WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Donald Trump's budget chief on Thursday (March 16) defended the proposed elimination of after-school programmes that support children particularly in high-poverty US districts, saying "there's no demonstrable evidence" that they improve student performance.
After-school programmes are "supposed to help kids who don't get fed at home, get fed so they do better in school", Mick Mulvaney, director of the federal Office of Management and Budget, told a White House press briefing.
"Guess what? There's no demonstrable evidence they're actually doing that. That they're helping kids do better in school."
Trump's 2018 budget outline would cut the 21st Century Community Learning Centres Program, which funds academic enrichment programming before and after school as well as in the summers.
Cutting the after-school scheme would also deprive low-income students, many of whom may not be fed enough at home, of the snacks supplied as part of a federally funded free-meal programme.
According to the Afterschool Alliance - a coalition of public, private and non-profit groups that works to expand after-school programme resources - the Trump cuts would "devastate working families".
The White House call to defund the programme is "a betrayal of the millions of students and parents who depend on after-school and summer learning programmes", the alliance said in a statement, noting that federal investment in after-school programmes supports more than one million children.
"It is painfully short-sighted and makes a mockery of the president's promise to make our country safer and to support inner cities and rural communities alike."
The Trump budget blueprint said eliminating funding for the programming would save US$1.2 billion (S$1.7 billion), saying that "the programmes lack strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement".
A 2008 Harvard University study found that after-school programmes not only improve academic achievement, but also decrease risks of violent behaviour and crime as well as drug and alcohol use among students.
Mulvaney also rebuffed concerns over proposed cuts to a programme that helps fund food aid to senior citizens in need, saying it is "just not showing any results".
The Meals on Wheels non-profit group says it serves more than 2.4 million seniors who "because of physical limitations or financial reasons, have difficulty shopping for or preparing meals for themselves".
A 2015 Brown University study found that those seniors who received home-delivered meals experienced fewer falls and hospitalisations.