Lincoln Introduces Legislation to Improve Rural After-School Programs

Lincoln Introduces Legislation to Improve Rural After-School Programs

Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) today introduced legislation that will enhance after-school programs in rural communities across the United States. Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

“After-school programs play a critical role in the lives of Arkansas’s children, families and communities. Unfortunately, many children in Arkansas and other rural areas across the country face a number of barriers to quality after-school programs: high poverty and food insecurity rates, transportation challenges due to geographic isolation, a shortage of financial resources and private partners, and difficulty recruiting and retaining staff. With this legislation, high-quality, affordable rural after-school programs will be available to more children who desperately need them,” said Lincoln.

According to experts, after-school programs improve student grades and behavior in school, enhance peer relations and emotional adjustment, and lower incidences of drug-use, violence, and pregnancy.

Lincoln’s legislation—the “Investment in After-School Programs Act”—establishes or improves rural after-school programs through grant funding. Programs that successfully apply and meet requirements will receive a grant of $25,000 or more to make investments in projects or activities such as transportation, professional development, training, planning or increased access to technology, which are needed to create or strengthen rural after-school programs.

“As a former president of the Bryant Boys and Girls Club board and member of the Governor’s Task Force on After-School and Summer Programs, I have seen firsthand the importance after-school activities can play in a child’s life,” said Arkansas State Senator Shane Broadway of Bryant.  “By making a greater investment in after-school programs and providing them with the resources they need to overcome barriers to service, the more children in rural Arkansas we can reach and the greater impact we can have on them and their families.”

“After-school programs are vital in the overall strategy of improving test scores in Arkansas,” said Arkansas State Senator Jimmy Jeffress, Chair of the Arkansas State Senate Committee on Education. “Such settings provide tutoring, mentoring, and other instructional services for children who do not have the type of home life where these things are normally available. They add enrichment, broaden learning opportunities, and reinforce learning from the classroom for untold numbers of children who need these activities in their daily lives.”

Lincoln said she has heard from many Arkansas parents about the difficulties they face finding after-school care for their children, particularly for older children and teens. Older youth are most at risk for teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol experimentation, juvenile crime, and auto accidents.

“Senator Lincoln’s proposed legislation will help keep Arkansas children safe during times when youthful risk-taking behaviors are most likely to occur—after school. With a structured, positive learning environment during out-of-school times, students can improve their academic performance during school. This is especially important in rural Arkansas, where resources are limited and where working parents often travel long distances to work. More than 233,000 children live in the rural areas of Arkansas and many would benefit from this legislation,” said Rich Huddleston, Executive Director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Lincoln’s legislation has been endorsed by the National Afterschool Alliance, Save the Children, the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition, and the American Association of School Administrators.