Recreational cannabis in California has yet to pay off for after school programs that so desperately need additional funding. California’s After School Education & Safety Program (ASES) has yet to receive cannabis tax funding for its various programs, according to Los Angeles Daily News. These programs are essential, as they provide local youth with safe and better educational alternatives during non-school hours, which is carried out through funding to public schools and school districts.
When Proposition 64 was approved by voters in November 2016, the official ballot text specified that part of the tax dollars from Prop. 64 would go toward funding these public after school programs. “[Prop. 64] provides billions for afterschool programs, job training, drug treatment, and cracking down on impaired driving,” according to the bill text.
Many of the state’s after school programs are facing deficits and have been counting on cannabis tax money to alleviate some of the setbacks they are facing. A Los Angeles-based program, LA’s BEST is one program that is counting on cannabis tax money coming through. A representative from LA’s BEST, Laura Beebe, shared more about this struggle with Los Angeles Daily News. “We’ve really been fighting for survival.” The Los Angeles enrichment program carried a deficit of $1 million last year, and the program serves 25,000 elementary students across the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Cannabis sales taxes for the state were projected to reach more than $1 billion in the first year. However, the actual amount of legal cannabis sales, and therefore taxes, in California over the past 19 months have paled in comparison. ASES is still waiting to receive funding from cannabis taxes.
It came as a surprise to many this past May when Gov. Gavin Newsom decided to dedicate $80.5 million this year to finance childcare vouchers for low income families. Additionally, $130.5 million in vouchers are expected to be available each year to follow. His administration explained that this gives low income families a more flexible option for childcare in comparison to directly funding ASES.
While ASES is not critical of these vouchers, there does seem to be a type of “bait and switch” in this explanation by Gov. Newsom’s office, especially considering ASES has been counting on this additional funding. Polls showed that “after school programs” were consistently favored by voters more than “subsidized childcare.”