LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — After-school programs that provide a safe place for tens of thousands of low-income students in Los Angeles may be at risk, according to some local leaders, prompting a fight over additional state funding.
From arts and crafts to sports to sign language, after-school programs like LA’s BEST and THINK Together reportedly provide activities and supervision to more than 800,000 students around California.
Program officials say they haven’t seen funding increase in more than a decade and more money is urgently needed from the state to keep them afloat. Critics say more state money is not the answer, however.
Fifth-grader Joseph Palma’s mother, Ana Palma, said she would struggle financially without the programs.
“It would be hard because I’d have to look for babysitter,” she said.
Program and district leaders say an increase of $1.50 per student for after-school programs is needed in the state budget and worry it may not be approved. They point to factors like the rising minimum wage.
And while the Trump administration has said the benefits of after-school programs have not been proven, the CEO of L.A’s BEST, Eric Gurna, says the research shows otherwise.
“An investment in after-school program saves 10-fold down the road in what it saves for the public system and juvenile justice and other costs,” Gurna said.
L.A. School Police Chief Steven K. Zipperman agrees.
“Between the hours of three and seven are the most prevalent times when young people — if they are not involved in some kind of activity — could end up getting in trouble,” he said.
The California Teachers Association is against the extra funding. In a letter to legislators, the organization said it could “crowd out” other programs.
The budget spokesman said in a statement: “The governor’s budget continues to provide more than half-a-billion dollars dedicated for after-school funding next year. On top of that, he provides another $1.4 billion in new general purpose funding, which school districts can tap if they want to add funds for these programs.”
The governor and state legislature must agree on a final budget by June 15.