Canton Repository

May 14, 2003

Schwarzenegger supports funding for after-school programs

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Being a Republican has not stopped Arnold Schwarzenegger from disagreeing with President Bush on after-school programs.

Testifying before Congress on Tuesday, the self-described action hero said it is a mistake to cut federal funding for the programs, as Bush has proposed.

“We can invest in our children now or we can pay a much higher price later on,” he told an appropriations subcommittee hearing chaired by Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township.

As honorary chairman of the Afterschool Alliance, an advocacy organization, Schwarzenegger has pushed for more funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Program. Funded at $1 billion this year, the federal effort supports programs in more than 6,000 public schools around the nation. Bush proposed cutting it to $600 million next year after a study found weaknesses in the program.

Regula, who has pledged to seek additional money for after-school programs, invited Schwarzenegger to testify after meeting with him several weeks ago. Schwarzenegger is frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in California in 2006.

As a child growing up in Austria, Schwarzenegger said he benefited from a mother and father who nurtured him and provided a foundation of self-confidence. When the former bodybuilder immigrated to the United States in 1968, he said, “I believed I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.”

But in the 1990s, as he served as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, he discovered that many children growing up in the United States lacked dreams or aspirations.

Schwarzenegger said after-school programs are a vital alternative for millions of youths who are left unsupervised after school. The hours from 3 to 6 p.m. are a “danger zone” when youths are most likely to become victims of violence, get involved in crime or become pregnant, he said.

Although he considers himself fiscally conservative, Schwarzenegger said federal funds spent on after-school programs are a good investment because studies have shown they prevent crime and reduce dropout rates.

The Bush administration proposed cutting federal aid to the programs after the Department of Education released a study that found the programs had little influence on academic performance and no influence on feelings of safety.

Agreeing with some of the findings in the study, Schwarzenegger said they point up the need to improve the programs, not cut them.

Recent college graduate Alfred Vines, who was raised by a single mother, told the panel that after-school programs were “pivotal in shaping the person I have become.”

His mother and grandmother were able to concentrate on supporting the family because Vines was in a program where “I had the opportunity to be around people who had an interest in my future and who encouraged me to be the best I could,” he said to applause.

The subcommittee also heard from W. Ashley Griffith, a native of North Canton, who urged the panel to support the Teach for America program.

“We have an impact on children much more profound than we could have dreamed,” said Griffith, who spent two years teaching in an inner-city school in Houston after graduating from William and Mary College.

During a breakfast in Washington today, the Afterschool Alliance planned to present yearly awards to several individuals and organizations, including the Stark Community Foundation in Ohio.

Judy Samelson, executive director of the alliance, said the foundation “has taken a leadership role in ensuring that children in Stark County have a safe, educational place to go after the school bell rings.”