(WIAT) — A budget proposal by President Trump could eliminate after school care for up to 1.6 million children nationwide. The president’s budget includes a billion-dollar cut to grants for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
The grant program, which is the only federal funding source directed solely at after-school programs, has been in place for decades, with a $1 billion budget, beginning in 2001. With that money, parents in lower-income areas can send their children to after-school and summer programs at their local schools and community centers.
Last year, the grant supported education for more than 17,000 students in Alabama. The Birmingham Regional and Empowerment Development Center, also known as BREAD, impacts up to 400 students every year. They are largely funded by the grant that President Trump seeks to eliminate.
“My reaction was, wow, how can you say that what I’ve done the last eight years doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t do anything for the lives of parents and families?” asked Erika Eatmon, the program’s director. “We provide so many things and so many experiences that kids wouldn’t be able to do without this funding.”
BREAD provides after school care with classes and enrichment programs in fitness, healthy eating, robotics, and arts.
“We aren’t extra-curricular. We are co-curricular. We are actually going along with what’s going on in the school system,” Eatmon said.
Trump’s budget must be approved by Congress, and many legislators have publicly spoken out about concerns to large cuts to education programs. However, parents who depend on programs like BREAD, are concerned.
“It breaks my heart that these kids won’t have anything if it’s eliminated,” said Paulisha Holt, whose daughter attends the after school program. “So what we do as parents to help?”
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers’ funding is already renewed for the 2017-2018 school year, so the programs are not in danger anytime soon. If the grants are eliminated, Eatmon says, they would have to seek out different sources of funding in order to keep the programs open to students.