F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
July 16, 2000
Kids Don't Need More Time at School



F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

If education planners have their way, you won't have to pick up your kids after school anymore: you can just leave them there round the clock!



"The movement to lengthen the school day with afterschool programs has support from both Democrats and Republicans," observes Darcy Olsen of the Cato Institute (cato.org). "President Clinton enthusiastically endorsed afterschool programs in his [last] State of the Union Address," she remarks. "The centerpiece of the administration's proposal," says Olsen, "is $1 billion to expand the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, currently funded at $400 million. Republican leaders," she adds, "have also embraced increased spending on afterschool programs."

Olsen rejects the claims of the afterschool program promoters, citing "a stunning body of evidence that families are perfectly adept at managing afterschool arrangements without state assistance." She reports that "most children are still greeted by their parents after school. Millions of other kids choose to participate in structured extracurricular activities with well-known private organizations like 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and YMCA. Still other children," Olsen points out, "visit with relatives, study, or participate in local community activities. Only 2 percent of children aged five through twelve regularly care for themselves after school," she claims, "and there is no evidence that this limited arrangement is harmful."

Olsen emphasizes that "the supply of afterschool programs far exceeds the demand for them." She says "research does not support the contention that keeping schools open longer or increasing funds for afterschool programs will boost academic achievement or reduce delinquency." Olsen warns that increased funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Center program is "only a small part of a plan to expand the role of public schools" so that they "provide afterschool care and at least four other social programs."

Olsen foresees no positive results from this purportedly parent-friendly proposal. "Legislators who support this program are making a down payment on a more expansive government-run school system," she charges, "a system that protects its territory at the expense of the education of millions of children." Olsen recommends instead that state legislators "adopt universal tuition tax credits that would give parents full latitude to select their children's schools, including independent schools, with or without afterschool programs." She also urges Congress to "cease federal spending on afterschool programs."

Extending tuition tax credits to homeschooling parents would be even more effective, boosting student achievement, revitalizing parental authority, strengthening the family, and dramatically reducing the incidence of juvenile delinquency. In a recent issue of School Reform News, a monthly publication of the Heartland Institute (heartland.org), Managing Editor George Clowes points out that homeschoolers "score significantly higher on standardized achievement tests than do their public school peers." The scores of homeschoolers "fall between the 75th and 85th percentile, compared to scores at the 65th to 75th percentile for students in private schools and scores at the 50th percentile for students in public schools. Self-identified homeschoolers beat the national average on both of the nation's major college-entrance exams," he notes, scoring 67 points higher on the SAT.


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