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After school programs in peril

California schools serving a preponderance of low-income students have a math problem that even Common Core can’t solve – and local families will pay the price for economic reform measures designed to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Thanks to Proposition 49, for the past 10 years California has budgeted $550 million annually to provide After-School Education and Safety programs to more than 4,000 of the state’s neediest schools. However, these programs could be scrapped because the Legislature earmarked only $7.50 per student per day with no cost of living adjustment. From the onset in 2006, the $7.50 per student per day was slim compared to funding for similar programs. Today, it’s grossly insufficient for two thorny reasons.

First, the cost of living has risen 20 percent since 2006, but after-school funding has stayed flat. Second, wages are rising dramatically. California’s minimum wage is slated to rise 90 percent from $8 per hour in 2014 to $15 per hour in 2022 – and many cities are increasing at an even faster rate. What is less well-known is that as minimum wage rises for hourly workers, it rises for full-time exempt workers too. Full-time exempt workers will see their minimum wages rise from $33,800 per year in 2014 to $61,200 by 2022. After-school program costs will skyrocket as a result of these state mandates, not to mention the new state mandate to provide sick pay for part-time staff.

While the math for these programs doesn’t add up at the state level, it doesn’t add up locally either. Under the Local Control Funding formula, schools get funding in three pots but another huge cost pressure threatens to gobble up all of these funds – the unfunded pension liability for teachers and administrators and non-certified school personnel. California school district pension obligations are set to double between now and 2022. Looking across the state, the amount of the local pension contribution increase mandated by the state is roughly equal to the supplemental and concentration funds supposedly earmarked for high-need students.

Given all of these state-mandated cost increases – together with state-mandated ASES program guidelines – the funding is insufficient. Many after-school programs are at risk of closing as a result. The accompanying loss of academic support and enrichment for high-need students, and the safe place for the children of working parents is a looming crisis in many of our communities. Orange County is home to 240 of these programs serving 26,400 students daily.

While generally we support the idea of local control, some issues require solutions at the state level. Given that the ASES grants are issued by the state, most of the cost increases in the programs are from state level mandates, and the state maintains the same program requirements regardless of whether there is a local financial augmentation or not, we think this is an issue that calls for a state-level solution.

In January, Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, introduced Senate Bill 78, a fiscally responsible course correction to avert the looming crisis in education. Sponsored by the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance and supported by over a dozen organizations, SB78 seeks to increase funding for the ASES program by appropriating an additional $99 million to the California Department of Education, bringing total annual funding to $649,305,000. Beginning in the 2018-19 fiscal year, funding would increase annually with minimum wage increases to ensure that programs remain solvent.

If ASES programs are to continue delivering essential services to students and families, we need to work together to forge a path to sustain them through 2022 and beyond.

Voice your support for after school at http://www.saveafterschool.com/take-action.

This article appears as it was published in The Orange County Register and written by Randy Barth, founder of THINK Together and executive chairman of Principal’s Exchange. 


Posted on March 21, 2017

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