Friday, June 15, 2007

City of Olympia to charge parents for after-school programs???!!!

I lifted this in its entirety from Olyblog.

Thanks Emmett, this is pretty ridiculous. If they tried that shit out in Shelton (where we live), no one would show up to S.O.C.K. (Save Our County's Kids) and they wouldn't make any money off it. Sounds like a good way to propagate unnecessary domestic violence, additional youth crime and a hell of a lot more bad mojo. After-school programs need to be free to the families and kids who need to use them. We, as a community, are responsible for figuring out ways to support and improve these selfless and direly-needed organizations however possible without incurring fees on their patrons, who doubtless are fairly hard-up.

My BIG QUESTION however is this: What happens to the poor kids? The ones who get edged out of this brilliant new picture for a closer-to-self-sustaining after-school program?

Trouble is, these programs can't be self-sustaining. (Unless we install rooftop gardens, gather together some hotshot fundraisers and canvassers, employ slave labor from the kids, or get them really, really interested in making and/or selling something or themselves... which is a whole slew of cans of worms to figure out.)


Almost every week this is the "What's on the city council's plate this week" review. I don't cover everything, so if you want the full rundown, read the packet and agenda yourself.

It looks like the city council is going to start charging kids (or rather their families) $100 to attend after school programs that the city runs in several Olympia School District buildings. Which is too freaking bad, I know some parents are probably using these programs as baby sitters, but that is honestly where the need is coming from. A lot of families have two bread winners, and middle school aged (and younger) kids don't have options for supervised play outside of these programs.

Here is the meat of the city's decision making process for this Tuesday. A bit of the background (OPARD is Olympia Parks and Recreation):

During 2007 operating budget deliberations last fall, Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation (OPARD) staff was directed to prepare some options for a fee-based middle school after school program. These options would be an alternative to cutting one of the four after school sites as originally proposed by our department in the 2005 constrained prioritization process. Council agreed to continue full funding for the entire after school program through the 2006-2007 school-year to give staff time to come back with some options for a fee-based program. Council directed staff that when looking at cost recovery for the after school program to consider an amount that will make the program sustainable into the future and that will have a sliding fee provision for those students that qualify for free or reduced meals at school.
This past winter and spring, staff has met with Olympia School District (OSD) administration on a regular basis to discuss options or a fee-based program, including how much to charge and how to administer the fee collection.

During their research, it became clear to staff that a significant number of students would not be able to afford the full fee. The middle school principals estimate 30-50% of the students that attend the after school programs also qualify for the free and reduced meal program. While OPARD has a scholarship program in place for families that can’t afford to pay, we do not have enough annual donations or staff capacity to fundraise for that account to meet the likely demand that we will see on the fund.

Here is the option that city staff is recommending to the city council:

Implement a fee of $100 for 25 visits which is projected to be 25% cost recovery.

1. This fee level is reasonable compared to what many families pay for childcare or for other youth after school programs or day care.

2. This is a good starting point for the fee, both for the families of current participants to get used to the fee, and as a way for our staff to get comfortable collecting fees and gauging year to year how much revenue will be collected.

1. Implementation of any fee may reduce participation in those families that may not be able to afford the program but might not take advantage of fee waivers. OSD staff have concurred that there will be a likely drop off in participation due to stigma issues. While OSD gets high levels of participation in financial assistance programs such as free and reduced meals in elementary schools, those numbers drop off in the middle schools.

2. Current operating rules prohibit OPARD from waiving fees for some participants while charging for the same services for a different group of participants. The City’s scholarship fund does not have the resources to meet the very likely increased demand for scholarships. For this reason, staff requests a change in policy to allow us to waive fees for those children that qualify for free and reduced meals at school.

3. There will be an unavoidable shift in some site staff time spent administering the fee program, leaving less time to give participants their complete attention.

The staff ruled out my idea of trying to bring the Boys and Girls club (here and here ) in the fray:

Option 4. – Contract the program out to another agency

1. Could potentially save more than the original proposed budget cut of one site.

1. Large reduction in staff hours would impact other programs areas in which the after school staff also work. This would inhibit OPARD’s ability to sustain the large spectrum of very successful programs it runs for our public.
2. OPARD could not guarantee the quality of the program run by another agency.
3. An outside agency would still likely have to charge participants to keep the program sustained, as is the model for other current youth after school programming in the community.
4. Would have impacts to the OSD/OPARD 5-year joint use agreement. If the program was no longer an OPARD program, it would shift the balance of what we provide OSD vs. what we get in return.

Just some quick thoughts on their con points:

2. If an outside group (like the B&G club) were to come in and replace the city, would it be the city's responsibility to guarantee quality, or would it be the school district's, since it would be in a school building? It isn't like the Boys and Girls Club is a fly by night operation, they have a track record.

3. The Tumwater B&G Club charges $25 a year.

1&4. Sounds like "it would change the status quo." Duh, that isn't a good reason not to do it.

If the Boys and Girls were to come in, I'm not saying it would be cheaper on us, either through the city or the school district. It is perfectly feasible that Tumwater and Lacey both provide funds to B&G Club for their services, I really don't know.

Wow, that sucks.

On top of rising gas prices, $100 for 25 visits... that's a lot! What if you've got three kids? That's going to be very hard for some families.

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