CARES Act K-12 Funding: Making the case for afterschool to state and district leaders


CARES Act K-12 Funding: Making the case for afterschool to state and district leaders

It’s nearly May and according to Education Week’s most recent counts, 39 states or territories and D.C. have ordered their schools remain physically closed for the rest of the academic year. Of course, that doesn’t mean students stop learning. They never do.

The Federal Government through the CARES Act signed into law in late March provided $13.5 million dollars for school districts to help navigate the current crisis and keep students on track with the resources they need through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. (Read our past blog about the CARES act, which specifically mentions the importance and eligibility of afterschool and summer programs in helping students get ahead.)

Last week the Department of Education posted the application for state education agencies to apply for their share of the elementary and secondary education funds – read more about the process and see how much each states are allocated here.

It’s no surprise to our field that afterschool programs are specifically mentioned. They have been an essential part of our communities’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, working around-the-clock to support youth, families, and staff.

But now, the job is to make sure decision-makers at all levels (including members Congress, governors, mayors, school superintendents, principals, parents, and community partners) are all fully aware of just how essential afterschool is to helping students, families, and communities rebound and thrive.

To help get out this important message, we have put together some resources you can use to help make the case at the state and local level about how CARES Act education funds can support students and families during summer and after-school time. Right now, as people are looking for solutions and discussing what tools they have available to help students succeed, we must make sure they know afterschool and summer learning is critical.

How can students catch up? Schools are worried. Research has shown that students’ suffer from learning loss when not in school, such as over the summer, and that equity gaps widen during these periods. With the extended absence due to school closures and the “homework gap” representing uneven technology access across student homes, some research indicates that our most vulnerable students may return to school up to almost a year behind. Moreover, all students and families have been affected by this emergency and we can’t just go right back to learning as usual.

  • The Message: Students deserve to emerge from this crisis strong, resilient, and hopeful. This requires consideration of the whole child, not just their academic progress. Afterschool programs are well poised to help students catch up and keep up by providing more time for engaged learning that looks different from the school day. The ways in which afterschool programs are helping students feel and heal social and emotionally; connecting across schools, families, and communities as trusted voices; and addressing inequities will be critical to setting the stage for learning gains

  • Resource: Making the Case to Meet Student Learning Needs

What can a District do to Engage Afterschool Partners? Most districts would do anything to provide their students and families the support they need. However, when districts are making decisions and especially when thinking in “crisis mode” its often difficult to look outside the box for helpful partners or how to leverage funds for the greatest impact. Partners in the community sometimes need to actively reach out to the superintendents, school boards and principals to showcase the ways they can partner.

Check out our complete set of resources. For some inspiration on what we have seen for getting the message out, take a look this video from the Arkansas Out of School Time Network on 4 key ways their network is playing its role in the response and watch this inspiring video of how one program is chronicling their response. There are many touching news stories we are hearing about every day and for many of you, your own story is one. We ask you to share those with us and the field.

We hope you will make use of our tools or your own messaging so that as a field our voices come in loud and clear. Afterschool programs do this work. We are here in the community, in connection with parents and students, experienced, ready with tools and resources, and willing to team up to ensure all our students and families succeed.

Interested in more information like this? Visit our COVID-19 resource pages and join the online learning community!