grant from the Blank Foundation, named for the Blank family, owners of Home Depot.
The Blank grant was earmarked to help operate AUMs Community Kids Connection summer camp. The camp serves inner-city children, many of whom lack positive role models and a sense of direction.
AUM gives these kids a safe place to spend their summer, providing healthy, educational activities in an environment that helps them grow up and become productive members of society instead of future petty thugs and drug dealers.
The Blank Foundation suddenly turned Grinch, and yanked its funding when it heard - gasp! - kids attending the summer camp also could participate in Bible study. That discovery must have been especially incredible for the foundation functionary who had failed to notice the word Ministries in the organizations name.
The Bible study has always been there, says Melrose York of Martinez, an AUM volunteer and former board member. Its not required, and its never been hidden.
The Blank Foundations sudden withdrawal of its funding caught AUM totally by surprise. The organization was faced with eliminating Bible study and keeping the funding, or keeping the Bible study and say goodbye to $40,000.
To its credit, the ministrys leaders stuck by their principles and decided to keep the voluntary Bible study - but like the schools threatened with the loss of elementary foreign language programs, AUM is now scrambling for funding.
Unlike the private AUM, however, most of those schools are fortunate to have local governments willing to either pick up the tab, like Richmond Countys, or at least bridge the gap until the state funding issue is resolved, like Columbia Countys. AUMs only safety net is the generosity of local churches and citizens.
To be part of that safety net, send a check to Augusta Urban Ministries, 303 Hale St., Augusta, Ga., 30901. Mark it for Community Kids Connection.
And shop at Lowes, or Mulherin Lumber, or How-ard Lumber Co., or Maner Builders Supply. Theyre in Columbia County, and they arent owned by the Grinch.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com.)
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