After-School Programs Face Budget Axe

Markeshia Ricks Photo“That’s a real dead body,” 15-year-old Evann Meyers recalled thinking during a recent trip to a local morgue.

It wasn’t a typical day in her after-school program at Common Ground High School, but it was memorable. And because of state budget cuts it could soon be a rare adventure.

Evann, a 15-year-old freshman at Common Ground who wants to become a surgeon, is one of 127 of the high school’s 195 students who participate in after-school programs. Those programs are in danger of losing funding as the state looks for cuts to erase a projected $1.7 billion deficit.

Common Ground’s programs receive funding from the state After-School Grant Program and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program. The school is slated to get $10,000 from United Way of Greater New Haven every year for the next three years to further support after-school programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. With those funds, the school’s after-school program budget is $136,000.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s $40.6 billion budget calls for consolidating the State After-School Grant Program, Family Resource Centers, Neighborhood Youth Centers and Young Parents Program into one Student Support Service grant. Then the pool of funding for those programs is to then be cut by half.

That worries Ashton Killilea, who heads up Common Ground’s after-school programs. The school’s per-pupil funding from the state is already several thousand dollars less than what’s spent in New Haven Public Schools.

“We don’t have anything like this during the school day,” Killilea said. “Not every kid can take art, but they can stay after school and be part of our Business of Art program. Not every student can take physical education, but they can join our basketball or cycling program. Then there are the after-school writing and math labs, and homework center, which are so important for students who need extra help to do well in class. We are able to give students credit for participating in these programs.”

“For students who struggle in the classroom, after-school is a place where they are able to succeed and lead,” she added.

It’s also where they get a hands on opportunity to dissect animals and learn about biology and anatomy and future careers in medicine, or put together a podcast and explore the world around them.

In his 12 years at Common Ground, literature and language arts teacher Keith Lambert has helped guide students through after-school drama club. Now he is helping them build a online station and shows. He said aside from a little guidance and technical assistance, the students develop their own show concepts and produce them.

“The diversity of the after-school programming—it just changes every year based on what the kids are interested in,” Lambert said. “We have that flexibility and we have the teachers that are interested in investing their time,” but raising money to keep the programs going is a tough prospect.

Maite Aguirre, a Common Ground special education teaching assistant who works with the STEM after-school programs, said they expose students to medicine and architecture. The recent trip to the morgue was done in collaboration with residents of Yale University School of Medicine and exposes the students to the medical field and the educational path needed to enter that field.

Students who made the trip to the morgue passed their first test: Nobody passed out.

“When I first saw it, I thought ‘That’s a real dead body,’” 15-year-old sophomore Linda Torres said. “The idea of it [a real dead body] is nothing like the actual thing. A first it was a little creepy, but then it was really cool.”

Linda, who like Evann wants to be a surgeon, said getting the opportunity to dissect animals and to learn how to suture gives her hands on experience that she might not otherwise get.

Hallena Bolden, a 15-year-old sophomore, said the after-school program has been a fun way to gain some experience in a field that she’s interested in. In fact, she was so impressed with the autopsy, that she’s thinking about also becoming a surgeon instead of a labor and delivery nurse.

“For anyone who doesn’t get to have this choice it is just going to be a loss,” she said.

Killilea echoed Hallena’s sentiment pointing out that nearly every student would be hurt without access to the many after-school programs that are currently offered.

“We all know that 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the most crucial time for students to have access to enriching programs,” she said. “Now more than ever, it is important to make sure our young leaders, our students feel safe, supported, and inspired.”

