TBO.com: Tampa Bay Online.
Sunday, Apr 23, 2017

The Boys and Girls Clubs payoff

A study that found Florida Boys and Girls Clubs participants do better academically and have lower juvenile detention rates than their peers will not surprise local residents involved with the clubs.

They see how the clubs provide youngsters a sanctuary where they learn life skills and discipline, in addition to having fun.

The independent economic analysis by Florida TaxWatch compared Boys and Girls Club participants with a demographically similar peer group.

Taxwatch reports the club students “achieved higher median FCAT Reading scores, and only 2.96 percent were referred to the juvenile justice system, compared to 7.49 percent of their peers. Participants are 14 percent more likely to be promoted than their peers.”

TaxWatch points out such accomplishments save taxpayers money, given that grade retention costs taxpayers “$9,000 per student, juvenile processing costs approximately $5,000 per youth and incarceration can cost up to $46,305 for an average eight-month stay.”

So there is a strong return on investing in the clubs.

Fortunately, Hillsborough has a long history of supporting the clubs. The Boys and Girls Club of Tampa commemorated its 85th anniversary last year.

Through the years, the clubs, which once stressed sports, have evolved. Now, after-school programs include tutoring, computer classes, art lessons and many other programs aimed at developing kids’ academic and social skills. There also is no shortage of sports and fun activities.

The clubs serve youth from 6 to 18 and are available in 61 Florida counties.

Hillsborough is fortunate to have 17 facilities that serve more than 10,000 kids.

The TaxWatch report found that since 1997 more than 2.5 million children have participated in Florida’s Boys and Girls Clubs, which have received roughly $41 million in state funds. This year the Legislature appropriated $9 million for the clubs, the largest allocation yet.

But as the TaxWatch study shows, this wise investment is not simply throwing money at good intentions. It is helping steer at-risk youngsters to productive lives.