Letters to the Editor

May 03, 2010

Cutting after-school programs not the right move

To the editor:

I was truly dismayed to read in Tuesday's Herald-Mail about Washington County and the City of Hagerstown's budget cuts to nonprofits, especially the CSAFE after-school programs.

As Sunday's article on the drop in the teen birth rate illustrated, there are many factors that impact our county's teen birth rate. The availability of quality after-school programs is one factor that may not seem obvious at first glance, but which has been shown in research to impact not only teen pregnancy, but also youth crime, alcohol and drug abuse, gang activity and more. Programs like CSAFE make a difference in children's lives -- not just keeping them off the streets, but helping them to achieve academically and socially. Children learn much-needed skills that will help them to resist peer pressure as they get older and set goals for their lives that will guide them in the choices they make.


Washington County and the City of Hagerstown must take a broader view of the problems that we face. Yes, the budget crisis is real and immediate. But in the long run, the costs associated with teen pregnancy, crime and substance abuse are astronomical. One study estimated that each high-risk youth prevented from adopting a life of crime saves taxpayers between $1.7 million and $2.3 million. Preventing one youth from becoming a career drug abuser saves us $408,268 to $1,070,244. And preventing one teen pregnancy can save taxpayers an average of $78,000.

I personally would prefer my tax dollars to go to quality after-school programs than to drug rehabilitation, incarceration or welfare programs. You've heard the saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." In this case, one dollar of prevention is worth approximately $10 of "cure," in the form of increased school performance, increased future wages, reduced crime costs and reduced welfare costs.

It is difficult to measure the impact that prevention programs -- whether they are after-school programs or our teen pregnancy-prevention programs -- have on our society. How do you know how many children were diverted from joining a gang? How do you know how many teens decided to abstain from sex until they were ready, or decided to only practice safe sex? We can't know these things, but we do know that communities that prioritize after-school programs see a difference. The hours between 3 and 6 p.m. -- immediately after school, and before parents get home from work -- are when the majority of youth crimes and risky behaviors (drugs, alcohol and sex) take place. This is not the time to cut after-school programs. This is the time to expand these programs, to make sure that they are in every community, and that middle and high school students have after-school opportunities afforded to them as well.

I ask the county and city officials to show leadership and vision by investing in the youth of our community; they are worth every penny! And I ask anyone interested in supporting the expansion of after-school programs in our community to please make your voice heard to local officials.

Shalom Black Lane
executive director
Washington County
Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition

Letter writer off-base on in his thank-you letter

To the editor:

In Thursday's letter to the editors, Terry Weddle mocked President Obama by thanking him for Weddle's usual list of half-truths and weird imaginings. One paragraph in particular needs special comment.

Weddle says, "Thank you for continuing to attack the private sector like insurance companies and banks (which is the sector where jobs need to be created) to push through your 'reforms.'"He truly is living in a different universe. Banks and insurance companies do not create jobs. Economists generally agree that over half of new jobs, the kind that built America, are created by small businesses.

Anyone who has been following the events of our economic meltdown knows that the big banks have been a major cause of the problem, gambling with other people's money and paying their incompetent executives outrageous bonuses as a reward for making losing bets. Meanwhile, the little locally owned banks and the credit unions have been slogging along, lending money to people who need it to create jobs and doing the job the big banks used to do. The big banks desperately need a stiff dose of regulation, the kind that was provided by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, killed off by then-Sen. Phil Gramm's "deregulation" in 1999.

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