Concern for after school program funding after proposed federal budget cuts

- The proposed federal budget could cost Minnesota $12 million in federal after school program funding and affect as many as 23,000 students across the state

At Roosevelt High School, rehearsals for the spring musical "Into the Woods" are well underway. But as students like Dereishay Hill take the spotlight, so does the after school program that is giving her a leading role.

"This program is like a second home to me,” said Hill, a tenth grader. “It allows me to do something to entertain myself after school."

About 100 students at Roosevelt take part in the Beacons Program playing everything from intramural sports like ultimate Frisbee and basketball to video games. The goal is to help low-income schools give teens with a safe place to go after class and in the summer. 

"We know that's essential for high school graduation rates,” said Jenny Collins, executive director of the Beacons Network. “We know it makes a difference in terms of school performance and the safety of our communities."

U.S. Senator Tina Smith visited Roosevelt Friday to speak to students after President Donald Trump proposed for the second year in a row to put the federal program that provides a $1 million a year to the Beacons Network on the chopping block. President Trump wants to trim a total of $1.2 billion from the federal budget by cutting funding for after school programs.

The administration says there's no evidence the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program has been effective, but Smith says cutting it could end up costing more down the road. 

"One of these kids said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but if people weren't here they might be out behind the building getting into trouble,’” said Smith. “That ends up being a waste of opportunity."

Hill just hopes her after school program isn't heading for a curtain call just yet.

"It’s brought me from low places, I've been to high places,” said Hill. “I consider these people as family. I love them dearly."

Sen. Smith says last year a bipartisan effort in Washington D.C. saved funding for the federal program. She hopes lawmakers do the same thing when they vote on the President's 2019 budget later this year.

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