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Afterschool Alliance Head Calls President Obama's Budget 'Real Disappointment'

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One of the largest advocacy groups for quality after-school programming has come out against President Obama's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The head of Afterschool Alliance takes umbrage with the fact that the president's $4 trillion spending plan would cut a big chunk out of the money set aside for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. These programs are designed to provide enrichment activities to students outside of school hours with a special emphasis on those from impoverished backgrounds. The president has requested $1 billion for the initiative. That's $167 million less than the centers received this fiscal year.

In a statement, Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant called the proposed budget, "a real disappointment" and said it would, "shortchange tens of thousands of children and parents who need and rely on quality after-school programs."

Main Concerns

In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, Grant said the cuts would lead to more than 100,000 kids losing after-school programs.

"How many of those kids are going to be unsupervised?" asked Grant. "How many are going to be unengaged, disengaged if they no longer have access to those programs?"

She also said the cuts would lead to the loss of 10,000 jobs.

Grant's statement also criticizes language in the spending plan regarding the centers, noting that the proposal "would eliminate language that ensures that the 21st CCLC funds are used only for activities that 'provide enrichment and engaging academic activities for students at least 300 additional program hours' outside of the traditional school day."

She said without the requirement some programs could get funding to provide very little in terms of added time.

"It goes back to the fear that we have that there were some programs that were literally using money to add 15 minutes to the school day, and if you eliminate that section, they could still do that," said Grant.

Outlook

Despite her concerns about the president's blueprint, Grant said she believes the funding for the centers will ultimately be restored.

"One of the things about after-school is that we have bipartisan champions in Congress," said Grant. "We are extremely hopeful not just that Congress will keep existing funding where it is but actually start addressing the fact that we have 20 million kids that want to be in after-school and can't afford it, and so we'll see some kind of modest increase in the funding."



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