This morning the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to restore $384,841 to the County's nationally-lauded SUN Schools program. These funds will keep all County-funded SUN Schools open through January 31, 2007. This was an important step in the right direction. As a result of this morning's action, the Board's original cuts to SUN of $1.7 million have now been reduced to $1.3 million.
When three Commissioners first proposed cutting $1.7 million to SUN this year, this community stood up and demanded to be heard. I want to thank the thousands of Multnomah County residents - including parents, students, teachers, nonprofits, superintendents and community leaders - who testified, wrote letters, sent emails or spoke with Commissioners in recent months to decry those reductions. Together, we have been clear about the measurable benefits SUN provides to our children and their families.
As a result of this community's activism, the Board has taken an important step in the right direction. These funds are a life boat that temporarily keep SUN afloat through January, but our work is far from over. In celebrating today's action, we can not forget that $1.3 million in cuts to SUN will still occur this year, causing real harm to our SUN Schools, our non-profit agency partners and our Department of School and Community Partnerships. Nor can we forget that three Commissioners have signaled their willingness to cut an additional $2.4 million from SUN next year - including the program's work to close the academic achievement gap among youth of color.
For the remainder of my term as Chair, and even after I leave office in January, I will continue to join this community in the fight to restore, retain and even expand SUN School services to low income or at-risk children and families. I will work closely with Chair-elect Ted Wheeler on the long term task force to explore and recommend improvements to SUN.
This community needs to stay engaged on this issue, as well. Together, we must be vigilant and continue our advocacy on behalf of one of the nation's premiere prevention programs for youth. We are not finished yet. Our children are counting on us.