Soapbox

Tell Trump to leave the kids alone

Jackie Rose checks in on a class of students at the Phoenix Park Activity Center’s after-school program in Sacramento County in October 2016.
Jackie Rose checks in on a class of students at the Phoenix Park Activity Center’s after-school program in Sacramento County in October 2016. lsterling@sacbee.com

I was pleased to join students this summer at Robla Elementary School in Sacramento doing jumping jacks, running and conducting a perfect hot-weather science experiment – making ice cream with frozen carbon dioxide.

These are all part of a high-quality summer learning program that engages students with a variety of activities including science, geography, art, music, exercise and nutrition. Unfortunately, these programs face grave danger from President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget cuts. He wants to eliminate all federal funding for after-school, summer school and other expanded learning programs. That’s $1.2 billion nationally and $137 million, or about one-fifth of the total in California.

 
Opinion

His proposed cuts are short-sighted, counter-productive and just plain wrong. As leaders, we should be searching for ways to help our students thrive, not blocking proven paths to success.

As a classroom teacher, coach and parent, I know that education is a daylong, year-round endeavor. Students need to spend their time constructively when school is out or they risk falling behind, especially during the summer.

After-school and summer programs are particularly popular with parents, and for good reason. They help improve attendance, decrease dropout rates, reduce juvenile crime and boost academic performance. Every $1 spent saves $9 in societal costs, such as the cost of dealing with juvenile offenders.

These programs are especially important to students from economically disadvantaged families, who can’t afford the summer camps or after-school enrichment that other children take for granted.

California is a leader in summer and after-school programs, which I fought to create and expand as a legislator and as state superintendent. That’s one reason I am grateful the governor and Legislature added $50 million to the after-school programs budget. Still, that’s not enough to make up for the proposed federal cuts.

I call on everyone to join me in contacting members of Congress to urge them to block Trump’s proposed budget cuts. Let’s support the 860,000 students now benefiting from after-school programs and summer school so all our students come to school ready to learn and succeed.

Tom Torlakson is state superintendent of public instruction. He can be contacted at ttorlakson@cde.ca.gov.

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