Iowa City School Board changes before- and after-school programs

BY DI STAFF | SEPTEMBER 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Parents of Iowa City students seeking before- and after-school programs could face changes to requirements currently in place.

The Iowa City School Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to require all after-school programs to follow Child Care Assistance guidelines as a minimum standard.

Under the standard, students who attend before- and after-school programs could receive free services if they qualify.

Board member Patti Fields noted some differences about the childcare programs in the Iowa City School District.

“We are not treating all programs as a board in the same way,” she said. “We should treat them all with the same expectations.”

One example members used that are different than the Child Care Assistance guidelines were Coralville schools.

Coralville schools use the sliding scale method, which offers reduced prices for lunch for those who qualify.

Through the scale, more families will be able to benefit.

Three sliding-scale programs are currently in use at Wickham Elementary, Borlaug Elementary, and Van Allen Elementary.

Prior to discussion, Fields said she wanted all programs to require the use of Child Care Assistance as a means of funding families who otherwise cannot afford before- and after-school programs.

“[I hope for] our most vulnerable families to have childcare available wherever they live,” Fields said. “It’s important for equity of access for the programs in our buildings.”

Currently, opportunities for Iowa City families to receive benefits for their students differ, depending on the school and program the child is enrolled in.

If the program is part of Child Care Assistance, some families who meet the requirements pay zero dollars to enroll. If the program is based on a sliding scale, families that qualify for free lunch programs still must pay 25 percent of the fee.

Fields said the problem with the current system is that it is not equal, allowing only some families to benefit.

With the recent vote, programs would not be limited to Child Care Assistance standards but would have to use it as a minimum guideline in assisting families by the 2015-16 school year.

Benefits of Child Care Assistance include free assistance to those who qualify.

Despite the decision, officials said Coralville’s standards are acceptable; however, they want to keep equity within their district.

“I’m hoping by our setting a policy, that wouldn’t end partnerships [with Coralville],” Fields said.

By Grace Pateras

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