State legislatures have been busy this year envisioning new ways to support their constituents and respond to large cultural, social, and financial shifts. Most state budgets were signed by early summer and they, along with other legislative initiatives, show how states are investing in youth through a variety of approaches.
Formalizing committees to understand the landscape of afterschool access and quality: One of the first steps for legislatures is understanding the scope of need for afterschool and summer programs in their state. Then, legislatures focus on creating on-going task forces, councils, and committees to ensure a thoughtful and systematic approach to meeting identified needs.
- Delaware (HB 92-1) created an Extended Learning Opportunities Subcommittee to coordinate, research and plan for before- and afterschool and summer learning programs for school-age children statewide. The law includes a set place for the Director of the Delaware Afterschool Network on the committee.
Increased funding and access: As states recognize how current investments are benefiting children and communities, many are seeing the advantages to making programs available to more youth and securing additional funding for programs, access, staff, and quality.
- Connecticut (HB 7427) increased the state’s afterschool program grants by an additional $1 million, bringing the total funding to $5.7 million.
- Massachusetts (H 4000) increased investments in afterschool funding by about $3 million additional dollars for more than $8 million in funding.
- Illinois (SB 262), provided almost a half-million dollar increase for the Teen Reach program in the state’s appropriations bill, now funded at $14.2 million.
- New York (S1503-D / A2003-D) increased funding for the Empire State Afterschool Program by $10 million, bringing the total funding for the program to $55 million.
Student Achievement: While it’s been quite a while since the passage of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the planning and implementation stages required investments of time and community input to get started. Now that the law is identifying schools for intervention and support, states are thinking about what it takes to keep students progressing on indicators of success such as attendance, behavior, and academic growth. Afterschool has a strong research base on supporting students in these areas and states are looking to afterschool as a partner in building school success.
- Oregon (HB 3427) established a Fund for Student Success in the state treasury which can be spent on a variety of methods to increase instructional time, including before- and afterschool and summer programs.
- Utah (SB 149) created a teacher and student success program and fund that districts can use to improve school performance or student academic achievement, including before and afterschool programs as allowable activities.
- Texas’ (HB1) general appropriations act creates a Student Success Initiative which provides grants to low-performing schools in struggling neighborhoods for comprehensive support programs that leverage academic, community, and governmental supports.
- New Mexico (HB 236) established the Attendance for Student Success Act requiring schools to have attendance policies which include the potential provision for additional educational opportunities for students struggling with attendance, and establishing partnerships with community organizations including recreational, social, and out-of-school programs.
- Maryland (SB 180) expanded eligibility for a robotics program to include community-based out-of-school time organizations and increased funding by $100,000, to a total level of $350,000.
School Funding: Last year’s teacher’s strikes were a visible symbol of the attention citizens and courts are asking states to pay to how they finance education—and to do so equitably. As states consider their school funding formulas, which help to make a student’s educational experience less dependent on the average income in the zip code in which they live, they often consider the full suite of what a quality education looks like. That full suite includes resources such as special education and English language supports, as well as equitable and adequate learning and enrichment supports, including afterschool and summer programming.
- New Mexico (HB 5) passed a comprehensive education bill that specifically created an Extended Learning Time Program which provides additional per-student funding if: a school chooses to meet a required 190 days per school year, provides afterschool program opportunities for academic learning or extra-curricular enrichment, and provides a minimum of 80 non-instructional professional development hours for staff. The law also includes a more general at-risk index provision of extra per-pupil funds for student supports that can be used on interventions such as “afterschool programs delivered by social workers, counselors, teachers or other professional staff,” and has additional funding that can be used for summer.
- Texas’ (HB3) school finance law creates a new incentive funding stream that can be used for additional instructional time, including a voluntary summer program for students within a district.
Improving Compensation: As programs move to retain quality staff in their states and states work to improve overall compensation, wages respond accordingly. Unfortunately, funding streams for social services that remain stagnant are then strained to meet the higher compensation and still serve the same numbers of youth. States are realizing how important it is to raise funds for programs like state funded afterschool so that they can continue to serve at least all the youth currently enrolled at the same, or improved, levels of quality.
- California (AB 74) specifically added an additional $50 million dollars, half of what state advocates were requesting, to the state funded After School Education and Safety program for the purpose of increasing the daily per-pupil rates and maximum grant amount.
- New York (S1503-D / A2003-D) added $10.7 million to the Advantage After School Program specifically to reflect rising wages for program staff due to the increased minimum wage approved in a previous state budget.
Social and Emotional Basis of Learning: There has been a good deal of attention to whole child learning and the science of learning and development. Research in youth development shows that learning happens best when student’s social and emotional needs are met. One example of this in the afterschool space is community schools, where students and families are surrounded with the physical, mental, social and emotional health supports throughout the day, in school, and beyond.
- New Mexico (HB 589) passed the state’s Community Schools Act which aims to coordinate resources in consideration of the whole child using a community school framework which includes components such as expanded and enriched learning time opportunities during out-of-school time which enhance academic, social, and life skill learning in alignment with the school’s curriculum. Community schools were funded at $2 million.
- New York (summary) increased funding for its community schools incremental by $50 million to $250 million in the appropriations bill, and considers community schools as hubs of co-located services including afterschool programs, as well as addition emphasis on mental health and trauma-informed support.
- Ohio (HB 166) created a Student Wellness and Success plan of $675 million, which can be used for student services provided prior to or after the school day or any time school is not in session. The bill also emphasizes working with community partners and includes funds for the economically disadvantaged that can be used for community learning centers which address barriers to learning.
- Maryland (SB 1030) codified the language of what a community school is through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The definition ensures community schools include community partners and wrap-around services of which a subset is extended learning time such as afterschool. The legislation also created a program that funds community school coordinators and ensures the presence of a full-time professional health care practitioner at schools with high concentrations of poverty (where the population of students receiving free and reduced lunches is above 80 percent).
Focus on Prevention
Although not new to the field, the protective factors of social relationships, autonomy, critical thinking and problem solving continue to make afterschool an attractive preventative measure. Today, as new social pressures around the legalization of marijuana, vaping, or the opioid crisis arise and add to ongoing struggles with alcohol, tobacco, or other substances that communities have been struggling with for generations, legislatures are thinking creatively about how to fund programs that positively engage students’ time and build their self-concept.
- Vermont (S7) creates a Director of Trauma Prevention and Resilience Development to coordinate across agency departments and the community with regard to childhood adversity, toxic stress, and the promotion of resilience building. This includes coordinated training for agency employees and making training opportunities available to “child care providers, afterschool program providers, educators, and health care providers.”
- Illinois (HB 1438) creates a Cannabis Regulation and Tax act with a Restore, Reinvest, and Renew component which will provide grants in economic development, violence prevention services, re-entry services, youth development and civil legal aid in part to address some of the past negative impacts of disinvestment and the overuse of criminal justice responses in communities. This component will receive 25 percent of the allocations of the cannabis fund above those used to the general implementation, operation, or legal fees of administration.
With great research continuing to come out on the importance of afterschool in social and emotional learning, protective factors, career pathways, the sensitivity of the adolescent brain, academic achievement, and return on investment, it will be interesting to see what the next legislative budget cycle may bring and how states will build on some of the great progress made this year to continue to reach the 19.4 million youth across the United States still awaiting access to quality programs.