The Miami Herald is reporting that as many as 4,500 students in Miami-Dade may not be returning to state-subsidized after-school programs due to state and federal budget cuts.

The Herald reports:

This year, Miami-Dade County lost more than $13 million in funding for its before- and after-school care programs. As a result, 7- and 8-year-old children are no longer eligible for some state-subsidized programs.

Six-year-olds may also be forced out, said Evelio Torres, president and CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

“A lot of these children will end up staying home alone or with an older sibling or neighbor,” Torres said. “This is a tremendous problem for our community.”

In Miami-Dade and Monroe, families who are affected were notified by the Early Learning Coalition. They can apply to other after-school programs funded by the The Children’s Trust or the school district. But many of those programs also have less money this year.

“The options are becoming more and more diminished,” said Modesto Abety, CEO and president of The Children’s Trust.

Abety said after-school programs help young children perform better in school and keep them from falling victim to drugs and violence.

“This is a safety issue,” he said. “This is a life and death issue.”

Florida’s Department of Health is currently trying to recoup federal funds that would have gone to some of the state’s early learning programs — specifically, home visiting grants. The state Legislature rejected millions of dollars in federal funds because the state is currently in litigation against the law that allocated the grants to Florida.

However, the state Legislature did accept funds from the law for abstinence education programs.

There are also fears that because the state did not accept the awarded money from the federal government, Florida might also be in jeopardy of losing millions more from the federal government for early learning in Florida through the Race to the Top program.

According to the Herald, Miami-Dade School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla asked the board earlier this month “to convene a group of child advocacy experts to find money for the after-school programs.”

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