Politics & Government

Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts begins work on after-school programs

Roberts mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts has started working on one of her biggest campaign promises: to try to create a “clearinghouse” organization to evaluate after-school programs.

The “Mayor’s Summit on Out of School Time” is planned for March 14.

The city plays only a marginal role in public schools, which are funded by the state and county. But during the fall mayoral campaign, she said she would work to strengthen public schools, and the out-of-school organization was the most concrete proposal.

She told skeptical City Council members at a retreat in January that her plans wouldn’t need taxpayer money, and that she would raise money from the private sector.

Roberts has said a number of concerned parents have asked her about improving after-school programs. She has said her program would give parents a place to see different options for activities and programs, and could even rank them by quality.

There already is a program that does much the same thing, a Charlotte nonprofit, Child Care Resources Inc., founded in 1982.

Child Care Resources acts as a clearinghouse program that’s similar to what Roberts envisions. It has a list of all licensed child-care programs in Mecklenburg, as well as licensed-exempt programs that accept government subsidies for low-income families.

It has a database of 483 total programs. Parents can call the organization to find a program that would best suit their needs.

Child Care Resources focuses on programs for children under 12. Gregg Watkins, a spokesman for the mayor, said Roberts wants her program to evaluate out-of-school time for students over 12.

“She is especially concerned about kids in middle school because that is the age where gangs start to become an issue,” he said.

Child Care Resources does not evaluate programs for middle and high-school aged students. Most of those programs would be licensed-exempt activities, such as karate classes or Boy Scouts.

Child Care Resources used to include such programs but no longer does.

“We certainly have had a conversation with (Roberts),” said Janet Singerman, president of Child Care Resources. “We welcomed that conversation.”

As Roberts moves forward, one question will be whether it makes sense to start a new program or to partner with Child Care Resources to expand what it already does.

Singerman said her group plans to attend the meeting.

The city spends about $1 million a year to help fund a handful of nonprofits that run after-school programs.

Time Warner Cable has agreed to help sponsor the March 14 meeting.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

Mayor’s Summit on after school

March 14, 8 a.m. to noon

Friendship Missionary Baptist Chuch, 3400 Beatties Ford Road

RSVP to: twcmayorsummit.com