NJ Afterschool Program Won’t Close After All (VIDEO)
An afterschool program for mostly low-income children that was slated to close Monday has won a reprieve.
Gov. Chris Christie 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.
"This is a model for what we should be doing for those programs during difficult times," Christie said Monday during a news conference on the October snowstorm that left hundreds of thousands without power. "There are lots of willing funders out there who want to support good programs for people in New Jersey."
Among them is hedge fund billionaire David Tepper, a Christie ally who formed the nonprofit Better Education for New Jersey Kids this summer. He will provide an undisclosed amount of bridge funding while the state applies for additional federal money.
New Jersey After 3's founding president, Mark Valli, announced last week that the agency couldn't raise enough private money to keep going once the state bowed out. The program provides grants to local nonprofits, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, to provide tutoring and other activities from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
It had already run out of money and stopped funding local programs and was to formally close Monday.
But instead of meeting to dissolve, 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 expecting to use money from No Child Left Behind to fund the afterschool programs.
Christie said his administration contacted Tepper and Better Education for Kids in the meantime. The new 501(c)(4), or Super PAC, over the summer bought $1 million worth of airtime to counter the teachers union's ads against Christie.
The group's educational philosophy of ending teacher seniority, changing the tenure law and revising teacher evaluations clashes directly with the teachers' unions' positions. The group is not required to disclose its patrons, who can donate in unlimited amounts.
Democrats in the Legislature tried unsuccessfully to restore funding for the afterschool initiative in June. Several Democrats denounced Christie last week when it was announced the program would end.
Statistics show the afterschool programs help keep children safe and off the streets and provide extended learning time for thousands.
The agency at one time provided funding for 15,000 children to attend afterschool programs.
Agency funds served as many as 5,000 children last year. More than two-thirds of the beneficiaries qualified for low- or reduced-price school lunches, Valli said.
An afterschool program for mostly low-income children slated to close Monday has won a reprieve. Gov. Chris Christie says New Jersey After 3 will continue through a partnership with the Education Department.