Why Kids and Parents Need and Support Afterschool Programs
Kevin Lindsey (Former Staff)Education
Today, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is speaking at the National Afterschool Summit, hosted by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute, After-School All-Stars, and the Afterschool Alliance, about the importance of afterschool programs for all children and the need for Congress to maintain and increase dedicated funding for afterschool programs through the bipartisan 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative. Leaders from education, afterschool, government, business, and nonprofits from across the country join him there in calling for a renewed focus on afterschool programs and the academic, developmental, and social-emotional benefits they have for children.
In addition to the support of a famous former body builder, actor, and governor, afterschool programs have widespread public support across the country. A majority of parents – 70 percent – across the political spectrum believe afterschool programs keep kids safe and are a lifeline for working parents, and nearly 90 percent of parents with a child in an afterschool program are satisfied with the program overall.
When one considers the wealth of data on the positive outcomes of afterschool programs this support from famous politicians and the public is unsurprising. Studies show that afterschool programs increase school attendance, improve grades, narrow the academic achievement gap, and contribute to social and emotional wellbeing. State-level evaluations of afterschool programs, including those funded through 21st CCLC, confirm this. Studies in: Texas found that 21st CCLC-funded afterschool programs increased grade promotion and improvements in test scores, in Washington of 21st CCLC-funded afterschool programs found improvements in reading and math grades, and a positive impact on GPA, in California found increased English and math test scores, and in Wisconsin of found 21st CCLC-funded programs improved motivation to learn and improved behavior in class.
And afterschool programs are constantly improving. Schools, districts, and states are focused on constant improvement to produce even better results, and are deliberate in their approach to providing a safe, productive place for children to go after school.
Yet the number of children who remain unsupervised after school remains high; 11.3 million children, about 1 in 5, are without supervision between 3 and 6 p.m. And about 19.4 million children not currently enrolled in an afterschool program would join one if it were available to them. With 10.2 million children enrolled in afterschool programs (the highest recorded number of children participating), for every one child enrolled in an afterschool program, approximately two would like to be enrolled but are not.
It is clear that afterschool programs are important and effective for parents and children. Parents know their child is safe after school while they’re still at work, and children experience improved academic and social-emotional outcomes. And with tremendous unmet need, it is clear that 21st CCLC should remain a dedicated funding stream for afterschool programs.
Want to learn more? First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. Learn more about our work on education.