- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Education officials and advocates of after-school programs say there’s a rising demand for such programs in Oklahoma, but that many families can’t afford them.

Most children who aren’t able to access an after-school program live in low-income communities, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/2qXUgbH ) reported. Some believe the growing demand for after-school programs is linked to the growing rate of children living in poverty.

“Where, on average, middle-income families spend roughly $7,000 per child on enrichment opportunities, lower-income families spend about $1,000 a year,” said Megan Stanek, network director for the Oklahoma Partnership for Expanded Learning.

A report released last year by nonprofit Afterschool Alliance says more than 230,000 children in Oklahoma would participate in an after-school program if one was available. After-school programs can provide children extra study help, dinner, shelter and supervision until their parents get off of work.

Programs can also help address the academic achievement gap between students of high-income and low-income households.

“What high-quality out-of-school (programs) provide is another landscape for the children to learn in a nontraditional setting,” Stanek said. “What the research has shown is that those high-quality programs have. … closed the gap, especially with math scores.”

Stanek said her organization is trying to provide more after-school programs by helping prospective programs find federal funding or available space.

“One of the things we are trying to do is create a kind of tool kit to help programs get started,” Stanek said.

About 11 percent of Oklahoma children are involved in after-school programs, which is nearly double the rate from 2004, according to the Afterschool Alliance.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant provides federal funding for more than 13,000 Oklahoma children, which is one of the lowest rates in the nation.

The Southern Education Foundation says about 61 percent of schoolchildren in Oklahoma are eligible for free or reduced lunch, the fourth-highest rate in the country.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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