While debate rages over youth-serving agencies and faith-based groups receiving 21st Century Community Learning Center grants, one fact is not much discussed: Both groups already run after-school programs with CLC funds, and both get other types of government funding and support to run programs in schools.
Buried in the 2001 federal budget, under the CLC, are about two dozen congressionally mandated earmarks for after-school services provided by community-based organizations (CBOs). Among them: $921,000 to The Community House in Hinsdale, Ill.; $691,000 to the West End YMCA in Ontario, Calif.; $41,000 to the Catholic Youth Organization in Staten Island, N.Y.; and $18,000 to the New Zion Community Development Foundation in Louisville, Ky.
In Duval County, Fla., CLC grants are awarded through the county school board to the Jacksonville Children's Commission, a city agency that contracts with CBOs to run the programs in schools, says Laurie Bateman, the CLC project director for the commission. Among those CBOs are the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Florida; Girls Inc.; and Communities in Schools; a YMCA is slated to get a contract this year.
Beyond the CLC, other government agencies contract with CBOs to run school-based after-school programs. In Houston, a program run by the mayor's office operates at 98 sites, 26 of which are run by nonprofit organizations through direct contracts or subcontracts with the schools, says Cheryl Murray, the mayor's grants director. In fact, President Bush's new education secretary, Rod Paige, is the former superintendent of the Houston Independent School District.
Up north, the nonprofit After-School Corporation of New York gives grants to CBOs - such as the Children's Aid Society, several YMCAs and Project Youth Reach - to run school-based after-school programs; the schools provide funds as well. Corporation President Lucy Friedman says that some school administrators are glad to have CBOs administering the programs, noting, "It frees them from the administrative burdens."
Academic benefits don't suffer just because a CBO runs the program. A study of the corporation's after-school programs, released by Policy Studies Associates last year showed that students reported improvements in their own school work, including finishing their homework more, reading and understanding more, feeling more comfortable solving math problems, and working better with other students. Principals saw improvements in student attendance, performance and attitude.
What's more, several of the CBOs that run the corporation-funded programs with schools are faith-based, including Interfaith Neighbors, Good Shepherd Services and the Young Women's Hebrew Association (YWHA). Does that make school administrators nervous? The faith-based groups focus on good after-school activities that are not religiously oriented, Friedman says.