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Trump's Proposed Cuts Could Shutter Missouri's After-School Programs

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers offers a broad array of additional services, programs, and activities, focusing on subjects such as youth development, nutrition and health education. (Pixabay)
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers offers a broad array of additional services, programs, and activities, focusing on subjects such as youth development, nutrition and health education. (Pixabay)
March 27, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – For the second year in a row, the Trump administration has proposed the elimination of funding support for local after-school and summer learning programs, and it's expected to hit Missourians hard since there is little to no state support to keep the programs going.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Initiative is the only federal program dedicated to supporting after-school and summer learning programs in all 50 states. Currently, Missouri receives $18 million in federal funds that provide extended learning, food and activities for 18,000 students on a daily basis.

Anthony Roberts works as both a site coordinator at Lilbourn Elementary and a school resource officer. He says after-school programs also serve as a deterrent for youth idleness.

"Most juvenile crime is between 3 and 6 P.M. So if we keep these kids off the streets, now we're reducing that juvenile crime rate in our county," he says.

In the current 2018 fiscal year, the national program received a $20-million increase. However, administration officials have claimed a lack of evidence that shows after-school programs lead to increased student achievement. Supporters are calling on both federal and state support to keep the programs.

Missouri's after-school program includes an hour of homework assistance as well as an hour of STEM activity to get students to work together on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Casey Hanson, the policy and communications coordinator at the Missouri AfterSchool Network, says the programs are far more than what some see as a babysitting tool but adds it does offer tremendous relief to working families.

"Policymakers are always focused on getting folks back to work," She notes. "Well, it's really difficult if you're a parent and you and your spouse are both working. Well, the workday doesn't usually end at 3 P.M. when the kids are out of school."

More than 100 Missouri organizations have signed onto a letter urging Republican Senator Roy Blunt to support funding the program.

Hanson says there also is an effort to get state legislators to do more to find ways to support the program so it's not in jeopardy of federal cuts.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MO