Alexander and Trimble school districts, among more than 100 other programs, could potentially lose funding for before- and after-school enrichment later this year.
Each year, the Ohio Department of Education gets $42 million in federal funds to give to K-12 schools as 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. The money is used for 276 before- and after-school programs throughout the state, 134 of which are set to expire June 30. Both Alexander and Trimble school districts received $200,000 from the grant for Fiscal Year 2017.
The Ohio Department of Education is not, for now, awarding any new 21st Century grants for next school year while it focuses on the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The department is working on the proposal for the act to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in April.
The department will continue to fund schools that are on existing, multiple-year grants that extend beyond next year, but it is delaying the application process, Brittany Halpin, associate director for Media Relations for the Ohio Department of Education, said. Halpin said the department plans to move “very quickly.”
“We are concerned on the wide-reach impact this is going to have on after-school across the state of Ohio,” Nichelle Harris, the director of Ohio Afterschool Network, said.
Trimble officials will be meeting with Ohio University officials this week, Jared Bunting, the treasurer of Trimble Local Schools, said. OU writes the grant for Trimble and submits it to the state. The university also contracts with Trimble to help with some before- and after-school programs, such as tutoring and college readiness.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll still be able to continue on with the grant itself, but we are also going to explore other alternatives just in case,” Bunting said.
Bunting said alternative funding could come from local grants to bridge the gap, but he cannot confirm Trimble’s options because he has not met with OU.
Halpin said the Ohio Department of Education is just delaying the application process, but if the grant is not renewed, about 20,000 out of 43,205 students in the state served by programs under the grants will be without a before- or after-school program, Harris said.
Halpin said districts are not “losing money” and the department is not ending the grant program, just delaying the application process for new grants while the Ohio Department of Education works with stakeholders to “align priorities” of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Reapplication does not guarantee renewal of the grant because the 21st Century grant is highly competitive, Harris said.
“(The 21st Century grant) allows us to have before- and after-school programs, which helps the community and parents,” Bunting said. “It helps provide several different things. It helps students with tutoring and several different things.”
Harris said members of the Ohio Afterschool Network are collecting signatures to protest the decision.
“We have other advocacy efforts like letter writing and phone calls,” she said. “We’re trying to engage our legislators … to make sure they’re aware that educators do not support this decision.”
Originally published for The Post on Jan. 31, 2017.