TRENTON — A popular after school program for children of working families known as New Jersey After 3, which had planned to shutter due to a loss of state funding, will continue its work through a new partnership with the state Department of Education, Gov. Chris Christie announced today.
The partnership, forged in the program’s eleventh hour, will help New Jersey After 3 remain operational and help the state apply for a waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind law. The application requires proof of a state’s commitment to extending students’ learning time, the program’s hallmark.
“New Jersey After 3 is a good and worthwhile program that benefits children and working families,” Christie said in a statement.
The federal No Child Left Behind law requires students nationwide to demonstrate proficiency in math and reading by 2014. States seeking to waive that requirement must apply by deadlines in November or January and prove that they are making progress toward that goal.
Since its inception in 2004, NJ After 3 has extended the school day by 40 percent for some 75,000 students in 29 school districts across the state, offering tutoring, fitness activities, arts programs and other services for the families it served.
The non-profit has always operated using a combination of state and private dollars, but saw it’s state funding decreased in recent years. Four months ago, Christie erased the group’s $3 million in state funds for fiscal year 2012 using a line-item veto. The governor similarly cut funding for Wynona’s House, a treatment center for child abuse victims, only to subsequently restore it.
“Funding decisions in challenging times like these are very difficult,” Christie said. “I wanted my administration to find whatever ways we could to work with New Jersey After 3, to leverage public-private cooperation and find innovative approaches to refine their program and ultimately make it possible to provide more school children with quality extended learning time programs.”
Christie’s announcement about NJ After 3’s future comes days after Democrats in the legislature protested the program’s demise. Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Middlesex) said last week that NJ After 3 exemplified the benefits of a public-private partnership by leveraging taxpayer dollars to secure corporate support.
“It is beyond unfortunate that the children of working-class families have to be the latest casualty in the Governor’s budget all so he can stand with millionaires to preserve their tax breaks,” Stender said last week.
NJ After 3 President and CEO Mark Valli said in a statement last week that the group had explored “virtually every option” before announcing it’s shut-down. In a statement released today, Douglas Kennedy, chairman of the group’s board, called the partnership “an innovative and educational approach.”
“We will tap our own public-private expertise and partner with the Department of Education to design and develop an extended learning program that fits with and complements the state’s federal No Child Left Behind waiver application,” Kennedy said.
Though NJ After 3 already offers academic enrichment for students enrolled in it’s after school programs, the quality and quantity of school work may need to increase to meet the requirements of the waiver application.