Legislative budget adds $100m to after school programs

Legislative budget adds $100m to after school programs

(Calif.) After more than two years of lobbying, providers of after school programs may be close to securing support for additional state money to cover the growth in the minimum wage.

In action this week and last, lawmakers building the Legislature’s budget proposal ­voted to add as much as $100 million in one-time money to raise funding formula by $1.50 to $9 per student.

“I think the Legislature has heard loud and clear how important after school programs are to students and families,” said Jessica Gunderson, senior director of policy and communications at the Partnership for Children & Youth, a non-profit group that advocates on behalf of low-income children.

“We now have some of the largest providers in California projecting tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollar deficits in the upcoming year,” she said.

At issue is Proposition 49, which was approved by voters in 2002 and authorized about a half billion in spending for after school programs when state revenues hit a certain threshold.

The first year that the state funded the program was 2006 and it began with a $7.50 per-student funding rate. Currently, the state provides about $550 million for the services, with the federal government adding about $130 million more.

A number of things have changed since 2006, including the state’s minimum wage, which increased from $8 to $10. And last year, the governor signed legislation mandating the increase to $15 per hour by 2021. Advocates say the consumer price index has jumped 21 percent since the outset of the program.

Even with the cost pressure, after school programs in California annually serve nearly 900,000 students—many of them from low-income and under-served communities. Advocates also point to research that shows children who participate regularly in after-school activities also have higher classroom attendance.

But getting Gov. Jerry Brown to loosen up the purse strings hasn’t been easy. Last year, a coalition of groups got behind legislation that would have added $73 million to the annual appropriation, but it died in committee largely because the governor signaled his opposition.

In the past, Brown has argued that school districts should account for cost increases in the after school programs with the money provided under the Local Control Funding Formula, just as they do with other educational services.

This year, another bill is pending from state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, which would bring the per-student rate up to $9 and lock in increases with growth in the minimum wage.

But there are signs lawmakers may want to deal with the problem in the budget process. Perhaps spurred on by a proposal from the White House to reduce federal support, the Senate budget committee agreed to add about $30 million to the after school services. And on Tuesday, an Assembly subcommittee voted to increase the allocation to $100 million.

Gunderson said she is hopeful that this time Brown will agree to the increase.

“The evidence from the past two decades is indisputable–after school programs know how to keep kids safe, and when kids in middle and high school are engaged in those hours after school ends, there’s a huge reduction in risky behavior,” she said.