Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) spoke on the state of after school education during a press conference at the Think Together headquarters in San Bernardino early Monday.
Leyva authored Senate Bill 78 with the support of Senators Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) and Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) to help offset the costs, demands, and expectations of the state’s After School Education and Safety program.
ASES supports over 4,000 elementary and middle schools across the state by offering after school and summer programs to about 400,000 students on a daily basis. These programs operate mostly in low income communities, where about 80 percent of the population qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Leyva confirmed that Senate Bill 78 no longer exists, as ASES was absorbed into the budget. The Senator was able to work with Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, Senate Budget Committee Chair Holly Mitchell, and others to ensure $50 million of state monies would be allocated to the Department of Education to help low income students through after school programs.
As a result, the ASES daily funding rate will be raised from $7.50 to $8.19 per student and per day, according to the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance.
“The way [students] talked about their after school programs…our kids know,” recounted Leyva about students who spoke of the importance of programs during a budget committee hearing earlier this year. “And they appreciate it as well.”
Despite the help received from the state legislature, many nonprofits and school districts believe much more can be done.
“This increase helps,” said Think Together Founder and Chief Executive Officer Randy Barth. “But as the minimum wage rises, we have to chase those increases.”
Annual increases to the minimum wage, along with a 21 percent rise in the state’s Consumer Price Index, is straining the resources of educational agencies. One of the ways the state could receive further funding for afterschool programs is by tying the Proposition 64 Marijuana tax, Barth asserts. Sixty percent of that funding will be allocated to drug and crime prevention for youth.
“We believe our program falls under that,” said Barth. “We’re going to be working with the legislature on how we could provide a sustainable funding source.”
Colton Joint Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Almendarez said the recent ASES increase contributed to an additional $140,000 for the district, helping after school programs maintain a high quality service needed to serve thousands of students in the district.
Almendarez hailed the district’s partnership with Think Together, saying their services serve as an extension of students’ school day.
“It’s a wonderful partnership–one of the best we’ve had,” he said.
Several studies done at the University of California and other higher education institutions prove that after school programs help in improving school attendance, English fluency, health and nutrition, and reduce crime.
San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos believes maintaining these programs is a critical issue. His department is thinking “outside the box” in hopes of improving the state of education in low income communities.
“There isn’t a bigger issue right now,” said Ramos. “We have to do a better job on the front end. If we are really going to keep more [students] from becoming victims, then let’s save our kids.”
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