SEATTLE - Today is "Lights On Afterschool" day, held annually to honor
the people and programs that keep kids safe and learning in the
afternoon hours. A new report about after-school care says over the
past five years, Washington is one of the few states with higher
after-school enrollment, but it notes that budget cuts threaten to
stall that progress.
Jen Rinehart, with the Afterschool Alliance
, says the
state used to help fund after-school care for low-income families, and
the loss of that funding has made it harder for local school districts
and other groups to provide the service.
"With all of the budget crunches, we're concerned there won't be as
many programs for kids going forward, and we know that families are
already stretched very thin, in terms of what they can pay for
Although parents pay most of the costs of after-school care, Rinehart
says it takes state and federal help to include children whose families
can't otherwise afford it. 12 percent of Washington children
participate in after-school programs, she says, and that's up from 8
percent, five years ago.
"Beyond keeping kids safe, which is absolutely important, after-school
programs also really help kids grow and learn in new ways. And then,
they also help working families, which is another key component -
helping make sure that families can really juggle that balance between
work life and family life."
According to the survey, about 336,000 Washington kids are home alone
in the hours after school. Today, more than 110 programs across
Washington have events and open houses planned as part of "Lights On
The full report, "America After 3 P.M.," and locations for "Lights On Afterschool" events in your area are available at www.afterschoolalliance.org