Esther Grant-Walker is the Program Director of School Aged Childcare at the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center in New York City. Esther previously served as an Afterschool Ambassador.
A sustained advocacy campaign is key to raising public perception and awareness of afterschool programs. Planning an advocacy campaign does not need to be time consuming or costly. A very simple campaign can be as effective as an elaborate one.
During the past year, with the support of the Bowne Foundation, I began to develop a sustained advocacy campaign to promote my afterschool program. New York City afterschool program funding was threatened with cuts during the past few city budget cycles. As the Program Director of School Age Childcare at the Isaacs Center Afterschool Program, I can see that there is a need for increased afterschool advocacy to promote not just my afterschool program, but programs across the city.
I decided focus my campaign on bringing parents and schools together to support afterschool. Many of our parents take our afterschool programs for granted because they are funded by the city. They assume that funding for afterschool will always be in place. In reality, city funding is never guaranteed. To educate parents, I decided to launch an advocacy campaign that would not only teach them about the challenges facing afterschool programs, but would also train them and other community members to be active advocates for afterschool.
By Sarah Keller
It's been 10 days since the government shutdown began, and with Congress still deadlocked over a Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2014, afterschool programs around the country are starting to feel the effect. From the National Park Service to USDA nutrition programs and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), local media have uncovered how the shutdown of a diverse set of federal programs is negatively impacting children served by community afterschool programs:
- Aviator Sports and Events Center, located inside Gateway National Recreation Area, a National Park Service area in Brooklyn, has been deemed non-essential and thus closed since the shutdown began. This has caused the families of the 35 children attending the program rushing to find alternative arrangements.
- AmeriCorps VISTA members, who work at nonprofits aimed at reducing poverty while living on a poverty-level salary for a year, receive their salary in part through the CNCS—unavailable while the shutdown continues. The local CBS affiliate in northern Nevada reports how the Reno Bike Project afterschool program’s VISTA is affected by the shutdown.
We’re excited to announce that the hit documentary Brooklyn Castle will help kick off the Lights On Afterschool season with its national broadcast debut tonight on the award-winning PBS series POV.
Check local listings to find when it’s airing near you.
Tune in to your local PBS station tonight for the premiere of this award-winning documentary, which tells the inspirational story of a chess team at a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school—one that has won more national championships than any other in the country—facing recessionary budget cuts to extracurricular activities that threaten to eliminate the chess program.
With help from PBS, afterschool programs can show the film at local Lights on Afterschool events to entertain and engage adults and teens, or use trailers to help make the afterschool story come alive and spur conversation on the need for afterschool in local communities.
Every day in communities across the country, there are countless unsung heroes working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of the children and families they serve. Among them are the mentors, volunteers, staff and other educators that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families during the hours after school and over the summer.
We might not always get the opportunity to thank them, but this fall, we’re teaming up with Bright House Networks to celebrate Lights On Afterschool by shining a light on the afterschool and summer learning programs that are making a difference.
Your program could win up to $2,000 in the Lights On Afterschool Facebook Photo Contest! Starting tomorrow, submit a photo that creatively shines a light on your program and the afterschool activities and staff that enrich and inspire the students and families in your community. Be as creative as possible—the four photos with the highest number of likes will win cash prizes for their afterschool program!
By Sarah Keller
On Wednesday the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2013 (S. 1086) passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee by unanimous voice vote. The bipartisan bill—sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN)—was last reauthorized in 1996.
CCDBG is the main federal source of funding for families needing child care and also funds child care quality initiatives. Currently, 1.6 million children a month—from birth to age 13—receive funding totaling $5 billion a year. About 600,000 school-age children are provided with care through CCDBG. All of the senators agreed about the importance of providing high-quality, affordable, safe child care. This bill also gives working parents the flexibility to determine the best child care options for their family. To ensure that child care centers are safe, the bill enacted several provisions that reflect the changes that have occurred in the 17 years since the last reauthorization. These changes include:
- Comprehensive background checks for child care workers
- At least yearly inspections of child care programs sites to ensure the site is safe and providing developmentally appropriate activities for the children
- Promotion of continuity of care
- Help for homeless families looking for child care
- Raising the health requirement of child care centers
- Orientation and professional development training for child care program workers
“I could no longer work without this program. I love it and my son loves it!!!”
“As long as I have child care, I won’t have to worry about losing my job.”
“I need this service! Knowing my child is in a place that helps him do his homework and where he can do fun activities helps me…”
This is just a small sampling of quotes from working parents in New York City illustrating the crucial role afterschool programs and child care play in their lives.
“Cuts to Child Care and After-School Will Force Parents Out of the Workforce,” a report released earlier this year by the Campaign for Children, surveyed more than 5,700 working parents in March 2013 and found that almost all working parents depend on child care and afterschool programs to remain in the workforce. Almost all working parents surveyed—a sizable 95 percent—said that they rely on child care and afterschool programs to keep their jobs. Parents employed in all fields—from health care to education to construction to law enforcement—and in all capacities—from nurses and hospital technicians to security guards and members of the New York Police Department—shared how important afterschool programs and child care was in their lives. A May 2012 survey by Campaign for the Children found that 1 in 3 parents who have children enrolled in an afterschool program would need to quit their jobs if the programs weren’t accessible to them anymore.
Last week, the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA) and the School Superintendents Association (AASA) held a briefing on Capitol Hill to release their report, “Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Educational Improvement.” The 100-plus-page report takes a thorough and critical look at Race to the Top (RTTT)—examining the drivers of the achievement gap, the ability of RTTT to adequately and effectively address the achievement gap, and the RTTT-funded states’ progress toward fulfilling their RTTT commitments.
The panelists at the event included report author and BBA National Coordinator Elaine Weiss; AASA’s Associate Executive Director of Policy and Advocacy Noelle Ellerson; author and University of California, Berkeley Professor David Kirp; and Superintendent of St. Mary’s County Public Schools Michael J. Martirano. Weiss spoke to the report’s finding that to receive RTTT funding, states generally proposed unrealistic agendas for closing student achievement gaps. She expressed her hope that this report will encourage policy makers to revisit RTTT and use the successes and challenges of the last three years to make necessary modifications to the policy.
A key finding of the report is that while RTTT focuses largely on tackling school day academics, it fails to address the drivers of the achievement gap that take place outside of school—many of which, the report states, “account for the majority of the achievement gaps.” In discussing the out-of-school drivers of the achievement gap—such as early childhood experiences, physical and mental health, and housing and neighborhoods—the report highlights the important role afterschool and summer learning programs play in mitigating the educational achievement gap.
A just-released report by the Wallace Foundation finds that coordinated citywide afterschool systems are in fact going nationwide; yet key aspects of the coordination efforts vary significantly. Researchers estimate that citywide coordination of afterschool programs is taking place in 59-77 percent of cities with populations of more than 100,000. Close to half of cities (48 percent) reporting implementation of strategies have carried out at least 2 of the 3 essential components to a coordinated afterschool citywide system—a coordinating entity, a common data system, and quality standards or a quality framework. However, 15 percent of the cities have yet to implement any of the coordination strategies.
Afterschool programs provide kids with enriching learning opportunities, a safe and supervised environment, and support working families. To best help ensure all kids have access to afterschool programs, and to help afterschool programs provide kids with the best quality experiences, citywide afterschool systems are necessary to support improvement and sustainability efforts.