Proposed 2004 budget reductions to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) after-school programs – the only government funding dedicated to after-school programs as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act – have threatened these programs nationwide. Earlier in the summer, however, congressional committees voted against an initial recommendation by President Bush to cut some $400 million from federal after-school funding. But the budget process certainly isn’t over yet. Here’s what after-school advocates in Georgia had to say about Bush’s initially proposed cuts: "If President George Bush’s $400 million cut passes, that means 17,000 to 18,000 children in Georgia won’t have a place to go after-school,” says Mindy DiSalvo, a National After-school Ambassador and director of the Family Technology Resource Center in DeKalb County. “In addition to losing all refunding to some existing programs, the budget cuts also will mean reducing extras such as guest speakers and crafts from other programs.”
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding is targeted at schools with predominantly low-income or low-performing students, she says. “Cutting after-school funding is bad for Georgia,” DiSalvo says. “We need to invest more in our kids and give them safe places where they can learn and grow. Cutting funds for after-school programs is counterproductive.”
But Clay Wilkinson, with Fight Crime – Invest in Kids, points out that whether or not the 21st CCLC funding is cut, thousands of children in Georgia still won’t have access to after-school programs because the programs simply don’t exist in all the places they are needed. “Only four out of every 10 schools in Georgia has a 21st CCLC,” Wilkinson says. “That means the majority of schools do not.”
To help preserve current programs and create new programs, the national After-school Alliance suggests that parents:• Contact your local Congressperson via mail, fax or phone to explain why after-school programs are important to your community. For sample letters and a directory of Congress, log on to www.afterschoolalliance.org.
• To learn more about advocating for after-school programs, contact the Georgia School-Age Care Association at 404-373-7414, or email email@example.com.