POLITICS
10/31/2013 02:04 pm ET | Updated Oct 31, 2013

Arnold Schwarzenegger Fights Cuts To After-School Programs

AP

WASHINGTON -- The Terminator is worried that after-school programs could be cut for students across the country.

"I'm here to protect after-school programs," former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said during a Wednesday press conference on Capitol Hill. "There has been an attempt to take this funding ... and they thought no one would notice."

Schwarzenegger was joined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) for the press conference. The three expressed concern over waivers that allow schools to redirect 21st Century Community Learning Centers funds, which are supposed to finance after-school programming. Schools could instead use that money to lengthen the school day or year.

According to Jodi Grant, executive director of advocacy group Afterschool Alliance, 24 states have requested the waivers from the Obama administration. But advocates want the funds to keep being used to enhance the school day, not to modify it. Some schools have already started to shift funding away from after-school programs to extend their school days or years, Grant said, but it's unclear how many schools are doing so.

Schwarzenegger is no stranger to after-school advocacy. In 1992, he founded After-School All-Stars. The program serves about 92,000 children in 15 cities across the U.S., according a press release.

The threat of reduced funding for after-school programs comes at a time when sequestration is slashing federal education spending. Afterschool Alliance estimates that about 60,000 students could lose their slots in after-school programs because of this year's 5.2 percent, across-the-board sequester cuts.

Schwarzenegger spent Wednesday visiting with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, pressing them to redouble federal support for after-school programs. He also visited an After-School All-Stars site near the Capitol.

Gina Warner, executive director of the National Afterschool Association, said that after-school programs benefit parents as much as children. "This is a necessary support for working families," Warner said.

At the press conference and elsewhere, Schwarzenegger emphasized the demand for after-school programs.

"We're barely scratching the surface of meeting the need and demand for after-school programming," Schwarzenegger wrote Tuesday in a Politico opinion piece, citing an Afterschool Alliance study that found that 18 million kids would enroll in after-school programs if they were available. Today, 8.4 million children participate in after-school programs, Schwarzenegger wrote.

Schwarzenegger visited the After-School All-Stars program at Stuart-Hobson Middle School near the Capitol Wednesday, where about about 100 students were bowling, face-painting, and ring tossing at a carnival.

The governor engaged the crowd and encouraged them to dream big -- though his "I'll be back" reference appeared to be lost on the middle school crowd.

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