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State wage increase may cause some after-school programs to close

Junior Lavinia Sigin does her AP Chinese homework after school at Arroyo Pacific Academy in Arcadia on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Junior Lavinia Sigin does her AP Chinese homework after school at Arroyo Pacific Academy in Arcadia on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015.

Leaders of California after-school programs that serve nearly 900,000 public school students traveled to Sacramento on Monday to try to convince state leaders that a failure to increase funding for their programs by $100 million would cause some programs to shut down.

In his latest budget proposal, Governor Jerry Brown set aside $550 million to fund the After School Education and Safety Program, created byvoter-approved Proposition 49 in 2002.

The after-school program grants that pool of money funds work out to $7.50 per student. Those who run the programs say $9 per student is needed to cover cost increases.

“We have been told by about a third of the program providers across the state of California in a survey we did earlier this year that if they don’t get some relief with a higher daily rate, they’re going to have to close their doors,” said Jennifer Peck, the chief executive officer of Partnership for Children and Youth.

Peck said academic research and state data show that after school programs that focus on academicshave a positive impact on youth.

The possible crippling of the after school program appears to be an unintended consequence of two of Governor Brown’s widely praised policy proposals: the shifting of control to school districts of large pots of state funding and the increase of the state’s minimum wage.

“If there’s not an increase to the funding, we can’t compete and we can’t pay even minimum wage,” said Brad Lupien, who runs an after-school company called ARC that employs 650 people at 90 schools from Los Angeles to San Diego.

The company said the $10 minimum wage allowed them to keep student to instructor ratios at 15 to 1 at elementary schools.

“We’ll have to reduce by probably 30 to 35 percent," Lupien said. "That’s going to be probably, 150 to 200 people that we’ll have to lay off.”

Governor Brown’s office said other agencies should step up to fill in the funding gap.

“The programs and the funding was not intended to ever to cover the full cost for the program,” said spokesman H.D. Palmer.

Palmer said the after-school programs don’t have to close, because the state has sent $1.4 billion in funds to schools with needy kids and school district leaders can pay for the after school programs with some of those funds. The flexibility that comes with those funds is part of the Governor's signature Local Control Funding Formula education funding reforms. 

But Lupien of ARC said that school district leaders are reluctant to allocate LCFF funding to after-school programs. 

“We’ve tried to go that route and it doesn’t work,” Lupien said. School district leaders, he said, have said the priority for LCFF funds is teacher hiring. Only one school offered additional funds, Lupien said, but only if the program enrolled many more children – a move that Lupien said would have reduced the quality.

Some L.A. Unified leaders agree with Lupien that Sacramento should close the funding gap.

“I would like the state to fully fund all things pre-K through 12 as a strategy toward health & wellness,” said L.A. Unified school board member Monica Garcia via text.

A state bill that would close the funding gap is making its way through the state legislature.

After-school program advocates have scheduled a Tuesday rally in Sacramento to push Governor Jerry Brown and legislators to increase the after school program allocation.