Without N.J. funding, after-school program forced to close

A program that funded after-school activities for thousands of students in low-income families in New Jersey will be shutting down at the end of the month.

The New Jersey After 3 program is a casualty of funding cuts in the state budget. In tough economic times, Gov. Chris Christie said, such programs can be funded privately.

Without state money, however, the program is not sustainable, said Mark Valli, CEO of After 3.

“We had many loyal private investors but really the reason we got those grants and the size of those grants was the scale that was afforded to us through that public-private partnership,” Valli said. “The bottom line is our business model didn’t work without significant state investments.”

Valli said many of the students who’ve been getting after-school tutoring and other help will now be unsupervised at home. That, he said, puts them at risk of getting into trouble.

Sen. Ray Lesniak led an unsuccessful effort to restore state funding for the program. He said he is worried about the children displaced by the program’s end

“Many of them are going to go into juvenile delinquency because we found out that’s what happens,” he said. “Also some of them are going to be exposed to the criminal element in these areas of low income that these after-school programs protected not only the children but neighborhoods as well.”

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