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Demand for high-quality after-school programs for Wayne County children and youth continues to increase, but thousands of kids countywide don’t have access to them.

That’s a real problem for our kids, parents and communities from Detroit to Dearborn, to Northville and Plymouth, to Trenton and Allen Park.

A recent analysis identified an annual $55 million funding shortfall in providing access to after-school programs to children across Wayne County. This puts our kids at a major disadvantage, considering after-school programs have proven to help keep kids safe, improve student performance and behavior, increase graduation rates, reduce dropout risk factors and prepare them for their futures. 

Workforce development, youth recreation and other after-school programs also contribute to a strong social, emotional and intellectual foundation and encourage physical activity, as well as help working parents keep their jobs and maintain a stable household. These programs happen before and after school, on weekends and over the summer, and are available in youth centers, schools, community spaces, libraries and parks.

As part of our long-standing commitment to the health and educational well-being of all children, United Way for Southeastern Michigan has identified Wayne County as an area of particular need for new and dedicated investment in proven after-school programs.

United Way is working with key Wayne County stakeholders, service providers, civic and faith leaders, and others to raise awareness of the need to increase access to after-school programs countywide. 

A proposal that may appear on the March 2020 ballot would give voters the opportunity to make a landmark investment in our kids and these programs. If passed, the "Wayne Kids Win!" proposal would increase access to after-school programs year-round for kids in Wayne County and provide stable, dedicated funding for after-school programs to help kids succeed.

The proposed rate of 1 mill would cost the average Wayne County homeowner an estimated $82 per year, or less than $7 per month — an investment that could potentially have a lasting impact on students and our community.

Accountability and transparency will be paramount if voters decide to make this investment in our kids. That’s why all millage dollars will be reported on a public website and go through an independent financial audit. In addition, an independent oversight board will evaluate programs receiving the funds for their effectiveness.

At United Way, we’re working diligently with our partners to change children’s lives both inside and outside the classroom. By increasing access to high-quality after-school programs, we can help provide all Wayne County kids with a solid foundation for success. 

I encourage everyone to learn more about the need for high-quality after-school programs in our communities by visiting unitedwaysem.org/afterschool

Tonya Adair is chief impact officer of United Way for Southeastern Michigan. 

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