Parents who utilize a local after-school program are concerned after President Donald Trump’s proposed budget calls for eliminating a major funding source.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri receives a significant amount of its yearly funding for its 11 sites from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports before and after-school programs. Trump’s budget proposal eliminates all funding for the program.
BGCWCM Executive Director Jessica Pyle said the 21st Century grant, which it receives through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, makes up almost $500,000 of the Club’s current fiscal year budget. The grant is awarded for five years, starting at $800,000 the first three years and decreasing for the last two.
The Club’s current 21st Century grant ends this year and Club staff are working to reapply. If the Club doesn’t receive the grant, or in the future it is eliminated by the Trump administration, Pyle said Club services will have to be cut.
“We’ve been able to serve the same number of kids, increasing our membership over the five-year span with less funding. If we don’t receive a new award with the new application, we’re going to have to cut services,” Pyle said. “We’ve eliminated several full-time staff positions to help reduce costs over the last several years and virtually services we’ve been providing haven’t changed.
“We will have to make some decisions on services we provide if we don’t receive another grant award, or in future years if we can’t replace that money with community support and the government cuts out 21st Century altogether, which is what is proposed in President Trump’s budget plan.”
Pyle added that the Club has plans to enhance services in the areas of STEAM, social and emotional skills, family service learning, and life skills if they continue to receive the 21st Century grant.
The Afterschool Alliance, which BGCWCM is part of, has called Trump’s call for zero 21st Century funding a “betrayal.”
“It is painfully short-sighted and makes a mockery of the President’s promise to make our country safer and to support inner cities and rural communities alike,” an Afterschool Alliance news release states. According to the release, the current federal investment in after-school programming supports 1.6 million children.
For grandparent Sharon Heinman and parent Jennie Klemme, funding the Boys & Girls Club is essential.
Heinman’s 13-year-old granddaughter has been attending the Club since she was 6. Klemme’s two children, ages 13 and 9, have been attending for four years. Both women and their husbands work full-time jobs, which don’t allow them to pick up their children after school. They said having the Club in Sedalia gives them one less thing to worry about because they know their children are safe and learning from qualified adults.
“Sedalia does not have any other place for these kids to go,” Heinman said. “The parents, a lot of them have no other option of leaving their kids while they work; this is just a great place for them to be.”
Students who attend a BGCWCM site participate in a variety of programs including healthy lifestyles, volunteering and building self-esteem, plus they can receive help with homework.
“I’ve noticed the kids, especially (at the downtown site for older students) with (my granddaughter) being older, they’re taught to use their minds to figure out how a project needs to go together,” Heinman said. “… Older kids help the younger kids too — Victoria told me she was teaching a younger boy about math because he didn’t know how to do something.”
Trump’s budget proposal states that the 21st Century programs “lack strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.” Heinman and Klemme disagree, as they said they’ve seen that achievement first-hand.
“If they didn’t go to the Club, they would go home and watch TV and wouldn’t do anything, they wouldn’t be encouraged to do homework before I get to them, wouldn’t have the peer interactions they get, wouldn’t have extra learning opportunities like drug education programs, the Healthy Habits program, a lot of opportunities for extra learning they wouldn’t have if they just went home after school,” Klemme said. “Unfortunately those are things that are hard to test and know if there’s proven evidence. How do you prove the value of programming? It’s not something you can calculate, but you can see in attitudes and the way they interact with others.”
Heinman and Klemme encouraged local residents to call their U.S. senators and representatives about the need for local after-school funding.
“I would write letters myself, I encourage friends and family to write letters,” Klemme said. “There’s lots of places they can cut budgets, but whenever they’re affecting our future and our future leaders, that’s a hard place to cut a budget.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.