By Shelby Perea, Albuquerque Journal, October 24th, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — About 70,840 children are enrolled in after-school programs in the state and 90,659 are waiting for a place.

May Sagbakken, executive director of New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network, presented those numbers as education leaders and advocates gathered Tuesday morning to discuss how to make programs accessible for those 90,659 kids, sharing ideas and talking about the need in the state.

During a roundtable at Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town, Sagbakken said after-school programs are ways to keep kids safe and learning outside of the classroom.

Her presentation cited a report that showed the “prime time for juvenile crime and victimization” is between 2 and 6 p.m., when kids are out of school and caretakers are typically at work. Sagbakken also noted that after-school programs are a good way to get meals to needy kids outside of classroom hours.

The speakers at the roundtable, which had more than a dozen participants, talked about the positive ripple effects of after-school programs, such as the chance to focus on students’ unique interests. The speakers also talked about the necessary components to make programs happen, including funding and transportation.

Sagbakken said, while there are grants, and city and county dollars available, there isn’t any state funding dedicated to after-school at this time.

“In the state right now, we don’t have any specific funding for after-school from the state department or Legislature,” she said.

That hasn’t always been the case, she said, explaining that there used to be about $1.6 million for After School and Summer Enrichment. But that changed when lawmakers put more money into Extended Learning Time programs, which require a lengthened school year and after-school or extracurricular program opportunities.

Sagbakken is hoping to get dedicated after-school funding again.

Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, who was part of the roundtable, told the Journal that there are plans to go before lawmakers with a funding request as a result of the community input.

“One recurring theme … (at the discussion) was access – affordability and accessibility – especially in rural communities of New Mexico,” he said. “We know that, currently, we have 90,000 children who would benefit from after-school programs and because of that, there will be a push during this legislative session to increase funding to partner with communities and schools and programs across New Mexico.”

In terms of a price tag he’ll put before lawmakers, Morales said a good starting point is $2 million, saying there was proposed legislation from the past session that requested that amount for after-school programming, but didn’t pass.

He said more discussions on after-school are planned.