State ranks first in after-school programs

October 16, 2014

In a national ranking, California is at the top in providing quality after-school programs based on the percentage of students involved, parent satisfaction and other factors, according to a survey released Thursday.

“The state’s after-school participation rate has surged over the past five years, increasing 6 percentage points from 2009 and serving more than 377,000 additional students across California,” according to “America After 3 p.m.,” a report by the Afterschool Alliance. Programs served 1.66 million students in California in 2013-14, the survey found.

After-school programs provide homework assistance and tutoring, sports and arts activities, as well as a safe place to go after school before parents arrive home from work.

“From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the danger zone,” said former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is honorary chair of the Afterschool Alliance and has been a champion of after-school programs. He was behind California’s successful initiative, the After School Education and Safety Program act passed in 2002, which now provides $550 million for after-school programs across the state. “Juvenile crime, teenage pregnancy, gangs, alcoholism and drugs cost society a lot of money,” he said.

He pointed to the Hollenbeck Youth Center in East Los Angeles where police play basketball with students and coach them in boxing. They also have a large number of computers so students can do their homework. Schwarzenegger called the academic component crucial.

“It’s only a question of money,” said former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is honorary chair of the Afterschool Alliance. “Schools would love to have after-school programs and the people support it.”

“The key thing is to give kids a chance to study and learn and stay in school,” he said. “A lot of kids drop out because they are not feeling adequate in school and not feeling up to par. They don’t turn in their homework. They can’t answer the questions from the teacher.”

Altogether, 25 percent of California’s students – compared to 18 percent nationally – are in an after-school program, a number that has more than doubled during the past 10 years. The researchers surveyed 30,000 families across the country and conducted in-depth interviews with 13,000 of those families. The state percentages are based on National Center for Education Statistics, which show a total school enrollment – public and private – of 6.7 million students in 2011-12 for California.

Nationally, 10.2 million students are enrolled in after-school programs, up from 6.5 million in 2004. However, the report says that about 19.4 million students would be enrolled in a program if one were available, an estimate based on how many parents surveyed said they wished there was an after-school program for their child.

About 20 percent of the country’s children – 11.3 million – are unsupervised between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. The need is greatest for low-income, African-American and Latino students, according to the report. About 47 percent of low-income children in California are participating, according to the survey. The average cost of after-school programs was $114 per week in 2013-14, more than twice as much as 10 years ago.

The survey of parents in California also found:

Schwarzenegger, who has lobbied Congress to maintain the current funding of $1.1 billion, called for more federal funding for the programs and encouraged other states to follow California’s lead and invest in these programs. California’s 2002 initiative passed easily despite the fact that the state was recovering from the dot-com crash, he said. Most states rely solely on federal after-school dollars, referred to as 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding. He also encouraged nonprofits and private companies to support the cause.

Schwarzenegger recently raised $1.1 million for after-school programs through crowdsourcing, offering the winner in the draw a chance to drive around with him in his M47 tank. Together, he and the winner “would decide what we should crush,” he said.

“It’s only a question of money,” Schwarzenegger said. “Schools would love to have after-school programs and the people support it.”

However, he said not to expect school districts in California to contribute.

“I doubt if it will happen at the local level,” he said. “They are all scrambling. They can’t make ends meet.”


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