Additional funding urged for after-school programs


About 1,000 Baltimore parents, pupils and teachers gathered last night to celebrate the achievements of pupils in a grass-roots after-school program and to send a message to the candidates in the gubernatorial campaign.

During the gathering at the Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State University, pupils from nine elementary and middle schools demonstrated foreign languages and other skills they learned in the Child First Authority after-school program. Child First was founded in 1996 by Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, a community-based organization.

Group leaders want Mayor Martin O'Malley to earmark more money from the city's budget surplus for after-school programs. They also say the gubernatorial candidates - including O'Malley - have ignored them.

"This is an election year," said Omari Todd, a spokesman for the event. "Every candidate for governor is talking about what's happening in the schools in Baltimore City. No one is talking to the parents. At best it's impolite ... this is a night to say we count."

Sheila Joseph, a parent and the assistant program coordinator at Curtis Bay Elementary's Child First program said: "Politicians are either ignoring us or they are talking about us. They say parents in Baltimore City schools don't care. We do care. Look around - we are 1,000 strong tonight."

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