Potential after-school program cuts could have big impact on rural schools

A federally funded after-school grant program is on the chopping block in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, leading officials in a rural Marquette County school district to worry that educational gains will be reversed if it is eliminated.

The Montello School District runs an after-school program called “GP3,” completely funded by the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

Sixty students attend free of charge and the program is open to all students, regardless of need, officials said.

After the school day ends, the GP3 program gives students a snack, additional classes, homework help, and the opportunity to participate in school enrichment activities and field trips.

Montello district administrator Lynn Brown said Tuesday it fills a critical need.

“We are a high-poverty school and community,” Brown said.

The Trump administration has proposed axing 21st Century CCLC program, calling it ineffective.

Michelle Boquist, the district’s after-school program coordinator, disagrees. She said it has allowed the district to make strides toward closing the achievement gap between poor and better-off students.

“Seventy percent of our students that have made…gains that we’ve set out for them to make their grade level,” Boquist said, compared to a goal of 60 percent. “Hands down, this program is a success.”

Boquist said rural districts like Montello lack the resources an urban school district might have that would make up for the program’s elimination, like private after-school programs, private tutoring centers or major corporate sponsors that could step up to fund a program.

“We really are entirely dependent on the federal grant,” Boquist said.

Brown said if the federal government were to cut the 21st Century CCLC program, it would mean the end of Montello’s GP3 program, potentially reversing achievement gains that have been made.

“That would be devastating,” Brown said.

Boquist said the district gets $100,000 per year in federal funds to pay for the program. She said Montello is in the second year of a five-year grant.

Other districts throughout south-central Wisconsin, both urban and rural, participate in the 21st Century CCLC program, including the Adams-Friendship, Beloit, Brodhead, Delavan-Darien, Janesville, Madison, Necedah, Reedsburg, Waupun and Wonewoc-Union Center school districts. Other local entities participating in the program include the Madison-based Goodman Community Center and the Portage Boys & Girls Club.

Click here to download a list of current 21st Century CCLC program grantees throughout Wisconsin from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s website.

The DPI’s website also includes more information about the program.