For the first time in the U.S., more district schools than charter schools are expanding the school day or year, according to a recentreport. But the national trend does not appear to be catching on in California.
The U.S. Senate’s education committee voted Wednesday to keep dedicated funding for after-school and summer programs, which initially was not included in its proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind.
Stagnant funding is making it difficult for after-school programs to retain and attract high-quality staff and is reducing the number of enrichment activities, such as field trips or arts programs, offered to low-income students, according to a survey released Monday by the Partnership for Children & Youth. The daily rate of $7.50 a student from California’s state-funded program has not increased since 2006, when the program was first implemented.
As a result of a new state law, California schools instituted transitional kindergarten to give 4-year-olds who were previously eligible for kindergarten an extra year to adjust to school and experience a less academically-oriented curriculum. But many thousands of those children are in classrooms with kindergartners, leaving teachers to figure out how to accommodate the new approach for 4-year-olds while preparing the 5-year-olds for 1st grade.
Advocates for after-school programs will be holding a national summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday to build opposition to a plan to eliminate $1.15 billion in federal funding for after-school and summer programs.
A once-empty preschool in south San Jose is now filled with 44 children, spending their days eagerly peering at insects through mega magnifying glasses or linking plastic gears to create contraptions. Most of the children at Eden Palms Child Development Center in San Jose are from families that are unable to pay for preschool. The students are some of the 10,000-plus children from low-income families throughout California.
When school lets out, many children in rural communities must take a long bus ride home, miles from their nearest neighbor. They don’t play basketball with their friends, do art or science projects with the local community group or get help with their homework. Most go home to families with limited resources, struggling to make ends meet. For many of these children, an after-school program is their only opportunity to get help with homework, take part in extracurricular activities and socialize outside of school. But school officials in rural districts say there is a shortage of programs in their communities because they struggle to provide transportation, find qualified staff and enroll enough students to generate adequate funding.
Some districts, including Oakland and San Francisco Unified, are looking to after-school and summer programs as one way to introduce students to scientific and engineering concepts in a more relaxed and fun atmosphere that encourages experimentation.