The nation’s largest citywide afterschool system is on the chopping block. If Mayor Bloomberg’s budget is approved, 25,000 children will lose their spots in the afterschool programs that are keeping kids safe, inspiring them to learn, and helping working families. The entire system will be cut to half its size. Just a few years ago, NY was named one of the Top Ten States for Afterschool (in fact it rated in the top three) due in no small part to NYC’s extraordinary investment and leadership on afterschool. In 2009 the city supported programs serving 85,000 kids. The funding level proposed for 2012 will serve just 27,000.
As afterschool programs around the city received word that they would not have funds for 2012-2013, parents, schools and community groups began to realize that entire neighborhoods will be devastated by the cuts. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, provides a pretty good—or tragic, actually—view into what is happening all across the city. Funding for almost all of the programs serving kids at area elementary and middle schools has been eliminated. Parents are shocked, worried and upset. On average these schools have a poverty rate well above 70%, with some as high as 90%, and serve a significant number of immigrant families and English language learners. Among those cut is I.S. 318’s afterschool program, home to the nation’s most winning middle school chess team (their amazing story is chronicled in the new documentary Brooklyn Castle). In April, Mayor Bloomberg brought the team to City Hall to personally congratulate the students for winning the national high school chess championship. They are the first middle school to ever do so. Two weeks later, the program was told their funding had been eliminated.
Thankfully, NYC advocates, programs, parents and youth are making their voices heard. Child care and afterschool organizations have banned together to wage a joint campaign against the cuts, organizing rallies, press coverage and letters to the editor. Local sites are organizing their own events and letter writing campaigns, and sharing photos, stories and videos about the importance of their programs. On Facebook, students, staff and alums are posting responses to “YES! I was in a NYC afterschool program and I love it because…”
The outcry against cutting afterschool programs has been phenomenal. But whether it will be enough to save the programs so many rely on remains to be seen.
|"Breakfast of Champions" Emcee Kevin Sorbo with youth afterschool advocate and chess player Pobo Efekoro.|
It’s hard to pick just one highlight from this year’s Afterschool for All Challenge “Breakfast of Champions.” We heard from a chess champ, a scholarship winner, an aspiring pastry chef, two dinosaur hunters and five Members of Congress. To top it off, the event was emceed by Kevin Sorbo, of the hit TV show Hercules and recent films “Soul Surfer” and “What If.” The excitement and energy among our 350+ guests was unmistakable, as afterschool advocates flowed out of the event and into their meetings with Members, all 200+ of them, pumped up to share news of the afterschool programs keeping kids safe, inspiring learning and helping working families back in their home states.
Members of Congress at the event were honored with a “Breakfast of Champions” Wheaties box. Sens. Barbara Boxer (CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Reps. David Cicilline (RI), Rosa DeLauro (CT) and Dale Kildee (MI) all made a strong call for growing afterschool resources. Rep. Kildee was also awarded the C.S. Mott Foundation’s William S. White Achievement Award, in recognition of his decades of work in support of afterschool programs.
A coalition of foundations, including the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, have joined together to help inform expanded learning efforts. The Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project is dedicated to helping schools and communities leverage the time beyond school to accelerate student achievement by sharing research and best practices. The Afterschool Alliance and 150 other groups have signed on as supporters of this important effort and its principles for expanded learning. More on the Project, including exciting new research on the benefits of afterschool, will be shared on a webinar March 27 (details below). From the Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project:
On Tuesday, March 27 from 3-4:00 p.m. EDT, in a special Web event for educators and other decision-makers, researchers Joseph Durlak and Roger Weissberg will share the results of their meta-analysis of 68 studies revealing that afterschool programs seeking to enhance the personal and social skills of children and adolescents were successful. Compared to control programs observed, participants in the programs seeking to enhance the personal and social skills demonstrated significant increases in their self-perceptions and bonding to school, positive social behaviors, school grades and levels of academic achievement, and significant reductions in problem behaviors.
Following the presentation, join the discussion about the next generation of expanded learning and afterschool. More than 150 leaders from education, communities, states and national foundations are in support of high-quality expanded learning opportunities that provide engaged learning powered by school-community partnerships. The Web event will explore the intersections of the research and practice and how you can engage in the movement.
Learn more about the Webinar and register at http://www.expandinglearning.org/event/
Principles of Expanded Learning: Quality Expanded Learning and Afterschool opportunities incorporate:
* School-Community Partnerships. Building upon strong collaboration between communities and schools
* Engaged Learning. Incorporating learning that is hands-on and engaging
* Affordability and Scalability. Utilizing financial models that are affordable, scalable and sustainable
* Learning Time after School and during the Summer. Adding significant time for learning and enrichment that complements the school day
* Family Engagement. Engaging families to participate in their children's learning
* Health and Wellness. Linking to meals and providing opportunities and supports for physical and mental well-being
A number of news articles this past week featured the beneficial outcomes of afterschool programs, from high school graduation and college readiness to math and leadership skills.
