Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donald Trump have spent months squabbling over ratings, both for public approval and of the television variety.
In February, after the Republican president urged the National Prayer Breakfast audience to pray for Schwarzenegger’s ratings as host of NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice,” calling the show “a total disaster,” the GOP former California governor floated a “great idea” – “Why don’t we switch jobs?”
Now Schwarzenegger is incorporating policy in his critiques, inspired by Trump’s proposed budget to eliminate federal funding for after-school programs, an area of government that’s near and dear to him.
His After-School All-Stars traces its roots to 1991 in Los Angeles. A year before his own political ascent, Schwarzenegger used his star power to push for statewide passage of Proposition 49, the 2002 initiative that set aside state money for after-school programs.
“Once again politicians in Washington are trying to balance the budget on the backs of the hardworking families that depend on these programs,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement on Monday. “We didn’t let Washington gut after-school in 2003 or 2013, and we won’t let them do it now.”
On Wednesday, with the federal funding threat looming, he is convening experts for a national after-school summit co-hosted by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute, After-School All-Stars and the Afterschool Alliance.
Among the speakers this week he hopes will shower attention on the proposed cut, which is nearly $1.2 billion and would affect 1.6 million students in after-school programs, are NFL defensive end J.J. Watt, activist and CNN commentator Van Jones and California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.
The group held a similar summit two years ago and began planning the event months before Trump’s unexpected election, said Ben Paul, president and chief executive of After-School All-Stars. The program, which has a $30 million budget, would lose $5 million from the cut. He said the summit could not come at a better time.
“The national impact is tragic,” Paul said.
Despite the recent attention, Bonnie Reiss, global director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute, said defending after-school dollars has been a decadeslong quest, pointing to federal funds being put in jeopardy under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
“Here it is, yet again,” said Reiss, who has worked with Schwarzenegger on after-school programming since 1992 and says he’s like a brother.
Reiss, a Democrat, said she was proud when Schwarzenegger refused to support Trump, and then again when Trump took swipes at him over “The Apprentice.”
“Arnold used the spotlight to focus on issues like ending gerrymandering, like protecting the environment and like after-school programming,” she said.