The Mississippi Department of Education announced Friday that only 28 schools districts and organizations will be eligible for federal funding this year for after-school programs for students with low incomes. This is compared to more than 100 last year. Despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded over $14 million to the programs, the U.S. Department of Education will only award $5.6 million to schools and districts due accounting errors by the state education department. The state education department advised program operators last month that they should not count on funding for after-school programs paid for by federal 21st Century Community Learning Center funds. This was after state officials discovered a deficit of Title IV program funds. Three employees of the state department were fired after they used Title I federal money to cover the deficit that was caused by the department’s overspending 21st Century funds last school year. Title I and Title IV are sections of the federal Elementary School Act that provide federal financial aid for specific educational needs. The department announced Friday that $5.6 million will not be available for programs in 2016-2017, despite an earlier estimate of almost $10 million. Programs were chosen based on the ability to match federal funds and the grant year. After-school programs or 21st Century Community Learning Centers provide academic opportunities after school for students in low-performing and high-poverty schools. They are funded by federal Title IV money. Last year, the after-school programs were used by approximately 29,000 students in the state. Friday’s announcement by the department did not provide any information about the number of students that will be served. Carey Wright, the state superintendent of education, said that the department had made the decision to “scale back programming” after being given guidance by the U.S. Department of Education. Wright stated in a press release that “we regret the impact that reducing service will have on children, families.” “We will open the competition to continue grants for 2017-2018 with a more rigorous screening process and evaluation.” Schools face cuts Jasmine Smith (director of federal programs in Perry County School District) said that the cut led to the loss of one full time employee and a significant reduction in the after-school program. Perry County received $500,000 last year for five programs that served students from three different districts. The program was successful in reaching over 200 students last school year. It’s a terrible blow, especially if you live in rural areas like ours. Smith stated that parents and their families are not able to access Boys and Girls Clubs and other non-profit organizations that offer after-school activities for students. He also noted that third graders scored high on the reading test and that discipline was declining. The district will be unable to offer after-school programs for all 3rd graders this year. Smith hopes to find additional funding elsewhere. The Carroll County School District Superintendent Billy Ferguson stated that his district received approximately $400,000 last year for an after-school program. This was a program that he described as “great”, with nearly 400 students taking part. This year’s program, like Perry County’s, will be reduced and won’t provide bus transportation for participants. Ferguson stated that he doesn’t have enough money to pay people to work after school to run buses. He also pointed out the rural nature of the district. It’s expensive to start running buses. Amite County School district received $249,500 last year for programs that served more than 150 students at Amite County Elementary. Officials believed the program would continue funding for at least five additional years. Mary Russ, the federal-programs director for the school district, said that they are currently in the planning phase. “I don’t know what I will be able do because we were dependent on those funds for that specific program.” Russ stated that the community has responded positively to the program and that parents and children have been asking Russ when the afterschool program will start. Russ stated that the district is still waiting for the state’s academic assessment results to determine if the program was a success, but is optimistic based on internal surveys. Because the kids received small group instruction after school, I know how much they will miss it. Russ stated that they were safe and the program was in line with the 21st-century guidelines. According to Dr. Carla J. Evers, approximately 175 students attend the Boys and Girls Club after school program. Keva Scott, the chief executive officer of Boys and Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast, is in close contact with Evers to discuss the possibility of maintaining the program despite the low funding. Evers stated that they have been working together to maintain the same services for students. “The only concern we had initially was if they would be able provide tutorial staff.” Evers stated that even though staff members at the Boys and Girls Club have been cut in hours, tutors and transportation will continue to be available to students. She said that they are still following the same routine. “We’re still in the routine,” she said. Jannette Adams is a senior development officer/grants manager at the university. She stated that all parties involved in the decision-making process, including MVSU administrators and the project director and coordinator along with the Boys and Girls Club staff must meet and determine the best next steps. Adams stated in an email that “Because it is new, parents have not had the chance to be notified.” Adams said in an email that she would be contacting the school district to prepare notification. They will be disappointed, as we received a very favorable response to our evaluation report for the past year.” She said that she was certain they would want to reapply when the process opens. Robert Langford, its director, said that the lack of funds has been devastating for organizations such as Operation Shoestring. It provides after-school programming to Jackson Public Schools students. It accounts for nearly 20% of the group’s budget. The $250,000 per-year grant, which accounted for nearly 20% of the group’s budget, was used to pay staffing costs for an after-school program that served 155 Galloway Elementary fifth through sixth graders. Langford stated that the data showed that students who took part in the program were more likely to go on to the next grade, and they also had higher third-grade reading pass rates. Langford stated that the program would continue at least until December, after Langford claimed that he had shifted resources and received an emergency donation of $32,000. Here is the complete list of all programs that received funding this year. Kendra Ablaza and Sereena Henderson contributed reporting. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of all Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think.