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Jumbled gym

The City of San Antonio changed the enrollment-fee plan for a popular children's summer program last weekend after SA parents protested a steep fee hike up to $250, and changing the lowest reduced price this year from $5 to $20.

Using a sliding scale, the City combined the lowest two income brackets to make Kid Quest, an eight-week summer program of activities for children ages 6-12, affordable to more low-income families. For the lowest reduced-fee bracket, the price for the entire summer is $20 for the first child and $10 for each additional child, and $40 total for 3 or more children. The City also changed the requirements for qualifying for the reduced-fee plan. Originally they asked for W-2 forms to prove income, which parents who are paid in cash couldn't supply. Now they ask for utility bills with proof of address to verify income.

But the City hasn't budged on the top-tier price of $250 for the first child if the parents don't qualify or can't provide the paperwork for the reduced-fee plan. The Parks and Recreation Department, which runs Kid Quest, didn't respond to phone calls asking to provide details for the program's expenses.

"We must remember that Kid Quest belongs to San Antonio Families, all families, including those who live in less-affluent school districts," Paul Martinez, a member of Metro Alliance who fought the fee increase, said. "It is not an exclusive club that charges high fees to screen membership, and offers discounts impossible to get."

Kid Quest runs from June 16-August 8 from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and includes games, sports, arts, crafts, and an Enrichment Program in Art and Science. The children also are given a snack and hot lunch each day. Kid Quest has been active for four years and there are 60 schools running the program in their gymnasiums and community centers.

The deadline to sign up was June 6, but the City extended the deadline to June 13 because registration was so low.

Last year Kid Quest ran at 100-percent capacity with about 6,000 children; this year the fee increase reduced that to roughly half. Although this past weekend there was a boost in sign up of about 677 children, the effect of the fee hike is still evident in the figures. The Northside and North East Districts programs are full, but in SAISD, where 97 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, some schools reported online one, four, or 10 students signed up out of 100 spots available.

"The poor children should not be burdened with the expenses," said Reverend Walter D'heedene of Communities Organized for Public Service and the Metro Alliance.

D'heedene called the fee hike an "immoral and outrageous act."

"If the city needs extra revenue, raise property taxes; do not balance the budget on the back of poor children and families," D'heedene said.

If the City is worried about saving pennies, critics argued, they should consider the price if these children are left on the streets and get involved in illegal activities. Reverend Brett Lortie, speaking for COPS and the Metro Alliance, said the price for keeping a minor in the juvenile system is $30,000 a year. If 20 of the hundreds of children no longer able to sign up for Kid Quest end up in the juvenile system, it would cost the city $600,000.

Posted by Patty Delgado on 6/11/2008
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