Legislators Object to Pending Cuts in Afterschool Programs

HAZLETON – Some SHINE (Schools and Homes in Education) and Schuylkill ACHIEVE programs in Schuylkill, Carbon, and Luzerne counties will be shuttered in June after being denied funding by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Both programs introduce students in grades K-8 to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) concepts. 

Sen. Dave Argall (R-29), Rep. Dane Watro (R-116), Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-122), and Rep. Jamie Barton (R-124) announced their strong support for the continued funding of these programs today at a bipartisan press conference at Maple Manor Elementary School in Hazleton.

Staff representing Congressman Dan Meuser (R-9), Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-7), State Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20), and State Sen. Rosemary Brown (R-40) were also in attendance, as well as school district administrators and representatives from afterschool centers in Carbon, Schuylkill, Luzerne, Wayne, and Pike counties.

“There is no possible reason for the Department of Education to shut these programs down,” said Argall. “SHINE and ACHIEVE are exactly the sort of efforts we should be encouraging and expanding, not killing. The ripple effects on our communities from the closing of these centers cannot be ignored. Closing these centers will not just harm the students, it will hurt their parent’s efforts to stay on the job.”

Not one SHINE or ACHIEVE program that applied for the 2024-2029 Cohort 12 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grant was awarded funding. Instead, according to the Department of Education data, additional centers in Philadelphia and other larger communities received additional funding.

“The 21st Century Grant has allowed the Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29 to run the ACHIEVE afterschool program for over 20 years. The monies from this grant provided access to a safe, innovative, STEM related after-school and summer programming for roughly 978 students per year in eight of the Schuylkill County School Districts. IU29 was disappointed by the lack of rural equity in the 21st Century Cohort 12 Grant Award, which allocated only 11.48% of the $27 million dollars in after-school grant funding to rural entities. The denial of this grant award will result in 763 Schuylkill County students losing after-school and summer programming causing a negative impact to their academic performance, social development, and overall well-being,” said Shannon Brennan, Acting Executive Director of IU29.

The centers run their programs Monday through Thursday. A typical day for a student includes approximately 25 minutes of homework assistance, a hot meal, and 1.5-2 hours of work on a STEAM-based project.

Students are referred into both programs by their teachers and/or guidance counselors. Both programs have proven records of helping students improve their attendance and academic performance. It’s anticipated that thousands of students throughout northeast Pennsylvania will lose afterschool programming because of this funding cut.

“This is a catastrophic loss for these students and their families, who have come to rely on these excellent programs that provide a safe, supervised space for kids, give them help with homework, teach skills through fun STEAM projects, provides a nutritious hot meal, and also builds self-esteem and an excitement for learning,” said Carol A. Nicholas, Executive Director, SHINE of Luzerne County. “We cannot abandon these kids and their families after providing a strong program they have relied on.”

The afterschool centers at the following 24 schools are expected to be closed by the loss of this funding, unless the Department of Education reverses course:

Tamaqua Elementary, Shenandoah Elementary, Mahanoy Area Elementary, Panther Valley Elementary, Palmerton Elementary, Weatherly Elementary, Carbon Career and Technical School, State Street Elementary in Wyoming Valley West, Lee Park Elementary Center in Hanover Area, David Kistler Elementary School in Wilkes Barre Area, Nanticoke Elementary, Pittston Elementary, Middle School Career Center, Pottsville Middle & Elementary, North Schuylkill Elementary, Williams Valley Elementary, Minersville Elementary, Pine Grove Elementary, Schuylkill Haven Elementary, Tri-Valley Elementary, Lakeside Elementary in Wayne Highlands, South Elementary in Wallenpaupack and Dingmans-Delaware Elementary in Delaware Valley.

“I’m disappointed the Department of Education redirected funds from afterschool programs back by proven data of their efficacy. Instead, these funds were allocated to programs that lack educational value to children,” said Heffley. “Moving forward, I hope the governor and the Department of Education will reconsider their decision.”

“I join Sen. Argall and my House colleagues in pledging to do all we can to restore funding for this important program, so our local schools have the support they need to continue the critical assistance being provided to hundreds of families in Luzerne and Schuylkill counties,” said Watro.

The 21st CCLC grant program provides federal funding to establish community learning centers that provide academic, artistic, and cultural enrichment opportunities for students and their families. It is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.


CONTACT: Jim Brugger

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