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Budget woes put Burbank parents in a daze

City is considering restructuring or dropping an after-school program for low-income children.

December 08, 2012|By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com
  • Kids play two square and four square at McKinley Elementary School in Burbank during the After School Daze city run after-school program. The $60,000 program could be cut or restructured next fiscal year.
Kids play two square and four square at McKinley Elementary… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

When Andrea Bird was laid off from her retail job last year, the single mom could no longer afford after-school activities for her son and pulled him out of karate and soccer.

While hunting for a job and trying to fight foreclosure on her home, she has relied heavily on After School Daze, a city-run drop-in program at Providencia and William McKinley elementary schools that caters to low-income children.

But looming budget cuts have left the free program — which costs the city of Burbank $62,689 a year in staffing and serves more than 300 children — in jeopardy.

“It's just not an affordable model, no matter how you look at it,” said Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Judie Wilke.

A task force created last year after the program barely survived another round of budget cuts is evaluating whether to restructure the program or scrap it altogether.

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Made up of city staff, school district officials and community members, the task force has discussed contracting out the supervisor jobs, teaming up with the Boys & Girls Club, or charging parents for the service.

But parents are rallying to maintain the status quo.

Bird joined more than 300 elementary school parents and students last week in signing a petition imploring the City Council to keep the program as is.

“[After School Daze] here is a huge financial relief,” Bird said one rainy afternoon while picking up her 9-year-old from Providencia.

Plus, she said, she knows her son is safe and socializing.

The program's seven other sites — which run parents $120 a month — will likely not be cut, Wilke said.

While some McKinley and Providencia parents have told Wilke they'd be willing to pay, many of them just can't.

In 2010, roughly half of the children at Providencia and McKinley qualified for the federal free- or reduced-cost lunch program, according Ed-Data, which compiles K-12 education data in California.

“I wouldn't know what to do,” said Veronica Cortez, who has a 9-year-old fourth-grader at McKinley and often works late.

Without the program, her daughter would have to walk home alone, let herself in and spend a few hours a day unsupervised, Cortez added.

Alternatives are either too in-demand or costly, parents said.

The Boys & Girls Club's After-School Education and Safety Program, which only costs $50 a year, has a waiting list and isn't offered at McKinley.

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