Deadline approaches for millions in state grants for out-of-school programs
As New Mexico students continue to lag behind nationally, lawmakers in the last session not only extended instructional time, but allocated $20 million to expand learning opportunities outside the classroom. This is the last week for local education agencies and their partner organizations to apply for the funds.
The Public Education Department is accepting applications from school districts and charter schools in this first round of grants. Each must partner with a community-based organization.
Director of Policy and Communications with the New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network Jeff McConaughy said it's often the nonprofits that actually provide the programming.
“It’s a big ask for teachers to come up with content for and manage an after-school program, or like all day during the summer,” he said.
A recent surveyshowed demand significantly outpaced the capacity of after-school programs in New Mexico even before the pandemic, with three out of four students waiting to get into one. McConaughy said the issue is most acute in rural and tribal areas — but the new grants could change that.
“This allows for schools to maybe look for some smaller organizations in their area and/or look at some kind of remote option,” he said.
The grant application states PED will prioritize applicants that meet the needs of traditionally underserved students, including students of color and those who are learning English, have disabilities, are experiencing housing insecurity or come from families with low incomes.
McConaughy said the after-school and summer programs can build off of what students learn in class and introduce new subjects — from robotics to dance. He said they also provide kids a safe place to go with supervision from a caring adult.
“That can make just a world of difference in their lives,” he said. “Emotionally, psychologically [and] intellectually.”
He said the state grants will also provide relief for programs that started or expanded using federal pandemic aid that’s set to expire next fall.
Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Monday, May 8.