After-School, Youth Programs See Cuts Ahead in New York

By Nora Fleming — March 30, 2011 4 min read
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and both houses of the state legislature are in the process of passing a new $132.5 billion budget for next fiscal year, which would mean reductions to after-school funding and some significant cuts for youth-services programs.

The budget agreement, reached this past weekend, would reduce one of the state’s after-school funding streams by roughly $4.5 million, which is estimated to result in the loss of about 5,000 slots for students and 500 jobs in the state’s after-school programs. This would also mean many after-school program grants would not be renewed and no applications to establish new programs would be accepted.

“We remain gravely concerned about the funding cuts in New York state’s budget that continue to erode our after-school and expanded-learning system,” said Sanjiv Rao, director of the New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN), a state public-private partnership that works to support out-of-school time programs in New York through favorable state policies and improved programming.

“The cuts mean that fewer kids will have opportunities to participate in high-quality after-school programs, particularly at a time when the demand for these services far outstrips the supply,” he said.

These newly proposed cuts would follow roughly $20 million in progressive decreases over the past few years, which the network estimates so far have already meant 20,000 fewer children in after-school and expanded-learning programs and more than 2,000 jobs.

But generally youth-services programs would be hit harder than after-school programs. Delinquency-prevention programs face a $14 million to $17.6 million cut, chopping their budget by at least half. Funding for the state’s program for runaway and homeless children is also facing a 50 percent whack.

While the reductions to after-school funding were “hard to bear,” Rao said, he recognized that state leaders had worked to preserve these programs, particularly given other cuts that will be made to the state’s programs for the needy.

New York faces a situation similar to what many other states are facing, where a substantial budget deficit has resulted in the slashing and, in some cases, dismantling, of social-service programs, many that serve youths. But New York’s funding cut proposals are noteworthy, as the state (and New York City) has been a leader in dedicating the dollars and infrastructure to establish quality after-school programs for underprivileged kids.

Approximately 644,000 children, or 21 percent, of New York’s children are in after-school programs, most of which are publically supported through four funding streams: the federal 21st Century Learning Community Centers grant program, the state’s Advantage After School and Extended School Day/School Violence prevention programs, and other municipal and regional funds, such as New York City’s Out-of-School Time initiative, run through the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development.

Funding from all sources, along with the state’s juvenile-delinquency programs, totaled roughly $274.6 million this past year.

In most cases, schools and districts partner with local community-based organizations or nonprofits to run expanded-learning programs at school sites. Funding via all streams is awarded through grant-application processes, which are similar but with a few differences, primarily with performance targets and accountability requirements. Many program sites blend several public grants, as well as private dollars, to support their after-school programs. Seven regional networks and 107 youth bureaus help with funding and program implementation.

The high levels of participation and satisfaction with these programs put New York on the list of the “Top 10 States for Afterschool,” according to the Afterschool Alliance.

However, even with several significant funding sources available, many after-school programs in New York have not been able to secure money or enough of it to operate. During the last grant-application round for the Extended School Day fund, 430 programs applied for funding, and only 90 received it. Funds have also been inequitably distributed across the state, even though some areas have the same level of need, according to several state after-school leaders.

New York after-school stakeholders, including the state education department, are currently working to streamline funding-application protocol as well as to make resources, including infrastructure, program-assessment tools, and organization support services, available consistently and equally statewide.

This week, I will have several blog items on New York after-school programming, with a focus on New York City, which operates the largest municipally financed after-school initiative in the country. Moving forward on the blog, I hope to continue to profile other cities around the country with innovative after-school program models. Be sure to send me suggestions.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.