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Keeping Kids Safe After School

State proposal could be a boon to the working poor

September 07, 1997

When school lets out, many children remain unsupervised until their parents get home from work. This puts younger students in particular in harm's way. They need a safe place to play or do homework, preferably right on campus.

A bill before the California Legislature would fund several before-school and after-school programs for poor children whose parents either work or attend job training as they make the transition from welfare to work. The funding targets the working poor and other families that qualify on the basis of low income for free school lunches. AB 326, sponsored by Assemblywoman Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), merits approval because good after-school programs can provide a safe haven, boost reading, math and computer skills and reduce vandalism between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., the peak hours for juvenile crime.

This measure would allocate $3.5 million to fund from six to eight programs, which would serve up to 2,000 elementary school children. School districts and existing after-school programs would compete for the funds.

The new programs would be modeled on LA's BEST, a successful after-school program that serves 5,000 children between the ages of 5 and 12 at 24 elementary school campuses in Los Angeles. Started by then-Mayor Tom Bradley 10 years ago this month and supported by Mayor Richard Riordan, LA's BEST works well. With this good model in place, new after-school programs funded by Sacramento could keep many more children off the street.

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