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Advocates gather in support of after school programs

isabell Rivera OW Contributor | 3/15/2019, midnight
Hundreds of advocates, educators, parents, and youth gathered this week in..

Hundreds of advocates, educators, parents, and youth gathered this week in Sacramento in support of the California After School and Summer Challenge. The group called on legislative leaders and the governor to provide needed state funding for after-school programs benefiting more than 813,000 elementary and middle school students statewide.

A dual threat of dramatically under-resourced state-funded programs—together with possible elimination of federally funded programs—could have exponential negative impacts on hundreds of thousands of children and their families in California. Supporters claim that insufficient funding is putting children and families at risk.

Since After School Education and Safety (ASES) was implemented in 2007, the state minimum wage has increased 50 percent, while the daily reimbursement rate for ASES has only increased 9 percent. As a result, after school programs have had to cut services for kids and nearly 1 in 4 programs are expected to close their doors in 2020 without additional state funding, which would result in 91,000 students losing their after-school program.

Advocates say the problem will only get worse as the minimum wage and cost of living continue to rise, if the state does not act. President Donald Trump has called for the complete elimination of federal funding for after school programs. If approved, nearly 100,000 additional children and families in California would lose their after school and summer programs.

“California’s top-rated after school system is near the brink of collapse,” said Jennifer Peck, president and CEO of the Partnership for Children and Youth. “Governor Newsom and the California legislature must take action to prioritize funding for these essential programs this year. Families across California are depending on them.”

Advocates from across California converged on Sacramento to demand that lawmakers renew their investment in after school programs by supporting a key bill in the legislature. Specifically, AB 1725 and its accompanying budget request, introduced by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-51), would increase state funding by $112.8 million starting in FY2019-20, raising the reimbursement rate to $9.75 per student, per day. If passed, the bill would also ensure ASES funding adjusts with future increases in the state minimum wage and cost of living so that the state’s investment in high-quality after-school programs is protected.

“After school programs enrich and supplement our education system,” Carrillo said. “This is evident in the district I serve, where approximately 9,000 children are served at 89 after school programs every day, where students are immersed in meaningful activities and provided nutritional meals. These programs are essential to working families, many of whom are experiencing hardship across the state. California must continue investing in early childhood education and after-school programs that help students achieve academic success and close the achievement gap.”

State-funded ASES programs keep children learning and keep parents working by providing critical academic support and enrichment opportunities, and are an essential part of the childcare continuum that helps working parents keep their jobs. These programs benefit more than 400,000 students daily in 4,200 schools, and operate in the highest poverty communities—75 percent of students in ASES qualify for free or reduced price meals.

After school programs also keep students safe and out of trouble during the prime time for crime involving children. They build social-emotional skills, promote healthy life choices, serve nutritious snacks and meals, build positive relationships with caring adults, and support the whole child.