Schools and districts in Mississippi are bracing for the possibility that federal funding will not be available for after-school programs, which serve approximately 29,000 students. At a press conference last Wednesday, Carey Wright stated that some programs might be eliminated but not completely. However, a letter from Kim Benton, Chief Academic Officer to schools on Aug. 12, paints a more dire picture. Benton wrote, “To be clear there is a strong possibility that there will not be 21st Century financing available for the 2016-17 school year.” Three state Department of Education employees were fired last week after a deficit of $19.1million was found in the state’s federal Title IV Program. This was due to overspending during the 2015-2016 schoolyear. Federal Title I funds were used to cover the gap by federal program officials when the deficit was discovered. This is not permitted under federal law. The majority of the after-school programs were scheduled to start in September. The Mississippi Department of Education claims that improper Title I use by officials will not affect districts’ Title I funding. However, it is unclear how this issue will be addressed. Officials from the state education department declined to give details about their plans to address the budget gap. Officials from the U.S. Department of Education stated that Title I funds cannot be reimbursed for MDE because they are legally allocated. Federal officials stated that they were working with the Mississippi Department of Education, but didn’t give any details about what would be done. The after-school program that focused on literacy and numeracy for 300-500 at-risk students in Greenville will be discontinued by the Greenville Public Schools District. The funds have been used by the district for 15 years. Superintendent Leeson Taylor stated that the issue and chronic underfunding by MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program), make it impossible to maintain the program without a new revenue stream. The largest urban district in Mississippi, Jackson Public School District, uses 21st Century Community Learning Centers funds to fund programs that reach 650 students. Sherwin Johnson, a spokesperson for Jackson schools, stated that the district has allocated more Title I funds and local funds to replace 21st Century grant funding for after-school programs, summer school and part time tutors. ReImagine Prep, a Jackson charter school, uses the funds for its after-school programs, as well as its hack-a-thon on Saturdays. Kate Cooper, director for growth and advancement at RePublic Schools, which oversees ReImagine Prep, said that some of the funds were used during school hours for programming, such as literacy instruction and book club. RePublic also hopes to use the grant funds for its new school, Smilow Prep. It opened in this year. Cooper stated that while it would be disappointing not to be offering 21st Century programs, Cooper hopes to find a way to fund them instead of dropping them completely. Last year, Mississippi received $14.1 million to fund 110 after-school programs. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to our 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.