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Calif. Legislators Approve $25 Million More for After-School Program

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It's now up to California Governor Jerry Brown whether to increase funding for the state's after-school grant program for the first time in nearly 10 years.

During the Joint Legislative Budget Conference Committee on Tuesday, where leaders of the state Senate and Assembly hash out differences between each house's spending plan, they agreed to add $25 million to the state's After-School Education and Safety program (ASES).  

That's half the amount requested by Democratic Assembly member Eduardo Garcia. As we reported here last week, funding for the program hasn't changed since 2006, when the daily rate was set at $7.50 per student. Garcia's proposal would have raised that to $8.50; the compromise takes it to $8 a day per student.

The increase would still leave ASES-funded programs at about a third of the average daily cost of running an after-school program, according to a 2009 report commissioned by the Wallace Foundation. It's also a dollar less than California's current hourly minimum wage. In a recent survey by the Oakland, Calif.-based Partnership for Children and Youth, more than 75 percent of ASES-funded after-school programs reported that they're having trouble recruiting and retaining qualified staff members because they don't have the money to pay competitive salaries.

ASES was created by a state ballot measure in 2002. It serves more than 400,000 elementary and middle school students attending 4,170 programs. Under that ballot measure, ASES receives $550 million a year. At Tuesday's budget committee meeting, the state's Legislative Analysts Office recommended that the program not receive any additional money. Instead, the office said extra funds should be a part of California's new Local Control Funding Formula, which leaves it up to local school districts to decide how to spend their money.

State Senator Mark Leno, D—San Francisco, the chairman of the committee, rejected the idea. He said the funds must be specifically directed to ASES in order to maintain the goals of after-school programs.

"These afternoon hours are really where our youth can get themselves into trouble," said Leno. "If we're not looking at the entire day until parents get home from work, we're really not doing all we can for them."

All members of the state Senate and Assembly are scheduled to vote on the budget next Monday. They can only vote up or down on the entire spending plan, not pieces of it. From there, it goes to the governor. 

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