DALLAS — There are 100,000 kids in Dallas County with no supervised care right after school, and statistics show juvenile crime triples after 3 p.m.
That's why Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said Wednesday he wants to expand after-school care citywide to help parents.
Funding is an issue — especially with President Obama now looking to cut money from after-school programs.
Seventeen neighborhoods throughout Dallas currently host DISD after-school programs. Hinojosa wants to at least double that, and go citywide.
Despite fighting a tough economy, he says funding after-school programs is top priority. "We've had some tough times in the past, but it was never on the table to cut," he said.
Hinojosa is seeking federal and foundation dollars to bridge the gap, but getting that money is getting harder.
Tanya McDonald, with the Dallas After School Network, is just back from Washington DC. She met with lawmakers about President Obama's proposal to re-direct funding away from after-school groups.
"What is under discussion in Washington is taking the school care to 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m., and that's not feasible for most working parents," McDonald said. "It complicates things for the after-school field, because it is difficult to hire people to only work two hours a day."
McDonald says after-school programs aren't about math worksheets, but enrichment programs that make a difference. She said, however, that banking on federal dollars for the project is a risky proposition.
"The federal funds to begin with are just a drop in the bucket, they won't provide enough programs in our community to meet the need," McDonald said.
Nancy Webb works with Big Thought, a group hired by DISD to increase after-school programs.
In 2008, Big Thought had programs in 20 schools. This fall, that number will rise to 31.
But reaching Hinojosa's goal of a citywide system could take years. "I think we could probably go to scale in the next five or six years if we all really work hard together," Webb said.
By that, she means bringing together groups from the North Texas Food Bank to the YMCA.
If multiple groups pitch in for progress, Big Thought really believes more after-school programs will come to fruition — with or without those federal dollars.
Although some North Texas districts, like the Arlington ISD, are still working on budgets, it seems not all after-school programs are in jeopardy.
Fort Worth ISD says no programs will be cut at this time.
The Denton Extended School Day program has been operating for about eight years. The district is adding two new schools next year and says both will offer the after-school care.