Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Study points to need for more after school programs- Is this the reason we are having problems in our community

In Parent and Community Engagement A new study released Wednesday found more than a quarter of Chicago students are in after school activities, compared to just 15 percent nationwide. But of those students who are not, 30 percent spend their afternoons home alone.

That a third of Chicago’s children are not supervised for so many hours worries officials. More funding is needed, said Jodi Grant, the executive director of Afterschool Alliance, which released the Chicago After 3PM at a press conference.

“When we passed No Child Left Behind, they promised $2.5 billion in after school funding,” she said. “We’re at $1.1 billion. We need a lot more from our federal government to be supporting this.”

The results of the Chicago After 3PM report were announced at a press conference that came on the eve a national event called “Lights On Afterschool.” “Lights On Afterschool seeks to bring attention to the need for quality after school programs.

Chicago has been at the forefront of the movement to create a better system of after school programs. In 2006, it was one of five cities to receive an $11 million grant from the Wallace Foundation to focus on out-of-school activities for students.

With that grant, Chicago officials have worked to reduce after school programming fragmentation and inefficiency while improving access and quality. Partner agencies, including CPS, the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Libraries, began compiling their program data in 2003 to determine what areas of the city showed the highest need.

This data pointed to some problems. City agencies found it difficult to provide after school programs in areas that were experiencing an influx of young families, according to a recently released report by the Rand Corporation.

The Rand report notes that after school programs struggled to reach students on the southwest and northwest sides of the city, which had burgeoning populations of Latino families. Meanwhile, they had open spots in schools near public housing projects after the projects were demolished.

“Partner agencies understood the need to provide services where there was increasing demand. However, these groups faced some very real constraints in shifting services to meet growing demand,” according to the report.

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