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A+ fees increasing yet again

The changes will raise the monthly cost to $85 and eliminate multichild discounts

By Mary Vorsino

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 05:28 a.m. HST, Jun 24, 2011



The monthly fee for the popular A+ after-school program will go up to $85 on July 1, the second increase in five months, and parents will no longer get a discount for having multiple children enrolled.

The changes, which will result in parents paying another $5 or more per month for a child in the program, are aimed at making A+ self-sustaining for the first time since its creation in 1989.

Parents and advocacy groups said the fee increases will be tough for families already struggling in the economic downturn, and come on top of other rising costs for school bus transportation and meals.

"We can probably shoulder the increase," said Hugh Jones, whose 8-year-old daughter attends A+ at Aikahi Elementary in Kailua. "But I think in today's economic situation it will affect many parents, certainly."

The fee hikes will not affect children from low-income households. Students who receive free or reduced-cost lunch attend the program at no cost to their families thanks to a $6.3 million annual grant from the Department of Human Services.

A+ AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM

» Serves more than 22,500 students in kindergarten through sixth grade

» Began in 1989

» State and private providers operate the program at public schools.

» Child-to-staff ratio is about 20-to-1.

 

Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said at a recent Board of Education meeting that the $85 fee will keep the program alive as the department is being asked to make deep budget cuts.

The program had an $838,000 deficit in the school year that just ended.

Some 22,000 public school children in kindergarten through sixth grade participate in A+. Enrollment slipped by about 5 percent after the fee increase in February, which was the first for the program since 1996.

Parents now pay $80 a month for a first child in the program, $75 for a second and $70 for additional children. Before the February increase, parents paid $55 for a first child, $45 for a second and $40 for additional children.

Valerie Sonoda, president of the Hawaii State PTSA, said the higher fees will mean "sacrifices" for families.

But, she added, A+ is still less expensive than other after-school programs, which can cost more than $100 a month. "It's still a really good bargain," she said.

The DOE has said it's unclear whether enrollment in A+ will decline again because of the new fee increase and the elimination of the sliding scale. If participation does drop, some aides who administer the program at schools could lose their jobs, the DOE said.

The fee increase comes as parents are paying more for school meals and rides.

In March the price of a school lunch went up by 15 cents, to $2.35. The cost for meals had previously risen in 2010, when the price of a school lunch jumped to $2.20 from $1.25.

Also last year, school bus fares rose to 75 cents each way, from 35 cents.

Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, said A+ is the reason about 39 percent of Hawaii students are in after-school programs, compared with the national average of 25 percent.

Grant said, like Hawaii, many states are increasing fees for after-school programs or eliminating the programs altogether.






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