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Getting $50 Million More for California After-school Programs Took Group 3 Years of Lobbying

LOS ANGELES — California after-school programs statewide were able to breathe a small sigh of relief this year after Gov. Jerry Brown set aside an extra $50 million for them from the general budget.

Getting SB 78 passed took three years of lobbying by a statewide coalition called California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance that included a local coalition made up of the Los Angeles Unified School District board, the Los Angeles City Council, the Los Angeles Police Department and more than 10 after-school programs like Beyond the Bell, After School All Stars and LA’s BEST.

“Part of the success is just not giving up, and continuing to raise the issue with elected officials so they understand that this is a real issue, there’s really something at stake,” said CEO Eric Gurna of LA’s BEST, one of the local coalition leaders.

Since 2002, California’s after-school programs have operated on $7.50 per child per day. With inflation and minimum wage increases, it got harder to keep the programs running. But now those programs are getting an extra 70 cents per child per day.

Before the new funding passed, LA’s BEST faced a $1 million deficit for years to come, Gurna said. It was unsustainable, irresponsible, and they couldn’t cut their way out of it, he said. So, they started contacting organizations that could help.

“The only reason they were coming together was because we asked them repeatedly,” Gurna said. “It was the deputy mayor, the local superintendent, the lobbyists from the school district and LA’s BEST all coming together. It shows it’s an issue of importance to the whole community, not just after-school programs advocating for funding.”

He said the key to success was building a coalition of groups in Los Angeles that might normally compete for grants and funding but were willing to make formal declarations of support for an important issue.

And also California state Sen. Connie Leyva, a Democrat, who wrote the bill and rallied support.

“I didn’t realize they hadn’t had an increase in 10 years and that was just unbelievable to me and made me want to author it,” Leyva said in an interview. “Kids will find something to do if they don’t have an after-school program and it will be something we don’t want them to be doing.”

The bill received bipartisan support. The turning point came when statewide coalition lobbyists flew two elementary school girls out to testify and explain why their after-school program was so important to them.

“Legislation seems nebulous but when organizations can bring hard evidence and stories, that makes all the difference in the world,” Leyva said.

But the support wasn’t unanimous. The California Teachers Association opposed the bill. It was not against more funding for after-school programs, said CTA media consultant Frank Wells, but it was concerned about the funding source.

The money came from Proposition 98, which requires a minimum percentage of the state budget to be devoted to K-12 education. Allotting $50 million for after-school programs means $50 million less for school services, supplies and employee salaries and benefits.

“That reduces money available to other programs coming from K-12 curriculum. It’s devoted specifically to that so it should be funded,” Wells said.

The bill originally proposed allocating $100 million to after-school programs, but, Gurna explained, $50 million is still a victory.

“As a coalition we took it to the finish line, but we’d been running for a long time,” he said.

For Leyva, a $50 million victory doesn’t mark the end of the fight.

“This was a first attempt, this will certainly not be the last attempt. We have a long way to go.”

LA’s BEST serves 25,000 children in the Unified School District. They play sports, conduct science experiments, eat supper daily and go on field trips. Studies from the University of California at Los Angeles say the program improves test scores in middle school, and decreases dropout and juvenile crime rates.

Other organizations in the Los Angeles coalition were Woodcraft Rangers, Think Together, A World Fit for Kids, arc, EduCare Foundation, TEAM PRIME TIME, STAR and the LA Conservation Corps.

This story has been updated.


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Across the U.S. Increasing Numbers of Kids Are Taken From Deported Parents and Put Into Foster Care

If you deport the parents, let them take their kids with them. This may sound like common sense — and research shows that kids do better with their families than in foster care — but increasingly more children from across the United States are being separated from their families because their parents have been deported.

National research, conducted by the Applied Research Center between August 2010 and August 2011, and published on Colorlines.com (which is run by the Research Center) in November 2011 shows, for the first time, that the problem is happening widely.

At least 5,100 children whose parents are detained or deported are currently in foster care around the United States. And, in at least 22 states, children in foster care face boundaries to reunification with their detained or deported mothers and fathers.

In the past few years, a growing number of long-time residents with families are being deported while the kids are almost always placed in foster care. According to previously unreleased federal data obtained by the ARC, between January and June of 2011, the United States carried out more than 46,000 deportations of the parents of U.S.-citizen children, and almost one in four people deported in the last year was the mother or father of an American citizen.

The report discusses two explanations as to why this is happening:

  1. Local cops in many states that have signed agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are engaging in immigration enforcement;
  2. A controversial program called Secure Communities allows the ICE access to data on every person booked into a county jail.

The ARC’s research found that children in foster care in areas where officers perform immigration law enforcement functions, were almost 30 percent more likely to have a detained or deported parent than in other counties.

Most countries lack any formal policy for deported parents. In order to tackle this problem, the report says that federal, state and local governments must create explicit policies to protect families from separation.

The Obama administration did say that it plans to overhaul immigration detention practices, but as of August 2011, the ARC found that this promise had not taken effect in any significant way.

The full report lays out policy recommendations at all levels in the United States. The following are its suggestions for state child welfare departments and juvenile dependency courts to follow:

  • State child welfare departments should initiate research to explore the extent to which children in foster care have detained or deported parents.
  • All caseworkers, supervisors, attorneys and judges who practice in dependency court should be mandated to participate in training on immigration law and immigration enforcement policies.
  • All state and/or county child welfare departments should sign agreements with foreign consulates to ensure that as soon as noncitizen parents of foster children are detained, consular
    involvement is commenced.
  • Adopt clear policies ensuring equal treatment of undocumented parents and families in the child welfare system, including clear guidelines on the rights of undocumented parents and extended families to be treated equitably as viable caregivers for children.
  • Create state- or county-level staff positions dedicated to facilitating reunification for families impacted by immigration enforcement.

“At the end of the day, when you have immigration law that’s broken and you have a community of 10 million, 11 million people living and working in the United States illegally, some of these things are going to happen,” Cecilia Munoz, the administration’s top advisor on immigration, said in an interview aired on PBS’ “Frontline” in September.

To complete the study, ARC gathered county-level data from child welfare caseworkers, attorneys and judges in six states, which account for more than half of the non-citizen population in the United States and more than one-third of the children in foster care (Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, New York and Texas.) Then ARC visited detention centers, conducted interviews and projected the prevalence of detained and deported parent cases in 14 other similarly situated states, including Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

The full report is on the ARC website.

 

They also released a video about their report:

Image courtesy of Applied Research Center