NJ After 3 Will Stay Up And Running [VIDEO]
Reports of the death of a popular program of afterschool activities for Garden State kids were greatly exaggerated.
Governor Chris Christie says New Jersey After 3 will remain up and running.
The afterschool program for mostly low-income children was to cease operations yesterday, but Christie has announced that New Jersey After 3 will continue through a public-private partnership. He had cut the final $3 million from program in this year's budget, saying the tough economy forced him to make difficult cuts.
"I'm happy to announce that we have established a public-private partnership with New Jersey After 3 in order to keep the program running and open," explained Christie yesterday after briefing reporters on efforts to restore power after a freak October blizzard. "We have been discussing this over the last week or so with the folks at New Jersey After 3. Commissioner (Chris) Cerf in our No Child Left Behind waiver is asking for permission to use Title I funds that are right now being used for afterschool programs that he considers to be significantly less effective than New Jersey After 3, to be able to use that money from federal Title I funds to help to supply funding for New Jersey After 3. In addition the administration approached David Tepper of the B4Kids organization to be the lead private funder for this organization to bridge them through this difficult time."
Tepper has agreed to provide an undisclosed amount of funding.
"This is a model for what we should be doing for those programs during difficult times," said the Governor. "There are lots of willing funders out there who want to support good educational programs for kids in New Jersey……New Jersey After 3 has identified other funders as well who are willing to come forward."
Instead of meeting to dissolve yesterday, New Jersey After 3's board announced the agency would partner with the state Education Department to help implement the extended learning component of its No Child Left Behind waiver application. The state is hoping to use money from No Child Left Behind to fund the afterschool programs.
Democratic Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle is relieved that the doors of the NJ After 3 program will remain open, but questions much of the decision-making behind the public/private partnership created by the Christie administration.
Courtesy Governor's Office
"It's great that NJ After 3 is being saved," explains Vainieri Huttle. "However, this would have been much more welcome news before the school year started, not conveniently right before an election and after much criticism has been levied against the Governor's decision to defund this successful program."
New Jersey After 3 is a statewide network of afterschool programs in urban, suburban and rural school districts. Some studies show that students who participated in New Jersey After 3 programs for two or more years achieved significant gains in language arts skills and demonstrated improvements in study skills, math skills and computer skills. Due in large part to a $3 million budget the program, which was established in 2004 and in 2008 served 15,000 students, will cease operations next week. Democrats are blasting Governor Chris Christie, but he insists he had no choice.
"For many working parents in Trenton, especially low-income and single parents, these sites were not just safe havens, but places where their children could learn a new sport, get help with their homework, and even prepare for college," said Democratic Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman last week it appeared to program would be shutting down. "It's a shame the Governor didn't see these benefits as worthy of saving. NJ After 3 and the thousands of students they served have fallen victim to the Governor's indifference toward working families."
"We had to make a lot of very difficult decisions and I think programs like that that can be funded through private funds should be encouraged to do so during very difficult economic times," explained Christie last week while still working behind the scenes to save the program. "That may not have been a choice that I would otherwise have made if we weren't confronted with the difficult economic times that we're confronted with, but we are."
Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said, "This program has kept children safe and away from gangs and other ill-advised activities. It improved student achievement. It helped working families."