SOURCE: New Jersey After 3

New Jersey After 3

April 19, 2010 11:30 ET

Pay Now or Pay Later? New Jersey Communities Face Agonizing Decisions With School Budgets

Studies Show Short Term Cuts to Afterschool Have Long Term Costs

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ--(Marketwire - April 19, 2010) -  As communities throughout the state prepare to cast their votes on school budgets tomorrow, New Jersey voters will have to consider the significant impact some budget reductions will have down the road. With much of the public discussion of late focused on pay freezes, layoffs and employee health care contributions, little notice has been paid to the unintended consequences of cuts to cost-effective programs that save communities billions of dollars each year by keeping kids in school and empowering working parents to retain full-time jobs.

With state municipal and district aid significantly reduced across the state, the justifications for each line item in district budgets have become more critical than ever before. Cuts to school-based afterschool programs -- and the staffing, security, custodial, transportation and facility infrastructure that they rely upon -- are often among the first line items to go as school board administrators make difficult budgeting choices. Although these short-term choices sound reasonable to those who envision these programs as the "day-care programs" of the 1970s and early 1980s, the emergence of high-quality, evidence-based programs in the last decade have demonstrated that they offer so much more. High quality afterschool programs not only support low-income and middleclass family success in the workplace, but they are powerful levers for improving student performance -- helping students to graduate on time and be better prepared for the 21st century workforce.

Although New Jersey already boasts one of the best high-school graduation rates in the nation, the achievement gaps across socio-economic barriers makes it clear that we still have much work to do to provide all children with the skills and experiences they will need to succeed in college and in life. As a state that prides itself on having a great public school system, it's important to take a closer look at other states who are demonstrating that they understand the vital role that afterschool programs play in the overall success of students, schools and families nationwide. One clear example that New Jersey can learn from follows the first round of the much-hyped US Department of Education's Race to the Top (RTTT) grant competition -- where only two states, Delaware and Tennessee, were awarded grants of $100 million and $400 million, respectively. Each of these states included afterschool programs in their statewide strategies to keep all students engaged and on a pathway to college. The Garden State is preparing to submit its RTTT application, and may want to consider expanding its unique nonprofit, public/private partnership, New Jersey After 3, as an evidence-based model that can help bring in $400 million in desperately needed Federal support to New Jersey's students, schools and communities.

There is strong data to support that evidence-based afterschool programs like New Jersey After 3 offer an effective strategy to help combat the complex problem of high school dropouts. As a cost-effective way to expand learning time in schools, high-quality afterschool programs have also shown that they provide long-term financial benefits that far outweigh their short term costs to taxpayers. As state legislators and local school district leaders make difficult decisions regarding their respective budgets, it is vital that they understand the following costs of high-school dropouts:

  • Nearly 19,600 students did not graduate from New Jersey's high schools in 2009; the lost lifetime earnings in New Jersey for that class of dropouts alone totals nearly $5.1 billion.
  • New Jersey would save more than $258.6 million in health care costs over the course of the lifetimes of each class of dropouts had they earned their diplomas.
  • New Jersey households would have over $1.8 billion more in accumulated wealth if all heads of households had graduated from high school.
  • If New Jersey's high schools graduated all students ready for college, the state would save almost $95.6 million a year in community college remediation costs and lost earnings.
  • New Jersey's economy would see a combination of savings and revenue of about $189 million in reduced crime spending and increased earnings each year if the male high school graduation rate increased by just 5 percent.

As legislators, municipalities, school districts and families make difficult financial decisions, and as voters cast their votes in the next 24 hours in their local communities, each should be mindful of what the toll will be tomorrow for the decisions made today.

*About New Jersey After 3
Since 2004, New Jersey After 3, as an independent nonprofit organization, has expand learning time by 44% each school day across 114 public schools, serving approximately12,000 children and their families in urban, suburban and rural communities throughout New Jersey. 

Contact Information

    Shannon Boehmer
    New Jersey After 3
    Email Contact