After-school programs on chopping block again (, 2/18/18)

Federally funded after-school programs that serve about 1,500 students in Springfield are once again on the chopping block in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.

This is the second year Trump has proposed axing the federal program known as 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Congress last year overturned the president’s request and restored $1.2 billion, keeping the sites open nationwide and in Springfield.

The administration argued there is no evidence the program has been effective, a claim leaders of the sites said simply was not true.

Bill Legge, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Illinois, said last week he expects funding will remain.

“I’m not freaking out because we’ve been here,” Legge said. “This is one of the programs that is very well supported on both sides of the aisle.”

The federal program helps school districts, churches and nonprofit groups nationwide provide after-school programs for 1.7 million schoolchildren, predominantly from low-income households.

In Springfield, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the Springfield Urban League use the federal funds to operate 20 after-school sites at District 186 schools, as well as at St. Patrick Catholic School and the local chapter of the NAACP’s back-to-school/after-school program at Calvary Academy.

Each site is open until 6:30 p.m. While there, students get help with their homework from certified teachers, a healthy snack and experience enrichment opportunities, such as garden club, dance lessons and playing basketball.

The federal program costs parents $40 per year, but waivers and reduced amounts are offered. It is one of two options available for Springfield parents for after-school supervision at schools.

The other, offered by the Springfield School District, is known as SCOPE. The district’s program, however, is more expensive, at $70 per week for full-time students.

Several parents last year said if 21st Century was eliminated, they would be forced to scramble to find child care and may be forced to quit their jobs.

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