Advocates asking for a boost to after school program funding

Advocates asking for a boost to after school program funding

(Calif.) An effort to bring funding for after-school programs more in line with their actual cost faces a deadline this week for legislation to move forward from committee review to floor debate.

AB 2663 from Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, would add $73 million to an existing appropriation of $550 million for after school activities serving more than 400,000 K-9 students statewide.

The request, which might be one of the first ripple effects of increasing the statewide minimum wage, is needed just to maintain existing services, supporters said.

“We’ve seen our staffing cost increase 33 percent over the past 10 years while our funding has been stagnate,” Jessica Gunderson, policy director at the Partnership for Children & Youth, part of a coalition of groups that sponsored the legislation.

“Even if you excluded the hikes in the minimum wage, our cost of doing business has gone up from anywhere between 18 and 19 percent,” she said. “So this is something we’re really hoping to get resolved this year.”

Cooper’s bill would also impose an automatic annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.

Although the After School Education and Safety Program supports activities at more than 4,000 schools for students in ninth grade and below, a recent survey of participating districts found almost 75 percent have had to cut back.

Supporters of Cooper’s bill point out that the funding rate of $7.50 per average daily attendance hasn’t increased since 2006. Meanwhile, the CPI has increased 19 percent.

In addition, they argue, the minimum wage in California has jumped during that time from $8 per hour to $10 per hour. It is set to gradually increase to $15 per hour by 2022.

The After School Education and Safety Program was established by the voters with passage in 2002 of Proposition 49 –brainchild of then-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the former governor used the statewide initiative as a staging platform for his run in the 2003 recall election, the state’s ongoing budget woes prevented him from putting any money into the pet project until 2006.

The alliance sponsoring the bill also includes among its members Children Now, the California Alliance of YMCAs and the California Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs.

These advocates note that currently 70 percent of the funding goes to schools in low-income neighborhoods to provide opportunities in everything from dance music and theater to physical fitness and team sports as well as academics.

Research shows that children who participate regularly in after-school activities also have higher classroom attendance. A 2008 study of federally-funded after school programs in the Central Valley found participating students improved
their
school
day
attendance
by
14
days – which is nearly three
weeks.

Cooper’s bill has languished before the Assembly Appropriations Committee for more than a month after passing out of the Education Committee in mid-April.

The bill faces a deadline Friday to be sent to the floor and may have been held pending discussions with the governor over including some of the money requested within the 2016-17 budget.

The additional funding would move the average daily attendance rate for program providers to $8.50 per student – an increase of 13 percent.

Gov. Jerry Brown has already proposed earmarking about $500 million for the expected increase in cost associated with upcoming contract negotiations with state employees.

The latest hike in the minimum wage, which will rise incrementally to reach the $15 mark within six years, has been broadly estimated by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst to cost “billions of dollars each year.”

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