July 16, 2018 | ° F

Additional funding rescues New Brunswick group

Last minute support from the New Jersey Department of Education saved a nonprofit after school program that was in danger of ending due to insufficient funds.

After announcing that it would close last week, officials of the New Jersey After 3 retracted their statement on Monday and said the organization will continue its operations.

“Due to last minute efforts to sustain New Jersey After 3 with the state, I am excited to say that New Jersey After 3 will not be shutting down,” said Mark Valli, president and CEO of the organization, which first opened in 2004.

The New Brunswick-based organization worked with public schools and other nonprofits to provide after school tutoring and research opportunities to students across New Jersey, Valli said. The group also provided training, technical assistance and monthly conferences with site directors.

Gov. Chris Christie originally cut the program from the state budget on Sunday, but made the unexpected announcement the following day that the organization could remain open.

“By partnering with the New Jersey Department of Education to develop extended learning programs as part of our No Child Left Behind waiver application, New Jersey After 3 will be able to enhance and expand learning opportunities for our school children,” said Christie in a press release.

With the waiver, more groups like New Jersey After 3 will be able to continually support children’s educational opportunities, said New Jersey Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf in the release.

“The No Child Left Behind waiver opportunity allows New Jersey to develop and implement more effective programs for our children attending those schools in desperate need of improvement,” Cerf said in the release.

The Department of Education will work closely with the organization to build on its existing program model to meet the objectives of the federal waiver application, according to the release.

“I look forward to working with New Jersey After 3 and other reform-minded members of the education community to implement our No Child Left Behind waiver application,” Cerf said in the release.

The governor’s office could not be reached by press time.

The financial collapse of 2008 resulted in several budget cuts for the organization, Valli said. Originally $15 million in 2009, the budget fell to $10 million in 2010 and $3 million in 2011. Without this funding, they would have been eliminated for the next year.

New Jersey After 3 operated almost entirely on a small amount of private funding this year, Valli said. He and other employees were concerned that with next to no state funding left, they had little choice but to pull the plug.

Valli said he was grateful to receive funding because two of the organization’s grants had been contingent upon state funds and were returned when the state originally pulled support. Also, fewer corporations were willing to support New Jersey After 3 due to fiscal troubles.

“We provided grants to non-profit partners that ran our model of after school programs — at our height, 45 non profit partners,” Valli said.

In light of the recent funding, he said at the organization’s prime, it served 15,000 kids in 115 schools, had $15 million in state funding and raised about 2 million in non-state funding.

He said New Jersey After 3 employees are presently looking forward to securing the nonprofit’s private funding so they can bridge the gap toward a renewed private-public partnership in the upcoming times.

“We’re looking forward to a working partnership with the state and Department of Education and any additional [sponsors] that wish to aid New Jersey After 3,” said Deborah Kerekgyarto, director of New Jersey After 3 Finance, Administration and Technology.

Douglas Kennedy, the organization’s chairman, said the collaboration is an innovative funding method and education approach that mutually benefits the program and the state.

“I am extremely pleased with and grateful for the outreach and cooperation from the Governor’s Office and Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf,” Kennedy said.

New Jersey expects to submit its No Child Left Behind waiver application to the Obama Administration in mid-November, according to the release.

“I wanted my administration to find whatever ways we could to work with New Jersey After 3 [and] to … ultimately make it possible to provide more school children with quality extended learning time programs,” Christie said in press release.

By Adam Lowe

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