Despite state budget crisis, advocates push for after-school funding

Print More

Supporters of a push to provide dedicated state funding for after-school
programs made their case at a forum Monday, but conceded that the
effort is unlikely to succeed in the midst of Illinois’ current budget
crisis.

Supporters of a push to provide dedicated state funding for after-school programs made their case at a forum Monday, but conceded that the effort is unlikely to succeed in the midst of Illinois’ current budget crisis.

Maggie Daley, the mayor’s wife and an avid supporter of after-school programs, and CEO Ron Huberman were both on the schedule but were no-shows due to illness, organizers said.

Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that supporters describe as the first step to getting dedicated funding. Three weeks before the spring session is to adjourn, the bills are still in committees.

The most recent issue of Catalyst In Depth reported on the use of time in schools, including the city’s current effort to provide additional learning for students through a coordinated system of high-quality after-school programs. Currently, however, non-profits and schools have to piece together grants from various sources, which may have vastly different standards.

The legislative campaign, called ACT Now!, seeks to consolidate after-school funding so that schools and non-profits can submit a single application and meet a single set of quality standards. The campaign seeks to give universal access to after-school programs, just as Preschool For All was supposed to make preschool available to every family.

Rep. William Davis, a Democratic sponsor of the ACT Now! bill, said that providing funding would pay off in the long run.

“We can’t continue to put it off,” Davis said.

State Senator Toi W. Hutchinson added that after-school programs can keep children out of trouble and, down the line, out of the criminal justice system.

“It costs so much less to educate a child than imprison one,” Hutchinson said.

Nora Daley Conroy, the mayor’s daughter, spoke on behalf of Maggie Daley. She pointed out that studies have shown that youth are most likely to engage in crime and other risky behavior during the after-school hours, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

“Our young people need the tools, knowledge and safe places out of schools,” Conroy said.