The State Education Department has designated tens of millions of dollars over the next five years to fund local programs serving students in high-poverty and low-performing schools.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that it's unclear just how much of that federal money schools and agencies will actually see beyond the first year. President Trump's budget eliminates this pot of funding.
That was the caveat when state officials announced Monday that 122 after- and before-school programs statewide were awarded a total of $78 million a year for five years through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The Buffalo area would receive $9 million annually awarded to 10 agencies.
The 21st Century funding will be available the first year, according to officials, but what happens the remaining four years depends on the federal budget.
"We know that many of our students need support beyond the hours of the regular school day. We also know many of them – and their families – need convenient and reliable access to programs and services that go beyond academics," said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.
"This funding will allow more schools to reach even more of our young people, especially those who would need them the most," Elia said. "That is why it is imperative that the federal government continues to fund this important program in the coming years."
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program allows schools, nonprofits and community-based organizations to fund before- and after-school programs. The money pays for academic support and enrichment for students, particularly those attending high-poverty, low-performing schools.
Those who rely on the funding have been watching developments in Washington.
The Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo was awarded $1.12 million a year and uses that money to provide after-school staffing and programming for about 600 kids at satellite locations within four schools: Buffalo United Charter School, South Buffalo Charter School, Elmwood Village Charter School and Lovejoy Discovery School, said Timothy G. Brennan, chief development officer.
"If that money goes away, those are locations that we would have to close," Brennan said.
Similarly, the Community Action Organization of Erie County – awarded just over $1 million a year – uses the 21st Century money to serve about 2,000 kids a year with a wide range of supervised activities and after-school tutoring at four Buffalo schools and three community centers, said L. Nathan Hare, the organization's president and chief executive officer.
Hare is grateful he can count on at least one year of the funding in hopes of convincing federal lawmakers how important that money is, particularly for children who would otherwise go home after school to an empty house.
"The most dangerous time for children is between 3 in the afternoon and 8 in the evening, because if kids don't have after-school activities they can go to and they don't have anyone when they get home, they tend to be programmed in the streets," Hare said.
Other grant recipients, along with their annual award, include:
- Child and Adolescent Treatment Services, $1,120,000
- Northwest Buffalo Community Center; $1,176,257
- Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of Western New York, $1,200,000
- Research Foundation for SUNY Buffalo State, $234,054
- Boys & Girls Club of the Northtowns, $840,223
- Niagara Falls City School District, $1,174,847
- Jamestown City School District, $579,500
- Maryvale School District, $559,508
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