The 2017 Agenda

Bill #StatusSummarySponsors
SB11/ HB5539Committee DeniedWould legalize, tax recreational use of marijuana.Candelaria
Dillon
Lemar
Walker
Porter
et al
SB 17Committee ApprovedWould make certain undocumented immigrant students (DREAMers) eligible for state college financial aid.Looney
HB 5434Committee ApprovedWould have CT join with other states to elect the President based on popular, rather than Electoral College, vote.Winfield,
Porter
Albis
Elliott
D'Agostino
et al.
HB 5458, HB 6058Committee ApprovedWould establish electronic tolls on state highways.Genga
HB 5575/HB 7126Passed SenateWould regulate companies such as Uber and Lyft.Scanlon
HB 5589Passed HouseWould expand disclosure requirements for contributions to campaign funds.Dillon
Lemar
D'Agostino
Elliott
et al.
HB 5591Passed HouseWould require equal pay for employees doing comparable work.Dillon
Walker
Lemar
Albis
D'Agostino
Elliott
et al.
HB 5703Committee DeniedWould have CT enter into an agreement with other states to limit "poaching" of each other's businesses.Lemar
HJ 13/HJr 95Passed HouseWould amend the state constitution to permit early voting.Lemar
HJ 16In CommiteeWould amend the state constitution to permit absentee voting for all voters.Lemar
SB 1/HB 6212Committee ApprovedWould require employers to provide paid family and medical leave for their employees.Looney
SB 2Committee ApprovedWould make the education funding formula more equitable.Duff
SB 8Committee DeniedWould allow municipalities to adopt a 0.5% sales tax.Looney
SB 10/HB 5743Passed SenateWould strengthen hate crime laws.Winfield
SB 13/HB 6208/HB 6456Committee ApprovedWould increase the minimum wage.Looney
Winfield
et al.
Albis
Candelaria
D'Agostino
Elliott
Lemar
Paolillo
Porter
Walker
SB 137Committee DeniedWould expand birth-to-three and provide universal pre-school, among other things.Gerratana
SJ 5/HJ 1Passed HouseWould amend the state constitution to create a "lock-box" for transportation funding.Duff
HB 5588Committee DeniedWould limit certain bond allocations.Dillon
Lemar
Albis
Walker
Elliott
et al.
HB 5912HB 6127Committee DeniedWould establish a 1-cent/ounce tax on sugared beverages.Lemar
Elliott
et al.
HB 6554Committee DeniedWould tax carried interest as ordinary income.Porter
Albis
Lemar
Elliott
Winfield
Candelaria
Dillon
D'Agostino
et al.
HB 5831Committee DeniedWould provide bonding for transitional housing for NH female ex- offenders.Porter
Candelaria
Lemar
Winfield
Looney
Paolillo
SB 631Committee DeniedWould provide bonding to make structural improvements to the Shubert Theatre.Winfield
Looney
Walker
Porter
Lemar
Candelaria
Paolillo
HB 6863Committee DeniedWould authorize bonds for renovating the Barbell Club as a youth/ community center.Canelaria
Porter
Paolillo
Lemar
Winfield
SB 649Committee ApprovedWould allow local building officials to impose fines for building w/o a permit.Looney
Winfield
Walker
Candelaria
Lemar
Porter
Paolillo
Et al.
SB 590/591Committee DeniedWould limit police ccoperation w/Immigration and Customs Enforcement (590); establish an immigrant's bill of rightsWinfield
SB 20Committee DeniedWould require affordability to be considered in reviewing proposed health insurance rate hikes.Looney
HB 6352Committee ApprovedWould establish a deposit system for car tires.Ritter
Gresko
McCrory
HB 6901Committee DeniedWould impose a surtax on large employers that pay an average wage less than $15/hour.Elliott
HB 7278Passed SenateWould convey various parcels to New Haven, among other things.Gov't Administration and Elections

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posted by: Statestreeter on March 2, 2017  8:51pm

Mayor Harp, Dr. Mayo and Will Clark instead of using our local property taxpayer funds to retain the overpaid useless jobs that were funded by grants that you now want to make permanent why don’t you use this money instead to retain these programs that actually do something for our children’s education. aee how easy that was. Problem solved.  All you have to do is make the children the priority over padding the pockets of adults that contribute little if not nothing.

posted by: 1644 on March 3, 2017  10:29am

Serious question: why can’t every student take physical education, or participate in interscholastic athletics after school?  Why don’t students learn dissection as part of a standard biology course?  My own freshman biology course had frogs and fetal pigs.
As for per per pupil spending, one really needs to separate the special ed costs from both the district and school figures.  Special ed is the cost driver that is devouring our education budgets, and varies widely from school to school and district to district, often without reason.