Tuesday, March 4, 2008

After-school programs on the cutting block

Its here! The proposed 2009 federal education budget is up for our viewing pleasure.
(FYI, you can go to the “Eliminations” section to see if your favorite programs are on the cutting block). Yes, I’m being cynical here… The reason for this is a proposed cut in programming that is near and dear to me – afterschool and summer programs. The only solid Federal funding available for these programs comes from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which has been close to $1 billion for the last several years. The proposed budget would eliminate about $200 million of this funding! Jeez….

If the federal government would think about the number of families who need this funding in order to provide their children with quality supervision and programming in the out-of-school hours, they might think twice about this cut. In fact, we should be putting more rather than less money towards out-of-school funding since the supply of programming does not meet the demand. Moreover, research has found that quality out-of-school contexts have significant developmental benefits, especially for children living in poverty.

Unfortunately, like most of what we have learned about in this class, these cuts have more negative impact on poor children. First, lower-income parents are less likely to afford high-quality out-of-school programming. Second, children living in poverty often face more dangerous neighborhoods in the afterschool hours, suggesting a higher need for structured activity settings during this time. Related, the rate of crime significantly increases between the hours of 3-6pm, perhaps due to the number of unsupervised youth during this time. And lastly, afterschool programs are positive developmental contexts that may ameliorate the academic disparities between poor and non-poor youth that we have talked about in class.

In other words, we should hope that this portion of the proposed budget does not get passed.


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