SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A newspaper investigation has found that thousands of South Dakota children are left unsupervised after school due to the lack of state funding for out-of-school activities.

The Argus Leader reports that South Dakota hasn't prioritized funding for after-school and out-of-school programs in four decades. Less funding has resulted in fewer care options for parents and long waitlists for existing programs.

A recent study by Augustana University and nonprofit Sioux Falls Thrive has found that more than 1 in 4 South Dakota children are unsupervised after school. The finding means South Dakota has the highest statewide average of unsupervised children in the U.S.

John Hegg was a school counselor in the Sioux Falls School District for 28 years. Hegg says after-school programs can improve students' social skills and mental health.

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