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A+ poised to increase its monthly fee by $25

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Parents will have to pay up to $25 more a month per child for the popular A+ after-school program under a fee change set to go before the Board of Education tomorrow.

It would be the first fee increase for the program since 1996, when the state began charging parents for A+.

BOE MEETING

The Board of Education will take up a proposal to increase A+ after-school program fees at its general meeting tomorrow on Kauai. The meeting, at Kapaa High School, starts at 3:30 p.m.
For more information, call the BOE offices at 586-3332

A+ FAST FACTS

» Current monthly fee (one child): $55
» Proposed monthly fee (one child): $80
» Kids participating: 22,500
» Schools with programs: 188
Source: Department of Education

The Department of Education is proposing to make the fees effective in January.

Garrett Toguchi, board chairman, said the fee increase might not seem like a lot, but will still be tough for families already struggling in the economic downturn.

"I would hope that we wouldn’t have to do it," he said. "But it looks like we may have to do something."

Some 22,500 public school children statewide are in A+, a program created in 1989 to decrease the number of latchkey kids.

The proposal would raise the monthly cost of the program to $80 per child from $55. A second child from the same family would be $75 a month, and a third and any others would be $70.

Under the current fee scale, parents with two children in the program pay $50 per child, and those with three or more pay $45 per child.

The Department of Education says the fee increase is necessary to keep the program afloat after lawmakers cut $2.1 million in general funds to A+ last legislative session.

Corey Rosenlee, whose 7-year-old attends A+, said he and his wife will be able to afford the increase. But others will not, he added.

"What worries me is parents who have young kids that can’t afford it," said Rosenlee, a member of Save Our Schools and a teacher at Campbell High School. "Who does it impact the most? It impacts the parents who are working, who can’t afford an increase especially in this recession."

Still, DOE officials point out that A+, even with the increased fees, will be far less expensive than other after-school programs.

A+ was free for all kids until 1996, when the state instituted a monthly fee of $55.

Only low-income families get the service free today, thanks to a $6.3 million annual subsidy from the Department of Human Services.

Those families will continue to get free after-school care under the new fee scale.

DOE officials have said the actual per-child cost of the program was always about $80 a month, but state contributions kept the price for families down.

The DOE believes that with the fee increase, the A+ program will not need any additional state funding.

But the department plans to reassess the program in the spring to see whether additional fee increases will be needed then.

Most of the funds for the program already come from parents. In fiscal year 2008-09 the A+ program cost about $16.3 million. Of that, $7.8 million came from parents, and the rest was from DHS or general funds..

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