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Settle C-SAFE funding now

July 09, 2004

The City of Hagerstown stepped up to the plate Tuesday and gave Carolyn Brooks' C-SAFE program $35,000 of the $70,000 it needs to run an after-school program for children who need academic help.

In approving the cash, the City Council said it would ask the Washington County government to provide a matching amount of money.

We endorse that request. But even as we do so, we must say that it's time for this program to have some more formal recognition in both governments' budgets. Executive director Brooks should not be reduced to begging for funds each year.

The program in question serves 20 to 25 fourth- and fifth-grade students chosen by their teachers because their grades are falling, or because there's no one at home to help them with homework.

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The program is held at Bester, Fountaindale, Winter Street and Eastern elementary schools, all of which have a high percentage of lower-income students.

At $8.90 per student per day, the needed funds would cover the cost of one primary teacher and two assistants at each school.

In addition to giving students a helping hand, academically speaking, it also gives them a safe place to be after school.

Is there a more cost-effective way of providing the same service, as Councilman Linn Hendershot suggested? Perhaps, but the time to explore that is during the next school year, if both governments agree to work together on the task.

What should not happen is a rerun of last year, when Brooks was uncertain of the status of program funding for months.

Last summer, we said that the question should be the one every nonprofit is asked when it applies for funding: Does the program make a difference, academically and otherwise, in students' lives?

A look at participating students' report cards and disciplinary reports should provide the answers. It's time to do that, and spare Brooks from the humiliation of begging for funds again next year.

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