BEACON Program seeks help to reverse funding loss
by Rudy Herndon
Staff Writer
Aug 29, 2013 | 1675 views | 0 0 comments | 72 72 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The BEACON Afterschool Program begins its first day of activities at Helen M. Knight Elementary this week. Program administrators were forced to cut services to kindergartners and first graders due to federal budget sequestration. However, BEACON director Stephanie Dahlstrom said she’s hopeful those services can be restored with the community’s help. Photo by Rudy Herndon
The BEACON Afterschool Program begins its first day of activities at Helen M. Knight Elementary this week. Program administrators were forced to cut services to kindergartners and first graders due to federal budget sequestration. However, BEACON director Stephanie Dahlstrom said she’s hopeful those services can be restored with the community’s help. Photo by Rudy Herndon
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Congress couldn’t help the dozens of students who would normally be gearing up for the first week of Moab’s BEACON after-school activities at Helen M. Knight Elementary.

But program administrators are hoping that community members will fill the funding void that recently led to the elimination of services for kindergartners and first graders.

The BEACON Program lost about $20,000 in Title I money for the current year as a result of the federal budget sequestration, and it now plans to make up for that shortfall through additional fundraising activities.

Despite the significant hit to its budget, BEACON’s staffers are continuing to serve children in grades two through eight, as well students at Moab Charter School.

“The services we are still providing are the same high quality,” BEACON Program Director Stephanie Dahlstrom said Aug. 23.

As for the 100 or so kindergartners and first graders who will be affected by the cuts, Dahlstrom and others are searching for a short-term solution to address their needs.

“We’re trying to find ways to maybe serve the most academically needy out of that group,” she said. “We realize that at that age, it’s so important for those kids to be at grade level.”

In the long run, Dahlstrom is hopeful that the program can restore full services to students in the affected grade levels. But that can only happen, she said, if the program finds other revenue sources.

“That chunk of money needs to be replaced,” she said.

BEACON, which stands for Building Essential Assets through Community Outreach and Networking, got its start at Grand County Middle School during the 2005-2006 school year.

Since that time, it has expanded to the elementary and charter schools, and in an average year, the program serves more than 640 students.

According to its revamped website, www.moabbeacon.net, the program gives students the help they need in order to meet academic standards in the areas of language arts, math and science. It also offers them a safe, healthy and fun place to hang out after many of their peers have gone home for the day.

School district funding now accounts for less than 10 percent of the BEACON budget, so the program relies on a patchwork of federal and state grants – as well as donations and fundraising activities – to get through each year.

“We really try to find funding wherever we can,” Dahlstrom said.

BEACON is ultimately just one of many educational programs around the country that are feeling the effects of sequestration.

The warnings about looming budget cuts were dire, but distant.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said earlier this year that Title I funding would take a $725 million hit unless Congress reached a deal to avert the automatic spending cuts. Other proponents of public education placed that figure even higher, at around $740 million.

That deal never materialized, and Duncan estimated that cuts to Title I alone would affect 1.2 million economically disadvantaged students across the U.S.

The full extent of the cuts at the state level won’t be known until October, when the Utah Office of Education releases its latest figures.

Those who would like to help the BEACON Program should contact Dahlstrom at 435-259-2767. She can also be reached via email at dahlstroms@grandschools.org.

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