Deadline approaches for millions in state grants for out-of-school programs

By: - May 2, 2023 4:05 am
Yajaira Lopez, a student at Portales Junior High School performs Baile Folkórico, a Mexican folk dance at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Jan. 18. 2023.

Yajaira Lopez, a student at Portales Junior High School performs Baile Folkórico, a Mexican folk dance at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Jan. 18. 2023. The program is supported by the local school district with funding to support students outside of school. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

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.

Folklórico dancers bring life to the rotunda while lawmakers mull over art and music in schools

“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 survey showed 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.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Nash Jones, KUNM News
Nash Jones, KUNM News

Nash Jones (they/them) grew up in Albuquerque and returned home in 2017 after 11 years away living in Portland, OR, and Oakland, CA. Storytelling and community education have consistently been at the core of Nash’s varied career and are, in part, what brought them to KUNM, first as a volunteer host with Spoken Word Hour and NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, then as a staff member in the KUNM newsroom, hosting Morning Edition (2018-2021) and reporting. Nash currently hosts NPR's All Things Considered and continues to report for KUNM.