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New York State Legislature Boosts After-School Funding

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If New York State is any bellwether, then after-school programs have reason to be hopeful. 

The state budget passed earlier this week contains the first increase in funding for New York's Advantage After School program since the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Included in the $142 billion state budget is an additional $1.5 million for the after-school program, bringing the total to $19.25 million. That will open up spaces for about 1,000 more students, said Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, executive director of the New York State Afterschool Network.

That's just a fraction of the estimated 1.1 million children whose parents would enroll them in a program if spaces were available and affordable, said Niedzielski-Eichner. It's also nearly $9 million below the pre-recession funding level.

"That said, it's about momentum," after years of cutbacks, she added. "This, to me, feels like a shift out of the recession mindset and into a program growth mindset."

At its height, in 2009-2010, Advantage was budgeted at $28 million. The following year, funding fell by nearly $5.5 million, and then dropped again to $17.7 million in 2011-2012. It's been there ever since.

This year's increase wouldn't have happened without the efforts of state lawmakers. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal called for cutting the program by another $450,000, but legislators pushed for an increase.

"It's always a marker of an issue having risen to a certain level of prominence when the legislature adds money," said Niedzielski-Eichner. "We heard a lot from our legislative champions that there had been actual discussion about the need for more after school programs in some of their closed-door meetings, and that's huge." 

The new budget also maintains funding at $15.4 million for a variety of out-of-school-time and after-school programs paid for by the Youth Development program. The governor had proposed reducing it by $1.4 million.  

Legislators and Gov. Cuomo were on the same page with the Extended School Day/Violence Prevention program, which remains at $24.3 million.

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