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ARP investments in comprehensive afterschool: Kentucky case-study

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ARP investments in comprehensive afterschool: Kentucky case-study

By Mahika Gupta and Alexa Kamen, the Afterschool Alliance’s inaugural Summer Policy Interns. Mahika is entering her Senior year at Colby College in Maine, working on degrees in English Creative Writing and Astrophysics and participating as a staff writer for her college paper. Alexa currently teaches elementary school in Baltimore through Teach for America. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary. This is the second blog in our series, “ARP investments in comprehensive afterschool.” See more examples of comprehensive afterschool in our Connecticut case study.

Following our exploration of the impact of American Rescue Plan funding on Connecticut school districts, we next  looked toward the allocation of ARP ESSER III funds in Kentucky school districts. We chose Kentucky because the state differs from Connecticut in demographics (Kentucky is mostly rural while Connecticut is widely suburban) but is home to nearly the exact same number of school districts, which creates a distinctive comparison.

Kentucky ESSER III Background

The American Rescue Plan presents an opportunity to support students’ academic and emotional recovery after the pandemic and expand access to underserved communities across the state. Jason E. Glass, commissioner of education for the Kentucky Department of Education has been quoted as saying “This plan will assist in the safe reopening and in-person operation of our schools, while addressing not only the academic needs of our students, but their social, emotional and mental health needs as well. Instead of returning to the traditional way of doing things, our priority is to return to a better than normal school year,” noting the approval of Kentucky’s ARP ESSER plan in the summer of 2021. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and as the nation engages in recovery, out-of-school time programs have been imperative in helping students reconnect with peers and receive additional supports like homework help, tutoring, or enrichment activities that address their social and emotional health.

Process

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, Kentucky has 171 school districts and 1,477 schools. Out of the 158 plans identified by our contract with Burbio Inc. in May 2022, we chose a sample of 52 districts plans (1/3 of the available data) in order to look at the amount of money each district allocated to comprehensive afterschool and summer programming. Most states do not list all their district plans in one place and Burbio staff aim to identify as many as possible.

According to the Kentucky Out-of-School Alliance, more than $521 million in additional funding is available for afterschool and summer enrichment in Kentucky, of which $375.3 million has been provided to local education agencies (LEAs) for the 20 percent designated for learning recovery.

According to Burbio’s budget data, the 52 district plans selected for evaluation from Kentucky received a total of $462.7 million in total ESSER III funds, with $92.5 million (20 percent) of that specifically designated for learning recovery. Although among those 52 school districts, Burbio’s data scan did not identify a single school district that dedicated money towards afterschool, we also had access to district narratives on LEA uses of funds through the Kentucky Department of Education webpages. Most narratives in our review were highly focused on the allocation of ARP ESSER III funds to the safe reopening of schools and the institution of pandemic protocols. In some cases, small sections of the narrative plans were dedicated to afterschool and summer school programs.

Taking a closer look at the budget information and available narratives, we found that there were a number of districts that did mention providing some form of afterschool, although there was great variation as to the types of programs and amount of information provided. Additionally, there were inconsistencies between the narratives and itemized budgetary information. For example, some districts included afterschool in narrative plans but not the budgetary information or vice versa. Regardless of whether afterschool programs showed up in the narrative or in the budget or both, we included them in our final results. However, what this meant is that unlike our Connecticut analysis, where we were able to provide the amount of money going to each afterschool category, for Kentucky, we were only able to report out on the number of schools that mentioned afterschool programs, and were not able to include dollar amounts.

As with our categorization of the Connecticut data, we categorized “afterschool” into four categories:

  • Extended School Day
  • Solely Academic Afterschool (extra hours with teachers for math and English tutoring)
  • Primarily Academic Programming with Elements of Student Support
  • Comprehensive (looking at the research-based elements of evidence-based programs as a guide)

These categories are not mutually exclusive, meaning one district can have afterschool programs that fit within more than one of the above categories. We classified as “unclear” programs or funds for an aspect of afterschool that we were not able to place in one of the four above categories with the information given.

Findings

We found that out of the 52 districts sampled, 20 mentioned afterschool in either the narrative plans or itemized budget. Specifically, we found:

  • Extended School Day: Two districts (3.8 percent of the 52 districts sampled, 10 percent of the 20 districts that allocated money towards afterschool) budgeted money for extended school day programs.
  • Solely Academic: Nine districts (17 percent of the 52 districts sampled, 45 percent of the 20 districts that allocated money towards afterschool) budgeted money for solely academic afterschool programs.
  • Primarily Academic with Elements of Student Support: Two districts (3.8 percent of the 52 districts sampled, 10 percent of the 20 districts that allocated money towards afterschool) budgeted money for primarily academic programs with some elements of student support.
  • Comprehensive Afterschool: Two districts (3.8 percent of the 52 districts sampled, 10 percent of the 20 districts that allocated money towards afterschool) budgeted money for primarily academic programs with some elements of student support.

We had nine districts that included programs or funds for an aspect of afterschool that we classified as “unclear.”

After finishing this review of the 52 programs, we went on to specifically look at the complete set of the 11 Kentucky districts in which Burbio data had found money going towards afterschool programs. Out of these 11, we found that 10 allocated money to our definitions of afterschool. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Extended School Day: One district (10 percent of the 10 districts in which Burbio found money allocated towards afterschool) budgeted money for extended school day programs.
  • Solely Academic: Five districts (50 percent of the 10 districts in which Burbio found money allocated towards afterschool) budgeted money for solely academic afterschool programs.
  • Primarily Academic with Elements of Student Support: No districts budgeted money for primarily academic programs with elements of student support.
  • Comprehensive Afterschool: Four districts (40 percent of the 10 districts in which Burbio found money allocated towards afterschool) budgeted money for comprehensive afterschool programs.

