Afterschool Alliance Audio Conference
November 20, 2001
Q. How do you think the events of September 11th changed the landscape or affected the intensity of findings associated with afterschool programs?
A. After September 11th, we looked at the data again with a very critical eye and considered the following: that there is a much greater level of confidence in our government leaders and our government institutions than existed on September 10th. There is also significantly greater concern in the minds of voters about public safety, in general, and the safety of their children, in particular. There are also growing concerns about the conditions of the economy and the capacity to families to make ends meet.
It is the opinion of our pollsters that, if the Afterschool Alliance conducted this survey today, every single one of the key numbers would be as good or probably better than it was prior to September 11th.
All of the benefits that poll respondents said afterschool programs provide to kids and to society continue to exist today. Pollster Alysia Snell also stated that, in other research conducted by their firm, they have found that people are actually starting to look more inward and more homeward in how to address problems that exist at home. Snell doesn't believe that afterschool programs are an issue that voters are just going to suddenly decide, after four years of polling, is not a priority.
Q. What are the best ways in which we can use the polling data at the local level?
A. In many ways, the poll data presents afterschool advocates with a significant messaging opportunity. As the nation talks about improving public safety, there is a tremendous opportunity to show how afterschool programs offer one of the best, most effective, most efficient ways to make sure that our kids are safe during the hours after school.. We encourage you to use the sample news releases, sample letters-to-the-editor or op-ed letters and other communication tools always available at the Afterschool Alliance website, www.afterschoolalliance.org.
Q. Is safety still the strongest argument for afterschool programs? How does academic achievement fit in with the public's view of afterschool?
A. From what we see in the data, safety and afterschool programs will always be intermingled in voters' minds. Voters want their kids to be safe, first and foremost, but they also want them to have opportunities to improve their academic achievement and be exposed to creative opportunities. There will always be a connection between afterschool, safety and academics. We believe this is a good thing, because it provides us with a strong message we can lead with when presenting the other benefits of afterschool such as improved creative and social skills.
Q. Please clarify your description of the response to a poll question about voters' willingness to pay. Are taxpayers saying that they would be willing to pay $1,000 more per student for afterschool programs?
A. No. The question asked, if we told you that an afterschool program will cost $1,000 per child per school year, how willing would you be to use additional federal or state taxpayer money to put these programs in your community? Very willing, somewhat willing, not too willing or not willing at all?
We were simply providing survey respondents with the information that, if you make a commitment to afterschool, it will cost $1,000 per year per kid. And then, based on that information, how willing now are you to use additional federal or state taxpayer funds? The question was designed to gauge voters' willingness to devote additional taxpayer funds to afterschool, whether it be $100 as posed in another question or whether it be the $1,000 as posed in this question. The implication is that these are not dollars coming directly from the respondent, but through federal or state taxes.
Q. What criteria are being proposed in the legislation for the selection of sites funded with 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grant money? Are there particular criteria in the bill that have been put forward?
A. At this point in time, since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has not yet been re-authorized, we can only speak generally to that question and say that community-based organizations will be eligible independently for these grants, but that we think the language will be written to encourage partnerships. Most everyone agrees that effective programs necessitate partnerships between schools and community-based organizations. There appears to be a basic assumption that schools are readily accessible and familiar, and communities will be encouraged to use them. However, if another applicant has a site that is just as accessible, then a state could make a decision to have the center housed outside of a school.
Q. What does the poll tell us about the people who are not interested in directing tax dollars to a national commitment to afterschool? And can we win them to our side?
A. There are two segments to that community, and it is not a very large community since 94 percent of voters support some kind of organized activity after school.
The first segment would be people who ideologically oppose the government, at any level, being involved in caring for our nation's children. They see that to be a direct familial responsibility, not one of the government and/or of taxpayer dollars.
There is another segment for whom any kind of inferred investment, whether it be $100 or $1,000 per child per year, is a significant amount of money that is beyond their means.
It would be very difficult to change the views of either of those groups. If, within some people's minds, afterschool incurs a financial burden that they cannot assume, they are not going to be in a position to change their minds about that. If a person still has fundamental ideological concerns, we won't be able to move that person either.
Frankly, from a political perspective, the more important task is managing the erosion of numbers. Over time, we must work to lose as few people who support funding for afterschool as possible.
Q. Are there any significant differences in interpreting the data based on where we are located throughout the country?
A. With very few exceptions, we cannot imagine many communities across this country where most of this data would not be applicable, especially when talking about overall support for afterschool.
More importantly, the key points to take away from this data would be less the specific numbers, but more what we have learned in terms of the themes and messages that can be used to build additional support for afterschool programs. Those themes and messages are not going to change based on where you are in this country. The fact that, overall, there is a growing perception that afterschool programs are an absolute necessity is not going to change from community to community. We've been very sensitive throughout this process over the last four years to look for significant regional differences, and we're simply not finding that many.
According to our pollsters, who do political work for the major parties, afterschool is an issue at all levels that candidates and elected officials are talking about. Beginning with mayors and working up, afterschool is a priority at all levels.
Q. After 21st CCLC funding goes to the states, who or what will determine the criteria defining which grant applicants actually get the funds? Will states decide schools versus community locations, or will there be guidelines in the federal legislation? Also, what about faith-based organizations?
A. In terms of how grants will be awarded in the new state competitions, those details have not yet been developed. Once ESEA is passed, regulations will be developed by the U.S. Department of Education due to their experience with the current 21st Century program. Grants will then go to the State Education Agencies (SEAs), and they will be directed to develop plans and describe how they intend to distribute the funds. We expect that states will have some degree of flexibility within the general parameters of eligibility, however, the details will come after the law is enacted and the U.S. Department of Education has time to review it and develop guidance for the SEAs.
In terms of the eligibility of faith-based organizations, that is an issue that remains unresolved among the conferees on ESEA. But, given current practice in the program and the involvement of faith-based organizations, we suspect that in some way or another faith-based organizations will be encouraged to partner with programs, just as community-based organizations will be.