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California Lawmakers Approve Budget Without Additional Funds for After School

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Advocates for after-school programs in California are disappointed by the state budget that lawmakers approved last week.

Under the nearly $171 billion spending plan, these programs will not receive any additional funds.

That means elementary schools will continue to receive grants of $112,500 annually through the state's After-School Education and Safety (ASES) program, and middle schools will receive $150,000. At both levels, schools are required to provide a 33 percent local match. These schools are reimbursed at the flat, daily rate of $7.50 per student. Advocates for these programs had been pushing for a $1 per student increase in the reimbursement rate.

"It was a very modest request given the scope and scale of the services we provide and the number of kids we serve on a daily basis," said Jessica Gunderson, the senior policy director at the Partnership for Children & Youth.

ASES programs serve more than 400,000 students a day. The daily reimbursement rate they operate under has been the same for nearly a decade, but costs continue to rise. California's minimum wage grew to $10 an hour this year and is set to increase to $15 an hour by 2022.

After-school providers had sought an additional $73 million to cover the costs of these minimum wage increases. And, while both chambers of the California legislature approved increased funding for the state's ASES program, those increases didn't survive lawmakers' negotiations with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. The budget that legislators approved was praised for including more money for K-12 education, but Gunderson said that early praise was shortsighted since after-school programs didn't receive additional dollars.

"We were disappointed that the governor failed to see that no matter what we do in our education system to level the playing field for the most underserved students in California it won't be effective if we're not providing learning opportunities during after-school and summer hours," said Gunderson. "We know students spend only about 20 percent of their time in school, and the other 80 percent is really the key driver in the opportunity and the achievement gap."

What Now?

Since additional state funding is off the table, Gunderson says after-school providers will look to solicit more local funds.

More than 670 after-school providers responded to a survey the Partnership for Children & Youth conducted this winter, and 29 percent of those getting state funds said they're likely to shut down in the next two years if the state doesn't give them more money to operate.  

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