By Jen Rinehart
The misalignment between parents’ working hours and kids’ school hours is widely recognized by the afterschool community and working parents everywhere. Years of public polling have highlighted that this issue is top-of-mind with parents and voters. That’s why advocates often point to afterschool's role in helping working families when they make the case for afterschool and summer learning programs.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) recently highlighted this issue in Workin’ 9 to 5: How School Schedules Make Life Harder for Working Parents. In Workin’ 9 to 5, CAP points out that most schools close 2 hours or more before the typical workday ends, and the largest school districts shut their doors for an average of 29 days per school year—excluding summer break. Couple that with the fact that many working families do not have paid leave, and it’s easy to see why CAP is elevating this issue.
Fortunately, according to the report, nearly half of all public elementary schools attempt to address the gap between school and work schedules by providing before and afterschool programs. But CAP also points out that low-income schools are actually less likely to offer afterschool programs than other schools, and when programs are offered, there is often a cost to families. More recent data from America After 3PM indicate that lower-income youth actually participate in afterschool at higher rates, and that participation has been on the rise over the last decade. But those data also reveal that high levels of unmet demand and cost is a more frequently cited barrier to participation among low-income families.
Workin’ 9 to 5 goes on to make recommendations at the national, state and local level for how to better meet the needs of kids and families.
Key recommendations from the report
- Host a White House conference on supporting working families.
- Use the flexibility in Title I to better support working families.
- Increase appropriations for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, Promise Neighborhoods, AmeriCorps and the Full-Service Community Schools Program.
- Leverage community resources and partner with community-based entities to provide programming.
- Redefine how professional development is delivered to reduce the number of days when kids have off school for teacher professional development.
The afterschool community has been actively working on a number of these recommendations for years. In many states, advocates are currently working with their state education agencies to set the stage for local school districts to use Title I and other new ESSA flexibility (Title IV, Part A) to support afterschool and summer programs, which help kids succeed and better meet the needs of working families.
Partner organizations help bridge the gap
The importance of leveraging community resources is also critical. Many of the schools in the surveys cited by CAP are likely providing afterschool programs via community partners. So, while fewer Title I schools report offering programs directly, many of these schools are likely partnering with Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, Parks and Rec Centers, and similar organizations to meet the needs of low-income kids and families. It’s essential that we recognize the valuable role of those partnerships in any policy recommendations intended to help working families.
From our America After 3PM data, it’s clear that parents count on afterschool programs. In fact, more than 8 in 10 parents of students in afterschool programs believe the programs help working parents to keep their jobs. And parents strongly support public funding for afterschool programs regardless of political affiliation, zipcode, socio-economic status, race or ethnicity.
The Afterschool Alliance welcomes the opportunity to work with CAP, a new Administration and a new Congress in 2017 to continue to elevate the needs of working families and the role of afterschool and summer programs in meeting those needs and helping students succeed.