News & Events
For kids’ sake vote ‘YES’ for children’s councils
Broward and Palm Beach are among seven Florida counties that created Children’s Services Councils to give underprivileged kids the help they need with reading, behavior management, after-school care, delinquency prevention, family issues, even swimming lessons.
You’d think our state and county tax dollars would pay for programs that help at-risk kids, since investments today can prevent intractable problems tomorrow.
But kids don’t have a voice. They don’t have lobbyists. And the spending priorities of political leaders change from year to year.
So about 30 years ago, Broward and Palm Beach counties authorized Children’s Service Councils to tax property owners and funnel the money to nonprofits that help kids thrive and prosper.
In other parts of the state, some of these councils have faced controversy for how they spend their tax money, and whether too much is spent on salaries, real estate and certain nonprofits.
But the councils in Broward and Palm Beach counties have never had a whiff of scandal. By contrast, our councils have proven themselves essential to addressing our community’s need — indeed, our community’s obligation — to give at-risk children a better shot at life.
However, because of controversies elsewhere, state lawmakers decided that voters should have to reauthorize children’s councils every 10 years or so. So near the bottom of this November’s ballot, you’ll see a question that asks whether to permanently reauthorize the children’s council, unless it’s dissolved in other ways allowed by state law.
For the sake of our children — and knowing that it does take a village to raise a child — the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board strongly encourages you to vote YES.
Last year, Broward’s council served 147,098 children, and many moms, too. As some examples, it spent $11.5 million on after-school programs and summer safe havens for kids from nearly 8,000 low-income families. It spent $10 million to help about 3,000 families change behaviors that put children at risk for abuse and neglect. And it spent about $10 million to help disabled children with the academic, social and life skills they need to live independently.
Similarly, Palm Beach County served about 77,000 kids last year — about 400,000 families — through outreach, public education and special initiatives. It spent about $29 million on parenting programs for at-risk families, legal support to relatives willing to be caretakers, and efforts to keep children out of the child welfare system. It also directed $23 million to help about 15,000 pregnant women and young mothers, including nutrition and health programs. And it distributed $31 million for child-care scholarships and after-school programs.
Broward and Palm Beach counties would be devastated if these services went away. Many kids wouldn’t have a place to go after school. Foster kids wouldn’t get some of the help they need. Some new moms, including child moms, wouldn’t get the coaching they need to be a good parent.
Without these councils, Palm Beach County would lose about $87 million, which funds 53 programs and about 1,700 full- and part-time jobs. Broward would lose $65 million, which supports nearly 150 programs and about 2,300 jobs.
It’s important to note this question does not mean a tax increase. Your property tax bill already has a line item for the Children’s Services Council. For the owner of a $250,000 home in Broward, it averages about $125 per year. In Palm Beach County, it’s about $140 per year.
Previously, we’d argued that there was nothing wrong with children’s councils asking voters to reauthorize them every 10 years, but we didn’t win that argument. Instead, the question facing voters is whether to authorize them in perpetuity, absent action by the state or county. A “No” vote would mean they’d go away.
The question deserves a resounding YES.
It would be reckless to throw out local funding for programs that have a proven record of helping children and families.
For the sake of our kids, vote YES to reauthorize our children’s councils.