Friday, December 21, 2012

Rural before- and after-school programs face special challenges, primarily lack of funding

Before- and after-school programs in rural areas must deal with several challenges unique to their geography, such as low funding, access, transportation and staffing. Even though there's been national attention recently about the importance of these types of programs, rural leaders say their challenges, which were made worse by the recession, aren't getting easier, Diette Courrege of Education Week reports.

Most rural before- and after-school programs are actually worse off than they were three years ago at the height of the recession, according to an Afterschool Alliance survey. Nationally, rural and urban programs struggle because of the tight economy, which prevents them from providing high-quality programming, Afterschool Alliance's Jen Rinehart told Courrege. These struggles are more difficult in rural areas because of their unique challenges, according to a 2011 Harvard Family Research Project report, "Out-of-School Time Programs in Rural Areas."

Rural areas receive less funding than urban or suburban because of smaller population sizes. Many rural programs rely on federal "21st Century Community Learning Center grants," which are available to programs that provide before and after school programs for students who are considered poor and attend low-performing schools. The $1.2 billion grant program is formula-based and lets states distribute the money. Officials don't have to send most of the money to rural places, but some states give priority to rural, Courrege writes. (Read more)

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