Good call by governor

Published 8:25 am Friday, April 16, 2010

Gov. Bob McDonnell acted wisely this week in challenging state lawmakers to restore funding for a Virginia Beach-based program that aims to rescue at-risk teenagers from lives of crime and incarceration.

McDonnell has proposed an amendment to the biennial budget recently passed by the General Assembly to restore $1,935,213 million in state funding for the Virginia National Guard Commonwealth ChalleNGe Program at Camp Pendleton.

The program’s mission is to intervene in the lives of at-risk youth by providing the values, skills, education and self-discipline needed to produce responsible, productive citizens and to do so in a highly disciplined atmosphere. Since its founding in 1994, more than 3,000 graduates of the program have furthered their education, entered the workforce or joined the military.

Sixty percent of the program’s budget comes from the federal government, but Commonwealth ChalleNGe would have shut down if the state stops contributing the other 40 percent.

“This program makes a remarkable difference in the lives of so many of Virginia’s at-risk youth,” McDonnell said. “There are nearly 10,000 students who drop out of grades 7-12 each year in Virginia; these are the types of young people who are offered a second chance through the Commonwealth ChalleNGe program. Those who once lacked self-esteem and self-worth now graduate with purpose and a plan — and have pride in their country and community. I have been an ardent supporter of Commonwealth ChalleNGe since its start and am pleased to be able to restore funding for this vital program. With the money restored to Commonwealth ChalleNGe, hundreds more at-risk students will be given the opportunity of a better future.”

Well said, Governor. When lawmakers reconvene soon in Richmond, they should reconsider their shortsighted decision and adopt the governor’s amendment.