Legislative Alert

2 Apr

Below is a re-post of a legislative alert from the NC Center for Afterschool Programs. The YWCA SOS program serves around 70 students a year. Our successful program is directly threatened by this proposed budget cut.

Proposed Elimination of SOS Programs Would
Impact 14,000 Young People and 1,000 Jobs

A cost-cutting measure in the Governor’s proposed budget would result in over 1,000 full and part-time position cayla-jiles-jalen-craiglayoffs across the state and totally eliminate funding for the SOS (Support Our Students) program, an afterschool program currently operating in 92 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. If the $5.9M proposed budget cut becomes part of the final budget adopted by the General Assembly, 219 program sites serving 14,016 middle school children would come to an end. The programs are administered by neighborhood-based 501©(3) entities, community-based, public or private nonprofit tax exempt organizations; school systems, and local government agencies.

The SOS program was established at the recommendation of Governor James B. Hunt in 1994. Citing Governor’s Crime Commission research that finds that the overwhelming majority of juvenile crime occurs between the hours of 3 PM and 6 PM, the Commission determined that if the state could create programs that would could engage young people in supervised environments, the result would be a reduction of juvenile crime. As a result, SOS programming was developed to specifically target juveniles at-risk through exposure to such factors as family conflicts and disruption, community drug and alcohol uses, academic failures, early and persistent behavioral problems in school, and the presence of gangs. All these risk factors correlate to high rates for juvenile delinquency. SOS programs work to prevent students from becoming delinquent, from dropping out of school, and by increasing their academic performance.

The SOS Program is governed by legislation (NCGS 143B-152) which outlines the following goals…

1. Reduce the number of students who are unsupervised after school, otherwise known as latch-key children;

2. Improve the academic performance of students participating in the program;

3. Meet the physical intellectual, emotional, and social needs of students participating in the program and improve their attitudes and behavior;

4. Improve coordination of existing resources and enhance collaboration so as to provide services to school-aged children effectively and efficiently;

5. Reduce juvenile crime in local communities served by the program;

6. Recruit community volunteers to provide positive adult role models for school-aged children and to help supervise after-school activities.

An independent evaluation conducted by EDSTAR in 2007 found that only one percent of students had an additional juvenile complaint filed against them during their involvement in SOS. On dropouts, the study showed that the youth who had risk factors for dropping out and who also were served in the grant funded programs were far less likely to drop out of school than were students with the same risk factors in a control group. The program was also shown to improve academic performance. Almost two-thirds of participants involved in the SOS program for two years or more showed improvement on end of grade testing in comparison to a control group of academically at-risk students where only a third of the students made progress.

One Thing is Certain . . .
The rationale for SOS-like programs is more compelling than ever. School and law enforcement officials across the state today are contending with an upswing of gang membership and crime. The original goal of SOS – to provide engaging, supervised afterschool alternatives for young people – is more important than ever. Such programs keep kids safe, promote learning, and help working families. Additionally, afterschool providers and funders from across the state have worked together to reach a consensus on standards for high-quality afterschool programs. Those standards call for a blend of academic support and enrichment activities that not only can provide engaging afterschool activities that keep young people off the streets, but lead to higher graduation rates from high school.

NC CAP asks policymakers to analyze the pros and cons of SOS carefully before eliminating a program touching the lives of 14,016 middle school youth. The $5.9 million invested in 14,016 young people represents an annual investment of $421 per child. The $5.9 million needed to sustain SOS programs represents what it costs to support 256 prisoners per year in a North Carolina prison at an average cost to the state of $23,000 per prisoner. If SOS can prevent only 2% of the 14,016 young people it serves from becoming involved in juvenile crime, it would be a positive long-term return-on investment. Given the number of jobs that are on the line, policymakers should look closely to see if preserving SOS could be included in the state plan required by the federal stimulus package. Not only would preservation of SOS be in line with the job creation and maintaining goals of the stimulus package, extended day educational opportunities are part of the U.S. Department of Education’s priorities.

What Can NC CAP Report Readers Do?

• Talk to local legislators about the potential loss of afterschool programs for young people in your area.

• Share with them the number of young people being served by SOS programs in your county.

• Stress that the issue is not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If SOS needs to be better managed, improve the management of the program; don’t eliminate programs touching 14,000 young people.

• Ask local law enforcement and school officials to do the same.

• Visit the “Save Our Support Our Students” website at http://sososnc.wordpress.com/success-stories/
and voice your support for SOS.

• Visit the Afterschool Alliance website for tips on calling or writing your legislator. Link to the Policy and Action Center at: http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/policyTakeAction.cfm

• Download NC CAP and Action for Children NC’s Advocacy guides by clicking on “Advocacy and Community Partnerships on the NC CAP website at http://www.nccap.net/effective/articles.cfm

For an online list of SOS contacts by county, visit http://www.djjdp.org/county_services.html.

For more information, contact Jamie Knowles at the North Carolina for Afterschool Programs by calling (919) 781-6833 ext. 115 or emailing jknowles@ncforum.org

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