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Expiring grants could mean loss of after-school programs for thousands of Illinois kids

After-school programs for Illinois kids are in jeopardy with grant expiring
After-school programs for Illinois kids are in jeopardy with grant expiring 02:13

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A critical resource for Chicago families is now at risk, as tens of thousands of Illinois students could lose their after-school care.

About 300 programs could close when federal grants distributed by the Illinois State Board of Education expire next month. That includes after-school programs such as the ones Stephanie Garcia oversees at James Shields Elementary School in the Brighton Park neighborhood and seven other schools.

"We service 1,500 youth in the Brighton Park neighborhood," said Garcia, director of community schools for the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council. "There is a major threat for our community. We are facing program cuts for up to half of our programs."

The state Board of Education admitted to miscalculating funds for after-school programs on which many parents like Julia Ordonez rely.

"This will be a big impact, because she will lose the time to be able to expand her mind beyond what she already gets inside of school," Ordonez said of the consequences for her daughter.

Susan Stanton is an advocate for after-school programs. She is the executive director of ACT Now Illinois – a coalition for ensuring access to after-school and youth development programs - and she is calling on state lawmakers for $50 million.

"We can't just think of these as programs that are great to have if there's funding available," Stanton said, "but they absolutely are essential."

Stanton estimates about 40,000 kids statewide will be impacted in predominantly underserved communities.

"We can't just pull these programs out," said Stanton. "Youth need these opportunities to become their full self."

Illinois state Sen. Ram Villavalam (D-Chicago) has introduced legislation that would find the impacted programs.

"These programs are essential," Villavalam said, "and we need to ensure that we're doing everything we can to fully fund them, and make sure that our youth have these opportunities."

The Illinois State Board of Education said $10 million in grant money will be available for after-school programs next year. But Stanton said that would only fund about a quarter of the programs.

"Programs that don't have this funding can't stay open," said Stanton.

In a statement, the Illinois State Board of Education said they requested $26 million in state funds for after-school programs – which is a $1 million increase from the 2024 fiscal year.

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