DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) – Project Success of Vermilion County is worried a State Board of Education budgeting error could have bigger impacts than they initially thought. Last week, program staff announced it will have to leave six campuses by the fall: Judith Giacoma Elementary, Pine Crest Elementary, Mary Miller Junior High School, Oakwood Grade School, Oakwood Junior High and Oakwood High School.
In an emailed statement, Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Press Secretary Emily Johnson said there is no available federal funding to offer a new competition for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers cohort of grants that funds Project Success at those schools, or any renewals. That means program leaders, and the families who rely on them, are on their own.
“I don’t know what I’d do without the Project Success program, I really don’t,” Brenda English said.
What may sound like a few small victories are the reasons Brenda English’s granddaughter is a Pine Crest Elementary success story.
“She makes straight As now because they have the tutoring program,” English said.
Plus, she says Project Success has boosted her granddaughter’s confidence and given her a safe place to be after school and during the summer.
“To shut this down – it’s going to have a drastic effect on our children,” English said.
It’s a reality she’s now bracing for, and Associate Director Kimberly David hopes to avoid.
“With the Covid learning loss, so many students are trying to catch back up and schools are limited on their resources, especially with the teacher shortage,” Kimberly David said. “We’re just an extra hand in those schools and they’re going to lose that.”
ISBE said it allowed that cohort of grantees to carry over unspent balance from the previous year’s grant into the next fiscal year due to the pandemic and didn’t adequately forecast the impact of that decision. When the dust settles, ISBE says the over-commitment of funds could result in a shortfall of up to $15 million.
“I am concerned just because [of] the uncertainty,” David said. “And with that extra $15 million deficit, I don’t know how it’s going to affect us next year. We don’t know.”
While ISBE says grantees were given sustainability plans for continuing programming once grants conclude, David says there are no other sources large enough to fill the gap.
“In low-income areas, there’s no way we can raise $840,000 a year just to sustain these six programs, let alone all of our other programs,” David said.
Now, all Project Success of Vermilion County programs are looking toward an uncertain future.
“I can’t imagine not having the program. For not only me, because I raise grandchildren, for all the other people who have far more,” English said.
Families like English’s may have to work new tutoring and childcare options into their budgets, and staff members may lose wages.
“That’s also going to be their income that helps them stay in these small districts. So we’re just losing support everywhere,” David said.
Project Success leaders have been in talks with state lawmakers about ways they can help them continue operating, and David says while they’ve had support, time will tell whether they’ll find replacement funding before the current grant runs out.
Read ISBE’s full statement below.
ISBE awarded 21st Century Community Learning Centers grantees in FY 2019 at $9.7 million per year for five years. The five-year grant cycle for this cohort concludes this year in FY 2023. There is not federal funding available to offer renewals or to offer a new grant competition for FY 2024. Renewals are not guaranteed, and every grantee includes a sustainability plan in their application identifying the resources available to maintain and continue programming once the grant concludes. Given the availability of funding in past years for renewals, we understand that grantees expected the same opportunity in FY 2024. However, in recent years, ISBE allowed grantees to carry over the unspent balance from the previous year’s grant into the next fiscal year due to the pandemic and ran new grant competitions. ISBE did not adequately forecast the fiscal impact of these programmatic decisions, resulting in an overcommitment of funds and late notice to this FY 2019 cohort of grantees that there would not be sufficient funding for renewals or a new competition in FY 2024. We recognize the challenges that this untimely communication has caused and we are providing technical assistance, guidance, and support to grantees regarding sustainability outside of new 21st CCLC grant funding. ISBE projects that the overcommitment of funds could result in a shortfall of up to $15 million, depending on the final expenditures from Project Year 2023 grants. ISBE has reached out to the U.S. Department of Education about utilizing ARP ESSER state set aside funds to address the shortfall. This would allow ISBE to meet its obligations to grantees in FY 2024, but would still not make a renewal or new grant competition possible for FY 2024 for those grantees whose five-year grant cycle concludes in FY 2023. Renewals and new competitions are never guaranteed and are only offered in years when sufficient funds are available. (ISBE did not offer new 21st CCLC Grant competitions in about half of the last 10 years.) The 21st CCLC grants are designed to initiate new programming and are not intended to sustain programming long-term, which is why each grantee’s application includes a sustainability plan explaining how the grantee will continue programming after the grant concludes. We are committed to better forecasting and to better and more timely communication with grantees to keep this situation from occurring in the future. Other state and federal funds available to support afterschool programming include:
After School Programs—$20 MillionEmily A.D. Johnson, ISBE Press Secretary
After School Matters—$4 Million
CURE After School Programs—$10 Million
CURE Phillip Jackson Freedom Schools—$17 Million
ARP Community Partnership Grant—$100 Million
ARP ESSER SEA Reserve—$50.5 Million
ARP Learning Loss 20% Requirement—$910 Million
Schools are required to reserve 20% of their ARP ESSER Award for activities related to learning loss, which includes after school programming.