State awards grants for after-school programs

Updated 12/3/2014 6:59 PM

The Illinois State Board of Education recently approved grants supporting before- and after-school enrichment programs serving nearly 70,000 students annually.

Among the 87 grant recipients for 2015 are: Elgin Area School District U-46, East Aurora School District 131, West Aurora School District 129, and West Chicago Elementary School District 33, who collectively will receive $2.7 million of the $33 million in federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grants.

The money will fund programs at schools and organizations statewide, such as a $90,000 grant to Nicasa Behavioral Health Services for intervention programs at a Round Lake school, and $540,000 to the Illinois Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs for programs in Dundee Township.

"Before- and after-school programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Center grants provide students a wide assortment of activities, services and resources that reinforce and complement what they're learning in the classroom and help families connect with their children's education," state education Superintendent Christopher Koch said in a news release. "This experience is valuable for low-income students who are especially vulnerable to outside forces that impede learning, such as hunger and unstable housing conditions. Such programs often make all the difference in a child's life."

The state received 142 grant proposals requesting more than $53 million. The $33 million awarded will be spread among 300 schools and organizations based on need, adequacy of resources, plan for sustainability and cost effectiveness.

Some districts will receive funding for the first time to set up new programs.

The grant program funds a variety of services offered to students and their parents/caregivers to promote social-emotional development and cultural enrichment, including drug and violence prevention lessons and counseling; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs; art, music and recreation classes; plus technology education and character education. The program also sponsors family events and provides literacy and related educational services for parents and caregivers to better engage families in school activities.

The purpose of the 21st CCLC grant program -- a key component of No Child Left Behind -- is to serve schools where low-income students make up at least 40 percent of the population or schools eligible for Title I schoolwide programs. Title I provides financial aid to schools with high numbers of students from low-income families to ensure students meet state academic standards.

The 2015 grant awardees can have their funding renewed for four years, depending on sufficient appropriation for the program and satisfactory progress.

Individual schools/sites can receive anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000. Applicants may request funds for as many eligible schools as they have the capacity to serve. The total award for any one application over a five-year period is $2.7 million.

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