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State superintendent denounces Trump cuts during tour of LAUSD after-school program

Sarah Favot | August 18, 2017

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson with RFK students.


Taking on President Donald Trump and his proposal to cut funding for after-school programs, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson denounced the cuts Thursday in Los Angeles and encouraged students to write letters to their representatives in Congress describing how these programs have benefited them.

Torlakson spoke to students and district leaders, including LA Unified school board members George McKenna and Nick Melvoin, at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, a campus of six pilot schools, at the site of the former Ambassador Hotel in Koreatown. EduCare Foundation runs the after-school programs at RFK and 15 other schools through Beyond the Bell in LA Unified.

As part of his 2018 budget proposal, Trump has slashed $1.2 billion in funding for after-school and summer programs through 21st Century Community Learning Center funds. It is part of an overall $9 billion cut to the federal Education Department budget. Trump’s proposal seeks to increase funding for charter schools and federal vouchers to send children to private and religious schools.

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Trump’s proposal would result in a $21 million cut to after-school programs in LA Unified, or 20 percent of its total funding. Torlakson said that would affect 50,000 kids in LA Unified who participate in after-school programs.

“We’re also in a struggle right now because the president wants to cut these programs,” Torlakson said. “It makes no sense. It’s totally nonsensical, and it’s totally wrong.

“We want to make sure Congress understands these programs are vitally important, safe places for students to go to expand your talents and your interests and thrive,” he added.

District data show that 104,559 students district-wide participate in Beyond the Bell programs held before and after school.

Students who participated in after-school programs at RFK told Torlakson about the services they’ve received, like help with college applications, SAT prep, a place to do homework, and the opportunity to take dual-enrollment courses through LA City College. Some students said they’ve participated in after-school programs throughout their education because their parents work.

Carlos Marroquin said he appreciated the suppers that are provided during the after-school programming.

“Sometimes I feel like I wouldn’t eat at home,” he said, saying his parents are sometimes too busy to go grocery shopping.

Art students at RFK.

Torlakson then toured several of the after-school programs, which were just kicking off in the new school year, including weight-lifting, art, and a classroom where students were learning English.

“I’m here to say we’re with you in what you’re doing day in and day out,” Torlakson told staff, noting that as a cross-country and track coach for many years, he knew the importance of after-school activities.

*UPDATE This story has been updated to include Nick Melvoin’s attendance.

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