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Federal budget cuts lead to uncertainty for state's student civic programs

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Chuck Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation, says federal budget cuts mean the IBF’s Civic Education Program will have no federal funding as of September.

A budget approved by Congress completely defunded the national Center for Civic Education (CCE), which allocates funds to each state. Congress has removed from the 2011 budget the $35 million that had been earmarked for civic education.

Locally, that means IBF’s civic education programs for middle and high school students – Project Citizen and We the People – will receive no federal funds this fall.

Dunlap said the IBF has been anticipating budget cuts on a national level and had already been brainstorming ways to keep the programs afloat. Dunlap said he thinks the programs will survive the defunding, thanks to the support of the bar and fundraising efforts, but changes to the programs are inevitable.

State finals for We the People program are at Union Station every December. Dunlap said the finals will likely be moved to another more affordable location. “We’re still going to have a state final – it may look a little bit different,” he said. The IBF may be unable to provide the usual hotel accommodations for legal professionals who visit Indianapolis to volunteer at the finals.

Andrew Homan, Civic Education Program manager for the IBF, said that Congress included $29 million in Title II A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for competitive grants for national non-profits that provide teacher professional development programs.

Homan said the CCE will likely now compete with other non-profits for grant money but that he does not know what the outcome might be. Regardless, the funding would be “dramatically less,” Homan said, than the amount previously allocated to civic education. Also unknown is whether only national non-profits will be allowed to compete for funds; if so, the Indiana Bar Foundation would be unable to apply for a grant from that $29 million.

Dunlap said the CCE will likely be fighting to be included in the 2012 budget. “We’re making plans in case that does not happen,” he said.

For more on this issue and how funding cuts are affecting other legal groups statewide, see the April 27 edition of Indiana Lawyer.

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