Austin City Budget Restores $1 Million for Youth Programs
This week, the Austin City Council approved a $3.3 billion budget of for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in October.
As part of the deal, they increased funding for youth programs by over $1 million. That includes an increase in the Austin School District afterschool program, Prime Time, which was started by Austin Interfaith in the 1990s.
The program provides a variety of classes for students to extend the learning day and provide a safe place for students after school. The goal of Prime Time was to allow individual schools to craft after-school programs in a way that fits the needs of a particular school.
In 2011, funding was cut and then restored at 70 percent. During that school year, it served 26 schools. Last year, it funded 21 schools with $450,764. Travis Heights Elementary was one of the schools that lost funding for the program. It tried to continue Prime Time by instituting a $10 fee for every nine classes, but many of the parents still couldn't afford the cost. Over 75 percent of students at that school are low income.
The proposed budget was going to further cut the program. Instead, with the help of Austin Interfaith and other community leaders, funding was increased to $800,000 for the current academic year. That means there's funding to reinstate programs, add programs at larger schools or reinstate Prime Time summer programs. In order to receive the money, schools must apply for a grant with the Austin school district.
Kim-Marie O’Driscoll is with Austin Interfaith, the program that worked with the city council to restore the funding. She says Prime Time provides classes that continue to teach students what they learn in class.
"To sit there and be in this hour long class led by a librarian is working with kids on literacy skills. Math-tathalon you’re integrating your math, critical thinking skills. There’s cooking classes where there's measurements they integrate to support children’s learning," she says.
The city council also increased funding for bilingual outreach and children's librarians at Austin Public Libraries, youth programs at underserved parks and pools, and training for teenage employees during the summer.