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More Kids, Less Money for After-School Programs

September 29, 2008

Tacoma, WA - Every year, school teachers and administrators across the state wait to see if they'll receive funding for after-school programs. They compete for federal grants aimed at low-income and special-needs students--money that many say is all too limited, based on the growing number of applicants.

This year's grant recipients recently have been announced: 25 Washington school districts will receive a total of $4 million through the 21st Century and Washington Community Learning Center grant programs--but more than $9 million was requested.

Barbara Peterson is co-executive director of the Northwest Learning & Achievement Group, which administers grants for several rural school districts. She says lack of after-school funding is a persistent problem.

"There are so many schools with such huge need. It's a pretty daunting challenge to write these grants. You just hope that you'll be funded so you can make use of the time that's available after school, especially for teaching math--we all know that our math scores are not close to where they need to be."

Peterson says most programs serve schools where families cannot afford to pay for tutors and extracurricular activities. The strapped school districts can't afford to offer a lot of extras, either, she adds. In this round of grant applications, Peterson represented the Royal and Wahluke school districts in southeastern Washington. They will use their grant for a practical math program for high school students.

Jack Albaugh, manager of after-school programs for the Puget Sound School District, explains it's tough to run a program when you can't count on funding. For every school that receives a grant, he says, two more are still scrambling.

"Some of these applicants are, as ours is, multiple schools. So literally thousands of children won't get the opportunity to partake in after-school activities, and that's a really sad situation."

Albaugh points out that after-school programs are geared not only toward helping students catch up on schoolwork, but also offer a safe, supervised place where they will stay out of trouble.

The Washington legislature allocated $3 million for after-school programs this year; lawmakers will be asked to match that amount again in January.

The list of grantees is available at www.k12.wa.us.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA