NJ Gov. Chris Christie Wipes Out After-School Funding, Forcing “NJ After 3” Out of Business

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October 26, 2011; Source: Star Ledger | In 2007, the State of New Jersey provided $15 million to a group called NJ After 3, which dispensed grants to local nonprofits such as the YWCA and the Boys & Girls Club to provide after-school programming for kids. Last year, under Governor Chris Christie, the budget was down to $3 million, but still, 5,000 children participated in after-school programs. This year, Christie gave the program zero. Democrats tried to restore the funding but failed. Christie’s rationale for the cut was that “programs like that that can be funded through private funds should be encouraged to do so during very difficult, tough economic times.” The assumption that donors to after-school programs are just waiting in the wings with surpluses of excess capital is faulty, and one has to assume that a brilliant governor like Christie knows this. Human-service programs such as after school programs for kids have taken a huge hit in charitable giving during and since the recession. The idea that donors would suddenly pony up an extra $3 million or $15 million to sustain and rebuild the program in question is a matter of lying to oneself or feeding a line to the public.

Do you need the statistics to make the case? There are 8.4 million children participating in after-school programs—an increase of 3 million over the past five years, but 15.1 million continue to be alone and unsupervised after school every day, according to research generated by the Afterschool Alliance. That’s one-fourth of all children alone and unsupervised after 3 p.m. There is solid research on what makes for a good after-school program, as demonstrated by an evaluation by The Afterschool Corporation, which has done excellent work in this field. The health, safety, and school-performance benefits of after-school programs are demonstrable.

So why did Governor Christie dump the program from the New Jersey state budget and try to shunt it off to private charity? As a representative of NJ After 3 noted, when a nonprofit loses its biggest investor—in this case, the state government—it is a signal, a negative one, to other potential donors. The governor’s budget cut made it less likely that charity and philanthropy would come to the table to save after-school programs. This is an excellent example of how government cutbacks in the social safety net wreak havoc and actually undermine rather than invite the prospects of public private partnerships.—Rick Cohen

  • R Kinney

    Maybe it’s just me but I find it hard to get past the $600 per kid in a group setting for a 9 mos. year that the state was funding in the first place!

    That just seems way high for this type of program. I would be interested to know what the average per kid cost is for After School programs across the country. Maybe there were more factors involved in the NJ decision than mentioned above?

  • Sharon Charters

    we don’t know how often the program ran – if it was offered 5 days a week than $600 per child per school year is certainly reasonable – if it’s offered once a week, obviously its a lot more expensive. Regardless, a very unfortunate situation.

  • Karrissa Thayer

    In SW Missouri (which has a lot lower cost of living), the average parent pays their child’s after school program $125 per month. One of the local private schools it is $20-30 per day per child (which would put the monthly budget at $400-600).

    $600 per year would be a steal!!