A state budget drafted and proposed by Gov. Dannel Malloy last month has raised concerns from New Haven educators about the future of after-school programs.
Malloy announced on Feb. 8 that the state is considering consolidating several pre-existing programs, including the After School Grant Program, into one comprehensive Student Support Services Grant. While the pre-existing programs have a combined budget of $12.7 million, the Student Support Services would receive about $6 million less. Other state-funded services and grants, including those supporting mental health and bilingual education, also face cuts under the new budget proposal.
City spokesman Laurence Grotheer said the mayor is working to ensure that funding crucial to the city, including after-school program funding, will be provided by the state under the new budget.
“The mayor is in constant contact with members of the city’s legislative delegation, and that is to ensure adequate state funding to underwrite the proposed budget she has submitted which is a current services budget,” Grotheer said.
The state is expected to finalize a budget by early summer.
New Haven Public Schools Board of Education President Daisy Gonzales said she had yet to be informed of the state budget cuts to after-school funding. However, she said any cuts to after-school programming would be “horrible,” as many parents rely on after-school programs to ensure their children are safe and in care while their parents are working, she said.
Ashton Killilea, head of Common Ground High School after-school programs, said she worried that after-school budgets will disproportionately suffer under Malloy’s proposed budget.
Common Ground is a charter school that draws 70 percent of its students from New Haven by lottery, Killilea said. The school currently receives $76,000 in funding annually for its after-school activities — which include a STEM program, arts activities and a basketball team — from a state grant that must be renewed every two years.
Killilea explained that the state’s new budget will combine after school funding, including Common Ground’s after-school budget, with a number of other line items, and then cut that combined budget in half. If other items are deemed more important than after-school funding, the money flowing straight to after school activities might be drastically reduced, she said.
“The fear right now is that potentially I’m going to have to decide what stays and what goes based on the money that gets cut,” Killilea said, adding that any decision about cutting after school programs would be made with student input.
In an email to the News, Chief Operating Officer for NHPS William Clark said the district has many concerns about Malloy’s proposed budget. The district has been working with city administrators, other school districts and New Haven’s legislative delegates to push for education funding to be a top priority, he added.
“As recent litigation has proven, education funding in CT, particularly to urban districts, is and has been underfunded,” Clark wrote. “Reviewing funding systems and priorities is always necessary but cutting funding sources to valuable core programming is harmful.”
These proposed cuts come as the state remains embroiled in a decadelong lawsuit that alleged the state’s education spending did not support students fairly. Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled on Sept. 7 that the state’s educational system was “unconstitutional.”
Litigation on the case is ongoing.