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Illinois After-School Programs Get Jumpstart

April 12, 2010

CHICAGO - Chicago's first lady, Maggie Daley, hosts a forum at the Cultural Center today on the future of after-school programming in Illinois. That future looks hopeful, according to experts who work with Illinois students, because legislation aimed at providing access to quality after-school programs for all Illinois students between the ages of six and 19 has passed both houses of the state legislature with bipartisan support.

Voices for Illinois Children president Kathy Ryg says that with more than a half-million Illinois students unsupervised after school every day, the need is great.

"We know that 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the prime time for juvenile crime, and all kinds of risky behaviors can occur."

Ryg says many lawmakers who at first objected to the bill, because of the state's budget problems, signed on once an option for public/private funding was included.

"We would anticipate that there are many, many private funders, including sponsors in the business community who recognize that this is an important element of developing a qualified work force."

Ryg adds that access to good after-school programs saves taxpayer money.

"Every dollar invested pays off dividends - probably to the tune of $7 - in terms of reducing longer-term costs of juvenile crime, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy.

The legislation creates a council to examine pilot programs and determine what works, Ryg adds.

"We don't want to just have a line item in a department that says, 'Here's a bunch of money, pay it to a bunch of after-school providers,' and then not be able to know if it's working for the kids."

Students who participate in after-school programs are less likely to drop out, less likely to wind up in jail and more likely to to succeed, Ryg says.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL