As a mom with three kids, and having been a single mom at one point who relied on 4th “R,” nobody understands better than I do how important after-school care is to families. It’s hard to imagine anyone who has ever met me believing I would cut programs for youth without a replacement, but these are no ordinary times.
Those who know my record and my commitment to serve youth and support families in our city and read Thursday’s article in The Sacramento Bee (“City Council could retreat from after-school care in 2017”) may have been surprised reading its opening sentence. The article included a couple of quotes from me that along with that opening sentence are completely devoid of context and where I stand on these important city programs, prompting a social media misinformation campaign about me claiming that I support the outright elimination of 4th “R” and START.
Allow me to set the record straight:
- The programs 4th “R” and START are having budget challenges as a result of increased labor costs and flat revenues. The programs have a combined shortfall of over $2 million. If we do not address this funding gap, we are just one bad budget year away from leaving parents high and dry with little to no notice, and I do not ever want to do that.
- My priority is for working families to have reliable child care before and after school. No program operating at a deficit is reliable.
- My position is that we need to either work with our funding partners to fully and permanently fund these programs, or we need to step aside to allow a non-profit organization to provide same or better quality of service. Those funding partners are the State of California and the County of Sacramento, both of whom have shortchanged us in different ways on this issue over the years.
I have published a video and transcript of my comments so that the context is clear and voters understand my position on this important issue. Here are a few excerpts:
I think we need to have a larger conversation about START and 4th “R” because what I notice is a lot of times here people talk about 4th “R” and START as if they are the only after-school programs that exist on these campuses, and what they really need to undrstand is some of what you explained today . . . we’re actually applying in some instances to be a provider, which means if we pulled out, others would be the provider. At least as long as I’ve been here, there have not instances where we left families high and dry.
. . . the bulk of the 4th “Rs,” a big chunk of them, are in my district — but that relationship with Natomas Unified has worked better, quite frankly, than with some of the other school districts, because I’ve seen over the last few years other school districts come to us and ask us to continue to provide service without paying us, and I just don’t think we can do that. I think if that’s the model for after-school programs, then we have to get out of that business, because how do we in good conscience continue to pay for something that the school district and/or the County is supposed to be reimbursing us for? It’s frustrating enough that the State hasn’t upped the ratio since inception and so we’ve had to fill that gap.
I just think we need to have a broader dialogue so that people don’t think that we’re abandoning after-school programs and childcare, but rather that we’re trying to figure out if this is something that makes sense for the City of Sacramento to be in business in doing this. I particularly think it does not make sense when [sites are located] outside of the city and we’re subsidizing programs [at those sites], and the last number I heard was [$]800,000, that we were subsidizing to the tune of [$]800,000, or that the County at least owed us $800,000 annually that they hadn’t been paying us in terms of subsidy for the START programs happening operating outside the city limits. I would think taxpayers would be outraged by that. . .
We have to make better decisions on these things. Of course we all want after-school programs. We all want to make sure there’s childcare. Nobody wants to leave any family, in the county [sites] or out of the county [sites], high and dry. We’re not pulling out of anything mid-year — we’re not going to do anything like that — of course, we would never do that. But we also can’t be in a business that we shouldn’t be in if it’s costing us in other areas. . .
I think we just need to have a really careful conversation about it and make sure that . . . people are fully informed on if we don’t do 4th “R” at a school, what are the other options? Because I know everybody up here is going to say “I don’t want my school to not have an after-school program,” but often that’s not the case — we have pulled out of 4th “R” in the past in other schools, and just another program has come in, whether that’s Target Excellence or ACES or whatever it is, but there are programs all over Sacramento. . .
I would also like to quote Parks & Recreation Director Chris Conlin who stated in his presentation:
START was designed from its inception to be grant funded. . . at one time by federal, as well as state, as well as local funding. . .
The schools that have absolute discretion to do requests for proposals from providers — we were one of the people that submitted a bid. Our bid showed true costs of what it takes to be able to run a START program at the school, and based upon that, the school districts made their own decision that they could bring in providers for a lower amount. . .
We had 31 school schools that were in START last year. There was a request for proposals that came out of Sacramento Unified. We responded to that with our bids at real cost, what it actually costs us to run the programs there, and Sacramento Unified selected other providers at seven of their schools that we have previously provided START. . .
…and City Manager John Shirey responded to Mayor Kevin Johnson’s question about what it would take for the City of Sacramento to stop providing services at schools outside of city limits:
. . . the respective school districts would need to find other providers for those programs outside our city. . . Sacramento Unified just had an RFP process where in that RFP process they advertised for other providers and they got them. These are non-profits that just frankly have a lower cost structure than we do. . . when we proposed for those eight sites, we weren’t competitive — our cost structure was much higher. . . The school districts need to find other providers for at least those sites that are outside the city, and they’re moving even beyond that because our cost structure is so high.
- We must continue to fully fund 4th R/START, and must make sure that partner agencies like the county and school districts pay their share of the program costs.
- After school programs, at all age levels, are critical to the success of other policies to keep our kids safe.
- The city must partner with the State and School Districts to share funding responsibilities and make these programs consistently available and affordable to all families, and advocate against the history of insufficient funding.
- The state government has not increased their share of funding these programs and initiatives, putting additional pressure on middle-class families and local cities, an issue that our next mayor must face head on.
And on Page 43:
After School Programs (4th R and START): We must continue to fully fund 4th R/START programs and work with our partners at the state and school district levels to share funding responsibilities and make sure that the programs are affordable for all families. The state government has not increased their share, putting additional pressure on middle class families and local cities, an issue that our next mayor must face head on.