Budget cuts could kill after-school programs

HOUGHTON — Under President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, the Department of Education faces a $9.2 billion (or 14 percent) overall reduction. One of the programs proposed for elimination is the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The 21st CCLC is a federal program that supports the creation of community learning centers, that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty schools. The program helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math, and offers students a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs. It also offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.

This could spell the end of the Great Explorations after-school program offered locally through the Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw Child Development (BHK).

“Right now, we have Cohort G and Cohort H.,” Jesse DePue, Associate/Youth Services Director of the BHK board said. “One has four sites and one has five. G is sunsetting, it ends in June, and then we applied for Cohort J, so we only put two schools in the grant in order to get the most priority points, because of course, they have more and more schools applying and less and less money to give out, so we wanted to score as high as possible to even be in the running.”

Cohort H, Depue explained, is comprised of Dollar Bay, Lake Linden, elementary schools, and Washington Middle School. Funding for Cohort H will end in June, 2018. Funding for Cohort G, consisting of Horizons Alternative School, South Range and Hancock elementary schools, and Baraga Area Schools K-12 grades, will end in June of this year.

“So, we won’t continue with our Horizons program,” DePue said. “Their after-school program will end. It’s really difficult to get kids enrolled there. There’s no after-school busing for them, so if they don’t get on the bus, they’re not getting home, so they really struggle with attendance at that site.”

At the Baraga Area Schools, for example, DePue said that district would most likely lose its after school program, because the parents do not have the funds to support it. She said the same scenario would apply to C-L-K, as well.

“There are a lot of people that you’ll eliminate the possibility for after-school care for their children, because of the cost,” DePue said.

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