California must save its successful after-school programs
van Cardona, a 1st-grader at Mountain View Elementary in Los Angeles, arrived at the Regional Spelling Bee excited to take on a new challenge. Despite placing first in his school spelling bee, Evan’s success had not come easily. In kindergarten, Evan fell behind and finished the year without knowing many of his first-level words. Doctors had told his mother that, because of complications at birth, Evan would likely experience many developmental delays throughout his life.
However, at the start of 1st grade, Evan began participating in the Woodcraft Rangers after-school program, run on his school campus each afternoon. Suddenly, he began to flourish. His mother noticed a change immediately. He had developed a passion for reading and learning. Every day, he came home committed to finishing his homework. Evan’s passion and confidence helped him excel during the spelling competition. His mother told Chris Johnson, the CEO of Evan’s after-school program: “All he wants to do is practice, practice, practice his spelling bee words because he wants to be number one!”
Evan has a great story, and he is not alone. He is one of more than 14,000 children from 71 schools in the Woodcraft Rangers NVISION program, 100 percent of whom are from low-income families. Across California, more than 400,000 students participate in After-School Education and Safety (ASES)-funded programs such as Evan’s at over 4,000 elementary and middle schools.
In 2002, Californians made a strong commitment to students attending after-school programs by passing Proposition 49, which was promoted by Arnold Schwarzenegger before he came governor and allocated funds for these transformative programs. Since then, ASES programs, and the students they serve, have thrived. Students who regularly participate in these after-school programs have higher GPAs and do better in language arts and math.
The after-school programs operate in predominantly high-poverty areas, where an average of 80 percent of students who attend the programs qualify for and