ST. PETERSBURG – As Director of Education and Community Engagement for the City of St. Petersburg, two budget commitments highlighted in Mrs. Scruggs’ editorial fall under my scope of responsibility. Accurate information is critical, so please note the following corrections.
Recognizing that access to quality education early in a child’s life is a key factor of success, Mayor Kriseman made a $100,000 request in the Fiscal Year (FY) ‘18 budget to fund initiatives that support Early Childhood Education. This $100,000 will bring the total investment for FY18 to $250,000, via the carry-forward of funds unused in FY17.
The city has not contracted with a partner for the delivery of services. While the city is highly supportive of the work of USF-St. Pete’s Family Studies Center, and other programs, no formal commitments have been made to any.
However, the city has built very important partnerships within the early childhood community, including a partnership between the city’s small business incubator, the Greenhouse, and the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County. This partnership has resulted in the development of a program that will target Early Childcare Centers on the south side of St. Petersburg for business and leader training.
Consistent with the Greenhouse’s mission to provide entrepreneurs with the education, resources and assistance to thrive in today’s economy, the Greenhouse will develop and deliver a business-training curriculum for childcare center owners and directors in south St. Petersburg.
Summer youth employment is a major priority for Mayor Kriseman. The city offers many youth employment opportunities, yet only one was mentioned by Mrs. Scruggs, the S.T.Y.L.E. (Summer Training in Youth Leadership and Employment) program.
She is correct that this program is funded in the amount of $35,000. But, the city’s total commitment to youth employment totals much higher. Other city youth employment initiatives include the Summer Youth Internship Program (SYIP) and the After-school youth employment program. Those two programs combined represent a city investment worth $400,000.
The investment in our youth does not stop with youth employment. In FY17, the city also made a commitment to invest in youth programming of $750, 000 for the My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper Cohort of Champions. The Cohort of 100 young men between the ages of 12-24 years old receives entrepreneurship training, educational, and enrichment opportunities.
Once again, in FY18, the mayor has asked that the budget maintains that same funding commitment, and expand its reach by supporting additional programs that target the most vulnerable young men and women in our community.
As Mayor Kriseman is often heard saying, St. Petersburg will be a city of opportunity where the sun shines on all who come to work, live, and play. That vision will not be realized unless the city approaches the task of stewardship and fiscal responsibility with fidelity. The creation of a budget is a long and complex endeavor. Community input is crucial to that process and many had an opportunity to voice their priorities at last month’s public budget hearing. Many say that a government’s budget is a reflection of its values. This year’s budget is a strong reflection of the mayor’s commitment to our youth.
Leah McRae is the City of St. Petersburg’s Director of Education and Community Engagement.