Funding for after-school program in limbo


Rocky Hanna

Joy Bowen


By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

An after-school tutoring program that serves mostly children from Title 1 schools could be eliminated unless Leon County School (LCS) officials could find funding in the current budget.

However, LCS superintendent Rocky Hanna assured a group of advocates that he’ll try to find “creative ways” to keep the program going when the fall session begins in a week. He’ll have to have data proving the effectiveness of the program before  moving forward, Hanna said at a recent LCS board meeting.

The program has been in place for more than 10 years, but it now faces being suspended because of how money is allocated in the LCS’s budget. Funding for the after-school program is in doubt because more money is being put into each school to reduce personal spending by teacher for supplies.

About $180,000 goes into  the after-school program annually for tutoring at seven community centers, located near Title 1 schools. Those schools have high percentages of children from low-income families.

“We are not dead yet,” Hanna assured supporters of the program who attended the board meeting. “This is not a done issue. All of the computers are still there (at the centers). I hear you loud and clear.
“We continue to work in more creative ways. We are going to find a way to make this happen.”

Joy Bowen, who chairs the school board, said she support Hanna’s suggestion that perhaps each school could put funding into the program. Another suggested alternative calls for teachers to do the after-school tutoring.

“We are caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Bowen. “We need those centers opened. We really do.

“I think they are important. I would love to see them funded. I don’t know how we can fund them right now.”

While Hanna supports the budget, there are other funding concerns for LCS. Those concerns are caused by HB 7069, an education reform bill that has caused cuts to allocations that funds public school programs, while funnels capital outlay money to charter schools.

The after-school program is a partnership between LCS and the city Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs Department. Each center is equipped with computers and other learning tools.

Brenda Scott, coordinator of the after-school program at Griffin Heights for the past three years, said the centers are “a safe haven” for students who would otherwise be on the streets. She expressed confidence that Hanna would fix the funding issue, while reminding the board what’s at stake.

“These children are invested in our future,” she said. “We don’t want to take credit, but we can get kids to do what their teachers and homerooms can hardly do.”

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