BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont educators and health leaders are applauding a proposal from Governor Phil Scott to make after-school programs available for all students in kindergarten through high school.
The $2.5 million dollar plan aims to give all Vermont students in grades K-12 after-school opportunities. Right now, about 21,000 Vermont kids attend some kind of after school program like band or art classes. Making it universal would double that.
Experts say it would give equal opportunities to all Vermont families, where many can't afford child care, or just don't have access.
"This would really open it up to youth who may live in rural communities who may feel alone and isolated with nothing else to do," said Barbara Russ, a board member with Vermont After-school.
Governor Scott's proposal is also aimed at improving the health of young people. Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, who is working on designing and rolling out the program, says the health benefits are multifaceted.
"Whether the health is in the use of substances, whether the health is the psychological status of our middle and high school or whether the health is the feeling of everyone being more connected as a society," Levine said.
He says vaping is skyrocketing among young people. Recent data shows about half of Vermont's kids will try vaping at least once. Additionally, experts say kids are more likely to engage in risky behavior between 3 and 6 p.m. if they don't have something to do.
"By providing them with after-school snacks, meals and programs will also help them address that issue in terms of helping them be healthier and make better decisions than they would if they were out and about," Russ said.
And by giving kids opportunities for after-school programs, the governor says parents will have more time to work or take classes.
If approved, the administration hopes to have the program rolled out in five years. They are looking to fund the effort with revenue generated from a regulated marijuana market if that measure passes this session.