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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

After school programs take big hits too

From the Miami Herald


Miami-Dade schoolchildren return to the classroom this week, but as many as 4,500 may not be returning to their after-school programs.

The reason: state and federal budget cuts.

This year, Miami-Dade County lost more than $13 million in funding for its before- and after-school care programs. As a result, 7- and 8-year-old children are no longer eligible for some state-subsidized programs.

Six-year-olds may also be forced out, said Evelio Torres, president and CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

“A lot of these children will end up staying home alone or with an older sibling or neighbor,” Torres said. “This is a tremendous problem for our community.”

Broward is facing similar cuts, but the Early Learning Coalition of Broward couldn’t be reached Monday.

The funding subsidies for after-school care run out Sept. 1 — less than two weeks into the new school year.

In Miami-Dade and Monroe, families who are affected were notified by the Early Learning Coalition. They can apply to other after-school programs funded by the The Children’s Trust or the school district. But many of those programs also have less money this year.

“The options are becoming more and more diminished,” said Modesto Abety, CEO and president of The Children’s Trust.

Abety said after-school programs help young children perform better in school and keep them from falling victim to drugs and violence.

“This is a safety issue,” he said. “This is a life and death issue.”

Torres said the cuts to after-school programs could also have an adverse affect on the local economy. The providers will likely have to cut positions.

Earlier this month, Miami-Dade School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla asked the board to convene a group of child advocacy experts to find money for the after-school programs.

Diaz de la Portilla said the school district and other organizations were working to make other programs available to low-income families.

“If we are a society that is proud to value its children and its future, then this is unacceptable,” he said.

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