PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - Slashing after school programs. Soon, millions of kids could no longer have a safe place to go after class.
Tampa Bay programs are on the chopping block if federal government cuts proposed by President Donald Trump go through.
The kids and teachers involved in Pinellas’ Counties 21st Century Community learning programs are nervous about losing their before and after school programs.
The programs, organized by R’Club are unique. The middle schoolers build robots, race homemade submarines underwater robots and Skype with NASA engineers. It’s not you’re typical after school program.
The kids are gaining skills that could help them get jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
“We’re learning stuff a lot of people don’t learn until higher grades,” explained Sanai Reece.
That’s why organizer Art O’Hara is shocked by President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash more than a billion dollars from programs like this Reece’s at Thurgood Marshall Middle School.
“It makes no sense to me. Guess what? These kids are not getting in trouble, they’re reinforcing what they get in school. It’s doing exactly what this country should be doing,” O’Hara explained.
The free program helps 1.6 million kids across the country— and nearly a thousand in Pinellas County.
Organizers tell us it’s plain and simple: Without the money from the federal government (R’ Club gets around 2 million dollars) they’ll have no choice but to cut programs. “And that would be a shame,” O’Hara added.
President Trump’s administration argues there is no evidence the programs have been effective, but the kids disagree and without it, the middle schoolers wouldn’t have anywhere else to go.
“It’s devastating. they won’t get anything else but street time. Statistics show kids are most likely to get in trouble between 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. while their parents aren’t at work. We’re keeping them out of trouble,” O’Hara pleaded.
Reece agrees, “Without it i would be lost after school.”
The proposal is one cut among many in a budget that would slash federal education spending by $9 billion, or 13.5 percent, in 2018. Trump aims to eliminate billions of dollars for teacher training and scale back or end several programs that help low-income students prepare and pay for college.
At the same time, Trump is hopes to shift $1.4 billion into charter schools, private-school vouchers and Title I “portability,” a form of choice that would allow $1 billion in federal funds to follow lower income children to the public school of their choice.