In a town hall meeting Saturday at Sutter Middle School in Winnetka, Vice President Al Gore emphasized the commitment of the Clinton administration to after-school programs, reiterating a previously announced plan to ask Congress for $1 billion in such funding to be used over the next five years.
Gore--who demurred when addressed as "the next president of the United States," saying to much laughter, "I want to appear to discourage that comment"--told several hundred people gathered at the invitation-only event that every school in the country needs after-school programs.
President Clinton and Gore were both in Monterey on Friday for the National Oceans Conference, where they announced an extended ban on offshore drilling on the East and West coasts.
Gore linked the after-school initiative with his work to clean up the environment.
If more investment is not made in cleaning up the environment, community policing and after-school care, Gore said, children might feel that the future is hopeless.
"If they get the message subtly, but powerfully, that we don't really care that much, then that changes their attitude toward the future of their own life," he said.
Saturday's event, held in an idyllic courtyard framed by shade trees and washed by sunlight, seemed more like a forum than a town hall meeting. Gore did most of the talking, asking community leaders and students to comment on the role of after-school programs in their lives.
The Clinton administration has pushed for after-school programs in recent months, in part motivated by the string of shootings on school campuses this year. Even though federal statistics show that most juvenile crime occurs between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., studies show that relatively few programs provide supervised activities during those hours. Teen pregnancy and drug use have also been linked to a lack of adult supervision after school.
Until recently, however, little national attention was paid to the issue. The last time U.S. Department of Education officials studied formal after-school care--in 1991--they found that only 1.7 million students, less than 7% of children 5 to 13, attended after-school programs.
Brandon Carney, 14, a Sutter student, told Gore that he had been offered drugs while hanging out with friends after school. Brandon said he knew fellow students who got into trouble because they had nothing to do.