As the board of trustees for New Jersey After 3 hammers out details with the government about its role in creating statewide after-school programming, CEO Mark Valli is turning what had been a bleak situation into an opportunity to innovate.
“We have a lot of details to work out,” Valli said. “Now there’s an opportunity not just to rescue New Jersey After 3 … there’s a broader picture here to utilize federal dollars to create innovative expanded learning time opportunities in ways that have never been done before. This has huge national implications if we’re successful here, and I think we will be.”
The Chris Christie administration announced Monday that New Jersey After 3 would be integrated into the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver application through implementation of extended learning time programs.
Valli said the organization is working with its core private donors to raise bridge funding until the federal funding is approved. He said the organization once had a budget of $17 million annually, allowing it to work with 17,000 students, but as the organization is sustained without doing any programming in the immediate future, the operating budget currently is less than $1 million.
But its efforts haven’t been without support. “Ralph Izzo once told me PSEG‘s support for New Jersey After 3 is enlightened self-interest for two reasons,” Valli said of the utility’s chairman and CEO. PSEG, Izzo told Valli, will be looking to hire the program’s eighth-graders in four or five years, and current employees can take advantage of the after-school support for their own children.
Valli said the waiver process helps make federal funds more readily available, but up until now, there had not been a statewide coordination of using those funds in extended learning time programs. “Having a statewide entity to help coordinate those funds in some sort of logical fashion is what we really need,” he said.