We classified afterschool programs from two districts as “unclear” due to the lack of information on the type of afterschool program.

Explaining Our Findings

A majority of the district narratives were focused on reopening schools, credit recovery, and learning loss more generally instead of afterschool programs. Some of the budgetary information for these districts included a few notes on staff salary for afterschool programs without mention of the programs themselves, and so we included this in the “unclear” category.

We believe we were able to identify many more programs than in Burbio’s initial scan by being more intentional in our search. Many of the direct keywords that Burbio might have been looking for, such as “afterschool” were missing from the budgets. Rather, some districts used short-hands like “SS” or “AS” to denote a summer or afterschool program, which Burbio may not have been sensitive to.

Having both budget and narrative data was also helpful for a more thorough analysis while simultaneously revealing the strengths and shortcomings of each. Narratives may have mentioned a more detailed description of afterschool activities but have left unclear what amount would be invested or if the investment was new funding from ESSER III. Budget data might have mentioned many quick line items on afterschool but provided little detail on the specific types of services and programs provided.  

Barren County provides a good example of the way afterschool programs were described differently across narrative and budgetary plans. They are also one of the strongest examples we found of comprehensive afterschool in the state. The following is an excerpt from the out of school time section of their narrative plan:

“ESSERS Funds have been distributed to all schools to provide an afterschool program with monies allocated to have services for 3 years.  All programs will have a coordinator to oversee hiring, scheduling, transportation needs, programming, family skill-building, and targeted assistance as directed by the school gap identification systems already in place.  Coordinators will work closely with students to develop relationships with the students, providing a safe space for learning and emotional growth.  Each program will incorporate social and emotional learning with the use of Every Monday Matters and Panorama. Which will support the work of trauma-informed care work of the district.”

Meanwhile, when we look at simply the budget information from Barren County, we can only see a number of line items for “Afterschool staff” or “afterschool supplies”, which we assume correspond to the same kind of comprehensive afterschool program as presented in the narrative, but do not explicitly describe a particular program or approach. Below is a screenshot of the budgetary information for Barren (of 164 items total):

This demonstrates the on-going challenges of understanding if district ESSER III investments are going to research-based, quality comprehensive afterschool programs based on currently available reporting. Looking at the budget data and a district’s narrative plans in tandem is, in our opinion, the most telling approach. Yet, as we have shown, especially when narrative plans have only occasional mentions of learning recovery expenditures, still quite limited.

Despite these limitations, we can gather the overall balance between expenditure or attention to comprehensive afterschool relative to other categories of “afterschool,, and continue to find that comprehensive afterschool is currently not the predominant use of “afterschool” investments of ESSER III. This finding is consistent across the district plans we examined in Connecticut and Kentucky.

The next steps for further understanding is to reach out to representatives within selected school districts in Kentucky to find more information about the afterschool programs mentioned in district narratives. Overall, it was more difficult to find mentions of specific afterschool programs with enough information to categorize them than it was with the Connecticut plans. We are curious to see how straight forward data is to find and interpret as this work continues across other states.

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BY: Erik Peterson      06/23/22

American Rescue Plan funds one year later: Support for afterschool, summer learning

A little more than one year ago, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law, providing billions in funding to support communities and youth impacted by the pandemic, and naming afterschool and summer learning programs as one strategy to invest in to support young people. So...

BY: Erik Peterson      04/15/22

Afterschool programs supported through Congressional Community Project Funding

When President Biden signed the FY 2022 federal spending bill last month, it included community project funding (previously known as earmarks) for the first time in more than 10 years. Community Project Funding (CPF) allows members of Congress to request direct funding for projects that benefit the...

BY: Erik Peterson      04/05/22

Governors across the country signal support for afterschool in state budget requests

With a new year comes new support for afterschool programs. After an infusion of federal relief funds over the last two year to support education, including afterschool in summer programs, governors in a number of states are taking the next step to dedicate state funds towards afterschool...

BY: Chris Neitzey      02/11/22

Secretary of Education Cardona discusses his priorities, emphasizes student engagement

In late January, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona gave a major address at the Department of Education, laying out his vision for improving the American education system. He largely focused on continued recovery through the pandemic and the need for broader investments in education to...

BY: Erik Peterson      02/07/22

House of Representatives passes Build Back Better Act

On Friday, November 19, 2021, the House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act by a vote of 220-213. The legislation invests in programs that support human infrastructure and includes parts...

BY: Erik Peterson      11/22/21

State child care stabilization grants open with many afterschool programs eligible

As the afterschool field continues to navigate the American Rescue Plan (ARP) opportunities for K-12 funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) at the state and local level, ARP also designated $24 billion in child care funding to states to help stabilize the...

BY: Jillian Luchner      11/18/21

Senate Democrats LHHS bill proposes $50 million increase to 21st CCLC as FY2022 Appropriations process continues

This week Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) released the nine remaining fiscal year FY 2022 appropriations bills that the Senate has not yet addressed, including the FY 2022 Labor-HHS-Education bill.  The bills are partisan in nature, and the Committee is unlikely...

BY: Erik Peterson      10/21/21

ARP Webinar Series Recap: How to access ARP funds for afterschool and summer

The Afterschool Alliance hosted a webinar series to help programs understand how billions of dollars provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) can be used to support afterschool and summer programs. While funds go directly to education and child care agencies, programs are specifically mentioned...

BY: Maria Rizo      07/26/21