Under-resourced kids depend on after-school and summer programs

Under-resourced kids depend on after-school and summer programs
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This time of year, many families are starting to think about what their kids will do once the school year ends. Summer enrichment camps and activities can be expensive with costs averaging $300 a week. Families who can't afford afterschool and summer care often have no choice but to leave children home alone or in the care of an older sibling.

The Urban Institute reports that one in five children ages 6 to 12 are regularly left without adult supervision after school or in the summer. That’s nearly 3.5 million children left unsupervised and possibly faced with temptations to engage in drug experimentation, gang related activities or other risky behaviors. These are decisions that could affect the trajectory of their lives and ultimately the health of our communities.

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Last year, during a press briefing on President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE’s proposed budget, which included a $1.2 billion cut to afters chool and summer programs, Budget Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyLook out ‘losers’ — Trump focused on ‘winning’ Warren calls for probe into Trump name change for consumer bureau In 2016, Mick Mulvaney said Trump's past activities should disqualify him 'in an ordinary universe' MORE stated that after school programs don’t work or improve student test scores. Although Congress preserved funding for after school funding in the FY18 omnibus spending bill, the fight isn't over.

 

The Trump administration remains committed to completely zero out after school and summer funding in the fiscal 2019 budget. This funding is critical for at-risk youth who wish to participate in after school and summer programming.

Many studies have linked high quality after school and summer programs to positive student outcomes in academics, school attendance and behavior. A longitudinal study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Irvine; the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Policy Studies Associates, Inc. finds that regular participation in high quality after school programs is linked to significant gains in standardized test scores and work habits as well as reductions in behavior problems among disadvantaged students.

Afterschool and summer programs have been shown to not only improve academic outcomes, but to improve confidence, resilience and reduce the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as experimentation with drugs, alcohol and sex. Low-income students participating in after school and summer programming have demonstrated outcomes similar to their affluent peers.

Over 12 million children are living in poverty in the U.S., an entire generation of young people who are at increased risk of dropping out of school. Many of these children have parents or caregivers that are under-employed or working two or three jobs to meet basic needs.

Investing in after school and summer programming for at-risk youth is essential for thriving, productive communities. In fact, the net community outcome for an investment in after school and summer programming for all children is that the likelihood of high school, college and vocational graduation increases, as well as higher social and emotional competency.

This translates to future generations that will have a greater chance at breaking the cycle of poverty and achieving success. This lays the groundwork for a future workforce needed to maintain a vibrant economy.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative is the only federal funding source dedicated exclusively to supporting local after school and summer learning programs, providing $1.3 billion to serve almost 2 million young people nationwide. The initiative has launched a letter writing campaign encouraging voters to contact their elected officials in support of after school and summer funding.

Engaging kids after school and throughout the summer isn’t simply a nice thing to do; it’s imperative to ensure our communities are healthy, strong and productive. Congress should reject the administration’s proposal and protect this important lifeline for students, families and communities.

Marissa Castro Mikoy is the executive director for After-School All-Stars North Texas and is a Dallas GreenHouse Public Voices fellow with the OpEd Project.