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America must turn the Lights On Afterschool, so youth and families can thrive

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America must turn the Lights On Afterschool, so youth and families can thrive

This article was originally posted on the MomsRising blog on October 24, 2018.

In Newark, New Jersey, the afterschool program is teaming with the Audubon Society to use infrared cameras to study how animals move overnight, and students are creating their own comic book heroes.

In San Benito, Texas, a few miles from the border with Mexico, afterschool programs will hold children’s tech shows that feature robot battles and music, after which the mayor will handle barbeque duties to help feed the crowd.

In Phoenix, Arizona, 23 afterschool programs will host open houses, each with a circuitry center where students can learn about electricity and light. Each site also is organizing a canned food drive.

And in Kenai, Alaska, following a visit from the Governor last week, the afterschool program will host a spaghetti dinner that features student science activities, arts-and-crafts and children making (and eating) ice cream.

Those are just a few of the fun, educational events afterschool programs around the country are holding this week as part of the 19th annual Lights On Afterschool – the national rally for afterschool programs, organized by the Afterschool Alliance. Each year, Lights On Afterschool showcases the skills students gain and the talents they develop at their afterschool programs. This year, we expect more than 8,000 events involving more than a million people.

Lights On Afterschool is especially important this year, because federal funding for afterschool and summer learning programs is under sustained threat. Twice, the Trump administration has tried to zero out funding for these essential programs, even though we don’t have nearly enough of them now to meet the demand. In fact, in the United States today, one in five students is unsupervised after the school day ends. Many of those children and youth are at risk each afternoon. And for every child in an afterschool program, there are two more whose parents say they would participate, if a program were available. Usually, one isn’t – and unmet demand is especially high in rural communities and communities of concentrated poverty.

A national poll commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance and released this week finds that the public understands what the President and the other budget-slashers in the White House apparently do not. It finds that vast majorities of the public – across gender, race, age, regional and party lines – think afterschool programs are important to their communities. There is strong support for public funding of afterschool and summer learning programs, with two in three adults saying they want their federal, state and local leaders to provide funding for afterschool and summer programs. Seven in ten adults oppose eliminating federal funds for afterschool programs, and 52 percent are strongly opposed.

The poll, designed by the bipartisan team of Lake Research Partners and the Tarrance Group and administered by Ipsos through an online omnibus survey in September, also found:

  • Nearly nine in ten adults (89 percent) say they believe afterschool programs are important to their communities. That includes majorities of Democrats and Republicans.
  • Majorities of respondents across regions, gender, race, and age support public funding for afterschool programs. Regionally, support is highest in the West (70 percent), followed by the Northeast (68 percent), South (65 percent), and the Midwest (64 percent).
  • Among adults who support funding for afterschool programs, nearly two in three agree (65 percent) that public funding for afterschool and summer learning programs should be increased, even if it means they would pay more in taxes.

Thus far, Congress has rejected the President’s proposal to cut afterschool funding, but with the deficit growing, pressure to cut funding may mount. That would be catastrophic, for students, families, communities, our workforce and for the country. Quality afterschool programs help young people develop the skills they need to thrive in school and in life. They keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and give parents peace of mind that their children are safe, supervised and learning after the school day ends.

The country recognizes that afterschool and summer learning programs help children reach their full potential and ready them for the jobs of tomorrow. That’s the message we’ll be sending for Lights On Afterschool – so the White House will understand that too.

Learn more at www.afterschoolalliance.org/loa.

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