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New Jersey After 3 Keeps Afloat

New Jersey After 3, a New Brunswick, N.J.-based organization that runs after-school programs in the state, will remain afloat thanks to a new public-private partnership, after announcing last week that it would be forced to shut down because of a loss of state funding.

The organization, which has served 75,000 students in the after-school hours, had been supported through state funding and private dollars since its founding in 2004. But after the state pulled the plug on all funding for the program, it became too challenging for NJA3 to survive on private dollars alone, particularly since the state funding had already dropped from $15 million in 2009 to $3 million in 2011 and the pressure on private funding was already high.

"Last week, people were in my office taking things off the walls, and we didn't know if any of the solutions we proposed to the state would work out," said Mark Valli, president of New Jersey After 3.

In a matter of days, however, things changed when the state decided to renew a public-private partnership with New Jersey After 3 by working with the organization to turn around the state's schools.

According to statements from Gov. Chris Christie, the state will be applying for a waiver from No Child Left Behind's accountability requirements, and plans to use New Jersey After 3's extended-day programs as one of its strategies for school improvement. As you may remember, the Obama administration's waiver plan includes expanded learning and extended days as a turnaround strategy that can help states qualify.

With renewed state support, new private funding offers emerged that will help support New Jersey After 3 while the state applies for additional funding from the federal government that could keep New Jersey After 3 sustainable.

What public funding may support the program and how the waiver process will work are still in the works, Valli said, but an application is planned for Nov. 1.

"I'm hoping this [partnership] opens up the door not just to protecting New Jersey After 3's kids and their families, but that the whole waiver process presents new opportunities for expanded learning," Valli said of the new strategy for solvency that he hopes will inspire other struggling programs. "We have not just the opportunity to survive through waivers, but the opportunity to build something truly special and elevate ELT in all forms."

To date, New Jersey After 3 has offered programs to 29 districts in the state, programs which have been shown to improve academics for students who remain in the program for two years or more.

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