- The benefits provided by various southern Maryland afterschool programs were covered in a story December 2. A robotics program is popular among students, and in the words of student Patrick West, 11, ““if you don’t understand a lot of math, you can come here and make [math] a little easier.” According to the article, participants challenged to move a robot through a series of moves “were enthusiastically scribbling math equations on a chalkboard and paper and typing into a computer until they came up with the right numbers to program into the robot to perform the task.” At another program, a local parent cited improvement inhis daughter's grades. And at Tiara Troopers, elementary girls learn to run competitively, earning funds for charitable causes while building self-confidence and leadership and teamwork skills. Support from community volunteers, Booz Allen Hamilton and a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant make the programs possible.
“Love of Learning Lingers Long After Classes: After-School Programs Enrich Students’ Days,” Southern Maryland News, Southern Maryland Newspapers, December 2, 2011. http://www.somdnews.com/article/20111202/NEWS/712029616/1075/love-of-learning-lingers-long-after-classes&template=southernMaryland
- A Dec. 3 editorial in The Leaf Chronicle discusses the great leaps—from 76 to 93.5 percent—in graduation rates achieved in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. The involvement of community partners and afterschool programs played a key role:
"Such outstanding progress doesn't occur by accident. It takes a district-wide concentration on improvement along with support from parents and the community at large. In fact, CMCSS turned a corner in 2008 when school officials enlisted the help of the local community and businesses for "100% Graduation is Clarksville's Business." The program asks businesses, churches, civic groups and others to find ways to encourage high school students to stay in school and earn that diploma. The program recognizes that high school graduation is the first rung on the ladder of lifetime success, and that students who are well-prepared when they leave high school become productive employees and citizens. The schools worked to add after-school programs, virtual high school and credit recovery to improve student achievement and give extra help to those children who might have fallen permanently behind in years past. Other intervention and transition programs have been created to truly ensure that no child is left behind.
“Unified effort led to great scores,” The Leaf Chronicle, December 3, 2011. http://www.theleafchronicle.com/article/20111204/OPINION01/112040306/EDITORIAL-Unified-effort-led-to-great-scores
So much has been going on in the afterschool movement these past few weeks, it is hard to know where to begin. We’ve had inspiring moments. Intensely frustrating policy developments. Exhilarating waves of grassroots action. And very worrisome threats to the future of 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC).
I’m on my first cup of coffee this morning, so let me start with the good news.
More than a million Americans celebrated the 12th annual Lights On Afterschool last Thursday, October 20. Youth, community leaders, parents, program staff and elected officials joined together to show their support for the afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan celebrated with youth at a community school in Chicago. Dozens of sites lit up landmarks for afterschool, from the Empire State Building in New York City and the La Grand Vitesse Sculpture in Grand Rapids, MI, to the Battleship Texas in La Porte, TX, and the Civic Center Monument in Compton, CA. Five outstanding afterschool programs were each awarded $10,000 from the MetLife Foundation for their work serving middle school students.
Each year, the energy and creativity of Lights On Afterschool celebrations remind me how programs are lighting up the lives of children. Two new studies released right around Lights On Afterschool provided a nice complement: an Education Next article cites that the odds of attending college are 97% greater for kids who take part in afterschool, and a survey of superintendents found that 4 in 5 agree that expanded learning programs are important and improve performance and social interaction.
As most members of the afterschool advocacy community already know, the citizens of California passed Proposition 49 in November of 2002. This voter initiative did two important things: it augmented the state Legislature’s investment in afterschool programs from $121 million to a guaranteed, annual General Fund appropriation of $550 million (contingent upon a financial trigger which was reached in FY2006-07), and it gave California voters the sole authority to reduce that appropriation (except under extremely rare circumstances). Proposition 49’s champion was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who parlayed the political victory into a successful campaign for governor the following year.
We loved partnering with Quaker Oats for the Quaker Chewy Afterschool Rocks campaign—it brought light to the need for afterschool programs in a fun, creative and relevant way. So we were thrilled to see Quaker win the 2011 H.E.R. Award for the campaign from the Marketing to Moms Coalition, a nonprofit housed at Purdue University.
The H.E.R award recognizes companies that honor, empower and respect mothers through their marketing and public relations campaigns.